Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow

Shifty Shadow

It may be arriving a couple years later, but Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow shows precisely why it was such a great PSP game when it was originally released. It also puts the idea of PSP-to-PS2 ports to bed -- hopefully for good.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: August 1, 2010
The PlayStation 2 is, effectively, a dead system now. That simple fact is not a dig on the most popular console of all time, but rather a testament to the fact that only now, nearly a decade after it was launched, are we truly confident in saying the little black brick has given its all.


Sony, though, clearly wants to wring a few more drops of blood from the stone, and to that end they tapped their Bend Studio to bring the fantastic 2007 sequel to the original PSP Syphon Filter reboot to a slightly larger audience. It's understandable, of course; the PSP may have sold more than the GameCube and original Xbox combined hardware-wise, but the software side of things isn't quite as rosy. Even still, this experiment was tried a couple times before, and none of them have been successful.

Blame the fact that these games were (rightly) made for the PSP and all its particularities. The 480x272 screen can make even modest geometry and textures look great, but blown up to standard-def resolutions, a lot of that wow factor is removed. Bend Studio made some novel attempts to bump up the texture detail and give everything a few coats of smoothing, but no matter how much visual gussying up is done, this is still a PSP game and the gameplay makes that readily apparent.

Much of it comes down to the controls. Freed of the painful face button method of aiming, there can be no mistake that Logan's Shadow on the PS2 is a much more enjoyable experience from a controls perspective, but it's not without lingering issues. The snap-to-cover system the PSP game used where you simply press up against an object after stopping near it works... on the PSP. On the PS2, with free camera control, it can feel incredibly clunky -- and worse, tends to be hit or miss in the middle of heated firefights.

With so much of the game dependent on this mechanic, it can make things feel unfairly stunted. On the PSP, it just seemed to work without much thought, but here, whether by virtue of the fact that looking around or aiming normally is so much more fluid, the snappiness of the cover system ends up bogging the game down. One area where that freedom of motion in looking around does end up much more natural is in the 360 degree swimming. Logan's Shadow offered some impressively huge underwater levels and let players spin around as needed to confront enemies showing up from all sides, and with two analog sticks, it's even better.

The same varied ammo, near-constant radio chatter, developing objectives and mix of steal and stop 'n pop gunplay is all present and works fine, but again there's the issue of things feeling like a PSP game. No amount of visual tweaking can fix that, and as good as the game looks now, there's no denying that it's a better game on the PSP because it was designed for the PSP. The odd moments where the framerate can nosedive don't really help things either. The PS2 should have no problem with environments this size, but there's a bit of choking that shows up in more open areas -- made even more noticeable when the game jumps to near 60fps in more enclosed climes.

There's also the issue of the game's audio being made for the PSP. That constant chatter, even when masked a bit with a headset filter, is noticeably compressed, leading to a flat feeling to everything that really makes itself present when playing alongside the new PS2-specific tutorial quips. There's one some consolation in that the music, which uses the haunting Azam Ali to fantastic effect, and doesn't seem to suffer from the same loss in fidelity.

Were this the full version of Logan's Shadow, I might have been more eager to at least say people should play it (and they should; this is the best Syphon Filter out there), but there's one very glaring omission here: there's no online. None. Given that that was half of the appeal of the PSP game, the absence of not just the Combat Ops stand-alone DLC but all of the online multiplayer seems... well, unacceptable. I can understand Sony not wanting to put up servers just to host a few games, but if they're going to take the time to port the game, they should have ported the whole of what was offered on the UMD.

The bottom line is this: Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow is a great game... on the PSP. The weird timing of the PS2 port, coupled with the loss of the multiplayer (which was not only significant for the PSP at the time, but damned fun to boot) means this really does feel like a half-assed effort. Regardless of the PSP's software sales, there really shouldn't have been any effort put toward getting this game onto the PS2 if the result was something that felt innately like a PSP experience. It does, and thus it's not worth your time... on the PS2. If you have a PSP, though, you'd damn well better pick up Logan's Shadow there because it's awesome.
The Verdict
6.0

While the overall game doesn't suffer nearly as much as one would expect from a PSP-to-PS2 port, the lack of multiplayer and inherent PSP-ness of it all really only confirms that this nearly three year old title should have stayed on its home platform.

7.5Graphics:

An oddly uneven framerate shows the PS2 is more than capable of running things like butter, but can't, not all the time. Thankfully the improvements to the textures are a nice touch.

8.0Sound:

Solid (though not amazing) voice work and a wonderfully atmospheric soundtrack do wonders to help the immersion. It's just a shame some of those radio conversations sound so compressed.

7.5Control:

What worked so well on the PSP's single analog nub control configuration doesn't quite feel as natural here on the DualShock 2 -- even if the normal aiming and looking most definitely is improved.

7.5Gameplay:

Though clearly a PSP product with a little PS2 window dressing, there's no denying that this was a great game originally. Unfortunately, it's also a stripped down version of something that was far more impressive on portable hardware.