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Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror (PSP)

Rated: 15

Story: You're an operative for an American security agency so hard-core that it doesn't officially exist. You have to investigate a mysterious terrorist threat by shooting bad guys in numerous locations around the world. There's the usual entanglement with an old flame, a bit of off-the-rails revenge and a smidgen of ethical quandary.


I mean, honestly, when the main element of suspense in the plot is over what kind of weapon the terrorists have, you know that straws are being clutched. If this were a movie, it would be straight to Channel 5.

Gameplay: Third-person shooting. Much of the time is taken up by aiming from behind cover and then popping out to shoot henchmen. Stealth is an option. There are occasional boss battles, a few puzzles, infrequent gun-emplacement fuelled massacres and the obligatory sniper sections.

Save System: Auto-save at the end of each mission only - so be prepared to leave your PSP in sleep mode. Annoyingly, the save doesn't occur until after the cutscenes for the start of the next mission, which is frustrating if you're in a hurry.

Comments: My first computer was a Commodore VIC-20 and it came with four games on tape. One of them was a Frogger clone and two of the others I've forgotten entirely but easily the best was called Blitz. It involved dropping bombs to level a city before your plane crashed into any remaining skyscrapers. You can play a very similar game here. My mum really quite enjoyed it. She could get to grips with it because, although it was hard as nails, it only used one button. Tellingly, the first computer game my mum has played since then is Wii Sports.

My mum really wouldn't like Syphon Filter.

Dark Mirror is for people who play games a lot. It's the kind of game that gives you three different types of optical visor and a flashlight. One of your main guns has four different types of ammunition. Every button on the PSP is used, some twice. I've been playing computer games for twenty-five years and I kept getting confused over the controls the whole way through.

It's not that the controls are bad. Apart from attaching to cover being fiddly in the heat of battle, the controls work very well. The game is just complicated. My mum wouldn't know where to start and wouldn't want to.

But, then again, you're not my mum and you're probably wondering where I'm going with all this. Well, to cut the meandering short, if you're new to videogames then this isn't a good place to start. It looks cool but is a real struggle to get to grips with. If you've played plenty of games, however, you'll have probably seen it all before, only a bit better. For all the complications, Dark Mirror still seems strangely basic, from the lacklustre plot to the lengthy corridor sections. It has its moments but, after a while, it just becomes a chore.

Conclusion: If this were a PS2 game, it would be quickly forgotten. Absence of competition on the PSP makes it more memorable but still doesn't make it that special.

Graphics: Technically adept but lacking imagination. The endless, samey corridors begin to grate before the end.

Length: Feels longer than it actually is. (Never a good sign).

Rating: 3/5.

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