And finally, you have to respect the AI. Maybe your terrorist opponents aren’t from the F.E.A.R./MGS/Spinter Cell College for Clever-dick Villains, but they’re a world away from the disposable cretins of the recent Miami Vice, making some effort to track you and fire from a position of safety. Perhaps that’s why the game can even conjure up a few magnificent set pieces, like the section early on where the enemies close in through the mist of a secret biotech research Lab, pinning you down mercilessly until you realise that switching to infrared gives you an instant and decisive advantage.
As I said, it’s an excellent game. In fact, it’s easily the best action-adventure on the PSP, and one of the very finest games on Sony’s handheld. So why not an undisputed classic? Well, it’s the extremely linear nature of the game; the way rooms and corridors follow on from one another, with no real freedom or choice. It’s the annoying habit of hitting you with sudden-death trip mines at the end of a long and difficult action sequence – I know you should be punished for not taking care and using your goggles, but that harshly? Probably not. But most of all, it’s that while Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror does an amazing job of bringing the thrills of tactical espionage to the PSP, you can’t help thinking that were you not playing it on a handheld , you’d only be half as impressed. Pitch it up against Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory or MGS2: Sons of Liberty and it wouldn’t quite pass muster, even given the obvious graphical improvements that a PS2 conversion would bring. Don’t get me wrong – this is an exceptional PSP game, but maybe it shows up the problem at the heart of the ‘PS2-quality games in the palm of your hand’ ideal. Unless you create something different and amazing that you would never find on the homebound console, you’ll never make a truly classic game.
A stunning technical achievement and one of the few must-have games on the PSP. However, Dark Mirror doesn’t have the depth or originality of the spy genre’s best, and is a bit too linear for all-time classic status.