Last year, the Syphon Filter series infiltrated the PSP with Dark Mirror, a game that continues to rank among the handheld system’s best. Now Gabe and his team of agents are back in Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow. Can this latest mission live up to the high standard set by Dark Mirror? The answer is a resounding yes. I’m telling you, if Sony Bend continues to come up with new Syphon Filter installments at this rate, stealth action fans are going to be one spoiled bunch.
The story in Logan's Shadow was penned by Greg Rucka, who’s writing credits include the comic book series Queen and Country, as well a pair of Perfect Dark novels. In other words, he’s no stranger to the world of espionage. The plot revolves around a dangerous new technology that’s hijacked from a U.S. battleship by a middle-Eastern extremist group. Thankfully it’s not as over-the-top as Dark Mirror was, but the story can get a little confusing at times, what with all the various factions vying for this mysterious technology, not to mention a subplot involving Gabe’s field partner, Lian, and whether or not she’s defected from the agency. The story arc spans six episodes with each episode broken down into bite-sized parts ideal for gaming on the go.
Logan’s Shadow enhances the core stealth action gameplay from Dark Mirror in a number of ways. For starters, some of the missions take place in submerged areas, which means swimming and underwater combat become key. Both aspects are covered in the training compound (including the use of one the new weapons, a spear gun). Gabe also has a few new tricks up his sleeve when it comes to combat. Adding to the already solid cover system, you can now blind fire if an enemy decides to get aggressive and rush your position. If you manage to sneak up on an enemy, instead of grappling and killing the target you can use the hostage as a shield.
In a nod to the God of War franchise, Logan’s Shadow uses button sequences to complete various tasks, such as hacking a computer, grappling with enemies or lifting cargo doors. Sometimes it’s as simple as pressing one button repeatedly, other times it can be as challenging as pushing a sequence of buttons that appear onscreen in an allotted time. Other enhancements to gameplay include health regeneration. That's right, you don't have to worry about finding medikits anymore.
The one complaint gamers had with Dark Mirror was the control scheme. Logan’s Shadow uses the same control system so if you struggled with the controls in Dark Mirror, you will here too. On the default setting, players use the nub and face buttons to move and aim. The directional buttons are used to toggle stances, cycle through vision modes, weapons and ammunition types, and interact with the environment. The right shoulder button is the primary attack and the left shoulder button is used to look down the sight of your weapon. It’s pretty amazing how so many actions have been mapped to so few buttons, but I can understand if some people find the controls to be a little too complicated. There is a Classic control system available, which allows you to auto-lock on targets and not worry about aiming manually.
The game seems to compensate for the complicated control scheme by dumbing down the AI a little. Enemy behavior is curious. They’ll often stand out in the open rather than taking cover, which means all you have to do is find cover, aim around the corner and take them out with a head shot. As the game progresses, enemies don’t get smarter so much as they get better equipped, with flak jackets and other apparel.
Just as Dark Mirror did before it, Logan’s Shadow offers one of the more complete multiplayer experiences available on the PSP. Both Ad Hoc and Infrastructure are available for up to 8 players. In addition to Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Rogue Agent, there are two new multiplayer modes in Sabotage and Retrieval. Sabotage is an objective based mode where players work in teams to achieve goals that vary from map to map, while Retrieval is essentially a variation of Capture the Flag. There are seven maps in total, support for clans and even voice support over IP.
Logan’s Shadow is a great looking PSP game. The addition of the Havok Physics engine makes the world come alive that much more. The cutscenes are some of the best I’ve seen in a PSP game and the load times are incredibly short. The audio is equally solid, highlighted by Azam Ali’s score that goes perfectly with the theme of the game.
The Syphon Filter series has been reinvigorated on the PSP, first with Dark Mirror and now with Logan’s Shadow. The stealth action gameplay is solid, the production values are second to none and the multiplayer suite is robust. The complicated control scheme will undoubtedly be a sore spot for some gamers and to compensate, the enemy AI is dumbed down a little. Still, as far as stealth action games on the PSP go, it doesn't get any better than this.