After the series' glorious days on the first PlayStation, Syphon Filter became somewhat overshadowed by the glitz and gloss of new tech-thrillers and third-person-shooters. Loosing its way, it wasn't until the PSP release of Dark Mirror that it found its feet again with a true return to form.
Despite critical acclaim, the one problem with the portable adventures of Gabe Logan was that it seemed very hard to find in shops, so the game never really met with the popularity it deserved. As well as delicately combining cover-to-cover shooting action with a feel for stealth without hours eyeballing your radar, the real victory for Sony's in-house development team was in applying an intricate control system to the limitations of the PSP.
Freed from the restrictions of Sony's handheld, Dark Mirror is coming to the PSP, aping Grand Theft Auto Stories' knack for reverse backwards compatibility, to coin a completely contradictory new phrase. The good news is that based on the playable preview build, it is looking like Sony have improved on the superb original, and it might be that the PS2 gets yet another swansong before it slips away into oblivion.
The typically intricate plot of subterfuge and double crosses, along with the fundamentals of the level design remain unchanged. Still, the focus is on hi-tech weaponry, and an array of gadgets like various goggles and a mechanical zip line, and most of the combat again involves leaning from cover and long range sniping.
However, cut-scenes have been re-skinned, and actually feature some of the nicest PS2 graphics seen in the huge range of games that limit a large chunk of their colour palette to various greys. The in game visuals too, have seen something of a tidy up, and while they exceed the standard of the PSP original, at this stage they are competent rather than outstanding.
The audio also sounds like it has had something of a reworking, as both the music and effects feel richer and deeper, and thankfully the immense loading times of the PSP original have been reduced to mere echoes of their former selves.
The change with the most impact on the game, however, comes with the tweaked controls, which have actually seen a fairly insignificant reworking in relation to their positive effect on the game. All that has changed is that there are now two analogue sticks instead of a single nub. While the PSP used the facia buttons to replace the right analogue stick with some success, there is simply no comparison with the smooth responsiveness provided by the twin sticks of the Dual Shock. Combat and camera control are both more fluid, and the game feels more intuitive and less fiddly and open to error caused by an unwieldy camera.
While Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror on the PSP does nothing revolutionary, it does fine tune a game that was already an excellent example of the epitome of a genre. With a release date yet to be confirmed, fans of the series may have a while to wait yet, but it seems it will be worth every moment.