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Logan's Shadow is a game that feels so high-production, so meticulously designed and so chocked full of content, that you can't help but wonder why Sony didn't champion this adventure more. Given that action 'n' espionage games are more at home on the big screen, the belated PS2 version (arriving nearly three years after the original release) seems a preferable alternative, simply because it doesn't suffer the same control restrictions inherent in the PSP. For fans of the handheld though, it's still a must.
Secret operative and general purveyor of gravely-voiced coolness Gabe Logan once again finds himself pushed into a risky mission, this time by 'pencil neck' bureaucrat Robert Cordell, as Gabe hopes to put and end to old adversary and textbook extremist Ghassan al-Bitar. Believing Logan's long-time ally Lian Xing has defected; Cordell suspends their organisation, leaving Gabe to go in search of Lian in an attempt to uncover the truth behind her sudden disappearance. Whilst it's all fairly generic, the narrative does run with conviction and many Syphon Filter stalwarts make a welcome return, even if the new faces are less memorable. All you really need to know though is that it sticks faithfully to the Syphon Filter blueprint; thus Gabe will get into peril trying to save an attractive female agent he is secretly enamoured with; he will be betrayed by at least one individual; there will be at least one ally whom Gabe says he's known for years but has never had the good grace to mention previously, and most of all, there will be lots of shooting people in the head.
It has all the hallmarks of a classy third-person spy thriller. Visually, it's outstanding. All the characters are superbly animated; the environments are attractive, varied and the frame-rate really smooth. Cut-scenes are particularly excellent and the explosions, environment effects and physics in general are highly advanced for a PSP game. There's also a a good mix between outdoor missions that tend to involve more action and some indoor ones where stealth is encouraged.
Logan's Shadow doesn't have the luxury of a second analogue nub for aiming, thus all four face buttons act as look/aim functions. This isn't as disastrous as it sounds, but it still feels slow and a little cumbersome, and with only the D-Pad and two shoulder buttons to aim, shoot, crouch, change weapon, change equipment and reload, it all gets a little crowded. The lack of intuitive control renders what are easily the games most ambitious levels, the underwater sections, as it's least enjoyable. To describe the swimming navigation as fiddly would be a major understatement, plus when the inevitable battles take place, there's nowhere to seek cover and you become something of a sitting duck.
The A.I. has come under some criticism, but in all fairness to Sony Bend they could hardly have made the enemies mega-aggressive given that Gabe rarely comes off favourably in close-quarter combat. Most foes will react when they spot you, seeking cover and occasionally lobbing a grenade to get you on the move. The fact that a couple of the boss battles descend into near-farcical encounters where you end up chasing each other round a room is testament to the fact that quick and precise movement and aiming on the run just isn't doable. That's not a criticism of the game as such; there is in the end only so much control you can have with one analogue nub.
Still, it's is a very good game. Every level is superbly crafted, allowing for a multitude of combat styles and tactics with more than fifty weapons in all. For example, if two foes are stationed close together, you can take them both out simultaneously with a single gas or explosive dart. The cover system is excellent as it allows time to compensate for the slower rotational controls by letting the player position the basic (non-zoom) crosshair before popping up from cover and going for that all-important head-shot. Taking guards out silently has its advantages as it avoids ambushes and you can even get environmental kills if you want to be extra devious. Shooting a rope holding up a cargo container will cause it to drop on an unsuspecting terrorist, whilst removing the jack from a car while one is stationed under it has a similarly flattening effect.
There's a definite finesse and intelligence to Logan's Shadow, and if you're prepared to make use of the equipment, it proves endlessly rewarding. The Nightvision goggles are fairly self-explanatory as they help Gabe pick his way through darkened surroundings; thermal goggles help track heat signatures and are thus useful for spotting enemies lurking behind doors and walls. When an ally of Gabe is dumped unconscious in a morgue vault, you can find her heat signature and save time locating the correct lever that she is behind. The cleverest tool proves to be the EDSU goggles, which highlight every point of interaction in bright yellow; doors, levers and switches, ammo and armour crates, hidden evidence and even small things like hinges that can be shot to open vents, it even shows trip wires linked to explosives. Walking round with a dark red tint isn't a good tactic though as it's hard to track human movement.
The soundtrack is a cracker, one of the best ever to grace the PSP. Hiring Iranian musician Azam Ali to write, compose and perform the lion's share of the songs proved to be a real masterstroke. With an apt Middle-Eastern undertone, her vocals are extremely classy, backed by haunting melodies that make for an ideal fit with the mysterious and sometimes sombre tone of the story. They're beautiful, but Ali doesn't just do emotive; the majority of the action themes are similarly a good fit, chiming with just a tinge of paranoia.
The games final pillar of excellence is its lifespan. With more than twenty levels, it'll take awhile to finish. Adding greatly to the games longevity is the Mission Mode, which challenges you to play each completed mission multiple times, maximising the number of kills with stealth, knives, darts and, on the Hard difficulty, headshots. The rewards include new weapons and bonus levels which expand the main story, whilst obtaining all of the hidden evidence files opens up a smart array of storyboards, trailers and some new songs. It will be months before you polish everything off, though I didn't fancy playing some of the underwater levels more than once.
Ultimately it's not as good as Dark Mirror, but Logan's Shadow does present further evidence (if it were needed) that Bend are a talented development studio. It remains to be seen whether Sony will entrust the developers with a big-bucks budget to finish the trilogy on the PS3, or indeed if the cliffhanger ending will ever be resolved. It may have ideas above its station, but a game that has such production values, nous in design and genuine lasting appeal - in itself somewhat elusive in the portable market - deserves recognition.
I was bought this game for Christmas along with Mass Effect on the 360. I loved Mass Effect, and obviously due to its much more powerful nature I was hooked. Until I played this. In Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow (SPLS), you take the role of Gabe Logan and a member of the Special Ops. Your mission is to retrieve a package containing dangerous new technology within a naval ships hull. Obviously the game evolves from there, and by the end, you'll have fought in the ship, in the streets, the desert and in the water to name but a few.
The game uses a third-person engine as a means of gameplay. By using this, Sony have taken full advantage of the various surroundings you'll find yourself in. For example, by using a third-person camera, it is much easier to use cover to the maximum, allowing you to aim prior to becoming exposed and in turn, gifting you the opportunity to dispatch of more enemies quicker and more efficiently.
What makes this game particulaly stand out from any other PSP titles is its other forms of gameplay. That is, you are not restricted to the good ol' fashioned 'shoot n run' tactic. Instead, you can take control of mounted machine guns, which revert to a first-person view as well as using the different buttons on the PSP to perform tasks such as opening doors or diffusing bombs. This can be seen as a very clever move by Sony, allowing the gamer to become much more immersed in game you've just forked out on, giving you a much greater sense of value.
The story too is excellent, and the cut-scenes can often lead to you surprised that your really playing on a PSP, and not in fact sat in front of you TV on a fully-fledged console.
Building upon the above comment, the graphics of SPLS are truly spectacular for a portable device. The game truly makes the most of the PSP's capabilities and the scenery and animation really feel as if you're in a genuine enviroment. This can be particulaly witnessed when fighting in the desert, whereby you can clearly see overhead rope-bridges swaying in the wind, as well as moving to pressure of enemies running accross.
I often feel that in order to distinguish between a good game, and a great one, it is necessary to include not only sound on its own, but also effectively and realistically. Syphon Filter does this, and moreover, does it well. From the simplest things such as gunshot noises, to terrorist calls of war again really add tho the realism of the game, and, although it is arguable that the PSP's weakness is it's poor speaker quality, plugging in your headphones really makes for a brilliant experiance.
Overall, I would recommend this game to anyone with a PSP that has even the smallest amount of interest in the genre. SFLS does not only raise the bar for portable gaming, it smashes it.