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The sequel to one of the best PSP titles of 2006, but can Gabe and the rest of the team survive another globe-trotting adventure...
- Solid storyline.
- Evolution of the control system.
- Further additions made to the gameplay.
- AI can be flaky at times.
- Occasionally frustrating.
- Relatively short campaign.
Having resurrected the franchise in 2006 to great effect, Gabe Logan and the rest of the IPCA return for a second adventure filled with espionage and counter-terrorism on the PSP in Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow. Set in the aftermath of its predecessor Dark Mirror, this latest handheld instalment sees long time special ops man Gabe Logan globetrot once more as he tracks down one of his agents (accused of being a double agent) whilst at the same time attempt to stop a terrorist plot. So it's just another day at the office then...
Once again developed by Sony Bend studio, the veritable home of the franchise since its PSone beginnings in 1999, can Logan's Shadow do a Godfather Part II and surpass its PSP predecessor?
Logan's RunWritten by Greg Rucka, comic book writer with experience with both DC and Marvel, Logan's Shadow has many of the ingredients that you'd expect coupled with twists and turns as it progresses to its explosive end. Conspiracy, backstabbing, and betrayal are the order of the day as Logan keeps his eyes on completing his mission, which begins with the protection of a US warship and ends with a final showdown against renegade Syrian terrorist Ghassan al-Bitar himself. It's also worth waiting for the end of the credits to roll too, bringing a cliff-hanger into the series that leads us to wonder Sony Bend's plans for the series in the future...
The mainstays of Syphon Filter of course return in Logan's Shadow, with a multitude of goggles, weapons, and button-mashing puzzles on offer throughout the six episode Story Mode. Once again, each episode splits into a number of parts, breaking up the relentless set pieces that litter the game and at the same time providing players with nuggets of gameplay perfect for portable gaming. Syphon Filter, like so many of its contemporaries, also features covert globetrotting, and Logan's Shadow is no different, with the adventure taking place on (and under) the Indian Ocean, Syria, and a war-torn Azerbaijan, offering a decent selection of environments to fight through. The mix of run-and-gun gameplay, coupled with timed tasks and puzzles, remain at the heart of the Syphon Filter experience, though Sony Bend have also been at pains to evolve different areas too.
Proving that you can teach an old dog new tricks, Gabe can now take the battle underneath the waves with new underwater fire fights against sub-aqua soldiers armed with spear guns. James Bond might have tackled similar opposition about forty years ago, but the sequences nonetheless give players some variety with a change in ballistics and timing requires a little bit of forward planning. Though swimming and diving continue to feature throughout parts of the campaign, they feature most prominently early on, acting as an unsubtle hint of Sony Bend's plans to take the series to the next stage on PSP. The implementation of the Havok physics engine is also used to great effect here, though anomalies such as soldiers dangling off a cliff-face by their heads do occur at intervals and to occasional comic effect.
Additional tweaks added to Logan's Shadow enables players greater flexibility behind cover, such as the ability move along walls and blind fire, the latter pushing enemies back behind cover when needed. Gabe's melee attacks have also been further refined this time around, enabling players to use enemies as human shields or taking them down with one hit kills opening up the options in close combat. Most of the tweaks fill the gaps left in Dark Mirror, making a much more rounded experience and adding further polish to a title that already stands out as one of the top PSP titles of the year - but it's not without its faults either.
Chasing your shadowWhether it's the decks and corridors of the USS Mt. Helena or a hydropower dam in Syria the action rarely lets up, with waves of enemies more than happy to confront Logan has he pushes forward to achieve his objective. Defended all too often with flak jackets that can stop rounds of high calibre bullets without affecting the wearer's aim, it's probably for the best that these armed thugs are so well protected given their apparent lack of intelligence. For instance, there are times where Gabe can just appear around a corner and fail to get noticed by guards standing right next to him, and conversely there were occasions where enemies could somehow hear him from the other end of a corridor. It's a disappointing element to an otherwise supremely polished sequel, though we can certainly see what the Oregon-based studio was aiming for. It can't be an easy job trying to get a balance between challenging enemies and overly clever ones that are too quick for the PSP's single analogue nipple handicap.
The PSP's mono analogue nipple has proved to be irksome on several titles since it launched, leaving players and designers no choice but to utilise the face buttons for camera control like the good ol' days of Dreamcast. Like Dark Mirror, Sony Bend has worked hard to ensure that not only are the player's commands responsive and accurate, but that it seldom feels clunky. Sure, it can be a little frustrating when you're looking down the scope of a sniper rifle only to discover that crouching down zooms the sight out, but overall the studio has continued to work its magic.
Away from the main Story Mode, players can go back and retrace their steps in Mission Mode, selecting their weapons and which part of an episode to replay through. Additional bonuses such as a brief 'Behind the Scenes' location that traces the development of a map from wire-mesh to one that's textured and lit are unlocked as players attain certain objectives, along with a host of weapons that can then be used in the re-runs. One for perfectionists, the mode does at least mean that players can revisit their favourite set-pieces without having to go through earlier episodes first.
As with Dark Mirror, Logan's Shadow also includes online gameplay through Ad Hoc or Infrastructure options, though the trio of gametypes have been extended to include two new ones: Sabotage and Retrieve. Whilst the Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Rogue Agent gametypes make a re-appearance however, Sony Bend has no place for the fourth Dark Mirror mode, 'Objective'. Instead both Sabotage and Retrieve work as variants of Capture the Flag, with teams either collecting detonation codes and activating a warhead in each other's base, or retrieving objects from around the maps and bringing them back to their own base. If Ad Hoc was the only option to playing the multiplayer modes, like so many PSP offerings in the past, then Logan's Shadow would undoubtedly suffer. The fact that, like its predecessor, the game supports Infrastructure mode means that players have the option to take the fight online for many weeks and months to come.
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