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PSP Fanboy review: Syphon Filter Logan's Shadow

Your PS2 is quietly sobbing, jealous of your next PSP purchase. Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow is an incredible game that manages to defy the limitations of portable gaming. Packed with incredible graphics, fantastic music, and terrific gameplay, Logan's Shadow is one of the best PSP games to date. Fans of the series will be surprised at how far the franchise has matured: this is easily the best game in the Syphon Filter series.

The gameplay is what sets Logan's Shadow apart. It's still a stealth action game, but the action has been upped quite considerably. Logan can move through environments with masterful precision, and his updated roster of moves makes him a considerable killer. Cautious gamers will want to take the stealthiest approach to the game, and avoid detection as frequently as possible. By sneaking up to enemies, Logan will be able to slit their throats with a knife, throw them off ledges, or take them as hostages at gunpoint. Sneaking up behind a villain and snapping his neck is always a satisfying experience.

But perhaps you'll want to take a less subtle route. There are plenty of guns at Logan's disposal, and they're all very satisfying. The core of the gunplay is the cover system. You'll hide behind walls, crates, and other sizable objects. By pushing the analog nub, you'll be able to take aim and then duck out for a quick shot. This methodical approach will let you target specific areas of the body: headshots are usually effective, but helmeted enemies can be taken down with a nice shot in the kneecaps. The cover system is ideal for PSP, as it gives gamers time to adjust their aim with the face buttons. Who needs a second analog stick? Of course, if precision isn't your style, then switch to a fully automatic rifle and fire away through the protection of blind-fire, a la Gears of War. There are so many ways for you to kill your enemies -- and it's relatively easy to learn.

Each of the weapons can be fine-tuned for your needs. Automatic rifles can switch between full automatic, single shot, or burst fire -- depending on whether or not you want to conserve your ammo. The sniper rifle is easily the most satisfying weapon to modify. Its default mode already has a great feel to it: your aim has a slight sway when standing, and the level of zoom is perfect. However, if you want some extra power, you can choose electric darts, or poison gas darts, or explosive darts. The gas darts are perfect for taking out a small group of enemies silently. You can tag an enemy, and as he walks away, trigger the explosion, killing anyone nearby.

To effectively survive each of the game's challenges, players will want to utilize all their equipment, and that includes the various visors that Gabe has access to. The IR sensor is great for picking up heat signatures, like those of human bodies. But, it's not ideal for finding ammo crates, hidden evidence, or other objectives-critical items. The night vision mode is great for seeing in the dark -- even the flashlight will come into use at a specific point in the game. Switching between the visors is crucial: you might be in a dark tunnel before heading into a smoke-filled room. How you see your enemies will constantly change -- of course, how your enemies see you will also change.

The artificial intelligence of Logan's Shadow is impressive, especially for a handheld game. The enemies will take cover, and will try to help each other. Yes, there are times where they'll seem to get stuck -- but some enemies will surprise you at their cunning. While most will try to take cover from afar, there are some that manage to charge ahead -- and those are the ones that will catch you defenseless.

There's a lot to do in Logan's Shadow, and it's impressive that the game manages to go for so long without getting repetitive or tedious. Just when you think you've done it all, you'll be swimming from boat to boat, sabotaging terrorist ships. You'll fight a submarine (yes, really!), a helicopter, a tank -- you name it. The underwater levels deserve high praise: we can't think of a single other game that has managed to pull off such compelling underwater fighting before. The set pieces that you'll find yourself in are ripped straight out of really good episodes of 24, the ones usually reserved for season finales.

The story will draw you in like a good novel. Not only is an incredible terrorist device threatening the middle east, you'll find Gabe questioning the loyalty of his long-time partner Xing. There are a good number of plot twists, all delivered through top-notch voice acting. This is truly cinematic gaming on the go.

The greatest flaw of Logan's Shadow is that it does too much. Yes, we're glad to have such impressive visuals in a PSP game. Never have we seen volumetric smoke, real-time water, lighting and particle effects rendered at the same time on the PSP -- nor did we ever think it possible (and to think, the game was handling AI and physics effects at the same time!). Most PS2 games would love to look and play this good. But, with the big-budget look comes a price: the load times are fairly long, clocking in at around a dozen seconds for each level. That's easily manageable, but worse than that is the actual length of each level: don't expect bite-sized morsels in this game. We've easily missed our subway stop more than once simply because the game drew us in for a bit too long. It's utterly compelling, yes. But, make note that each level is an investment -- one that you won't simply jump in and out of.

There's also a multiplayer component to the game, but we were unable to test it in time for this review. However, the single player already provides enough incentive to buy the game. The addition of multiplayer can only be a significant bonus to an already-complete package. Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow is a testament to the true power of the PSP and is the first must-have game of the holiday season for PS fans.

PSP Fanboy Score: 9.0

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