Me, and my Shadow.
Syphon Filter hero Gabriel Logan could use an attitude adjustment, but maybe he has good reasons for being so arrogant: Murderous jerk-terrorists have just stolen a devastating bomb, and his long-time partner Lian Xing has gone MIA. Fortunately, Gabe’s terrible luck translates into a fun globe-trotting adventure for your PSP, so grab your taser and your goggles and let’s shoot the place up.
[image1]Gabe’s second run on the PSP is a short and sweet third-person shooter, full of stealth kills and black ops missions. The gameplay succeeds thoroughly and benefits from a solid set of solo and multiplayer features, even if the graphics and story are a little shaky.
The first thing I noticed about Logan’s Shadow was the extremely comfortable control scheme. Like its predecessor Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror, the basic control scheme uses X and the other main face buttons as your surrogate second analog stick. Your only real buttons for using ziplines and doors are safely tucked onto the d-pad,. I was immediately able to line up headshots on my PSP Slim, and the economy of context-sensitive buttons promotes methodical action over twitchy finger gymnastics.
Gabe’s mission includes a number of fun surprises: there are boats to sabotage, tanks to command and prisons to infiltrate. As I shot spears into frogmen in the ocean depths, I felt like James Bond in that badass underwater fight from Thunderball! It isn’t God of War, but the sub-bosses and interactive object minigames hit a great rhythm with the standard stealth-shooter segments.
Enemy soldiers also show a nice balance in A.I. difficulty, possibly weighing a little on the easy side. Gabe dies pretty quick, and sometimes the A.I. hides and moves around a lot... eventually you get enough time to take a shot, or sneak up for a knife kill. The surprises lose their steam by the last level, however.
Logan’s Shadow has a few rough spots, none of them are serious enough to wreck the experience. Your arsenal is large but almost every gun feels like the same automatic rifle. Boss characters barely speak their first lines before you gun them down. Irrelevant, depressing subplots and clichéd attitude make the story the weakest part of the game, and Gabe is as arrogant, uninteresting and unlikable as ever.
[image2]In spite of these faults, Logan’s Shadow is a very playable PSP shooter. Your high-tech goggles highlight enemies and interactive objects, so it’s nearly impossible to get lost. Cover is fairly simple and easy to use, or you can run and gun around enemies at an acceptable risk level. The experience-and-skills metagame encourages sniping and other play styles, it’s a little unclear but after beating the game once, there are enough bonus weapons and goodies to make you consider replaying your favorite missions.
Logan’s Shadow has a few sweet goodies tucked away, like a cute behind-the-scenes look at level production, and bonus missions beyond the main story. You even get an impressive preview build of Syphon Filter: Tactical Ops, with online play and a functional level editor. A level editor in a PSP shooter! If you dig the Logan’s Shadow multiplayer, try your hand at making some maps before tossing $15 down the Playstation Network well.
Local and online multiplayer modes follow a separate reward scale, for playing and completing games like capture-the-flag and set-the-bomb. Logan’s Shadow has complete support for friend lists, messages and clans, plus I was delighted to find an active, well-behaved chat channel and plenty of games to join. My only gripe about the multiplayer is the lack of visual feedback: I couldn’t tell if I was landing hits, so I started aiming high and trading headshots with the enemy team as we frantically danced around.
[image3]The animation in Logan’s Shadow is generally bare, as flat and blocky as any other forgettable PS2 title. In-game characters move well and aren’t totally stiff, but the environments suffer from dull, monotonous color palettes. However, the pre-rendered cut scenes are especially clear and crisp.
Sounds and music also come through loud and clear, and the voice actors do a great job with their dozens of sometimes-cheesy lines. The music cues aren’t too memorable but the sound effects are spot-on, especially when you brutally electrocute some poor sap with Gabe’s taser.
Logan’s Shadow has a number of unique little moments, like tossing taser darts around a corner or pushing a merc into a stove, that make up a fun, portable adventure. I do hope Gabe lightens up a little at some point, but if you still need a gift for some special PSP owner, Logan’s Shadow is a top-notch stocking stuffer.