The original Syphon Filter on the original PlayStation was, for all intents and purposes, the original third-person shooter. And not only was it a blast, it had just about everything: a decent lone-soldier-fighting-terrorists plot, great gadgets, intuitive targeting system, a balance of sneak-'em-up and run-and-gun gameplay, and a cool infinite-ammo Taser that set enemies on fire.
Now, that epic game's direct descendant is out for the PSP, Sony's lovely but pricey reinvented wheel, and Sony must be hoping it can work the same magic. And it does, almost perfectly; the gadgets, play-style variety, and plot are all there, and they even nailed the controls. With only one control stick, that's no small feat. You'll precision-aim slowly and manually at times, but using the face buttons is never awkward.
It's becoming common for games to clock in at less than 10 hours, and the average gamer will finish Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror's single-player mode in about eight. However, there are a ton of multiplayer modes, using ad-hoc hosting, wireless Internet multiplayer, in-game chart with mic/headset—in fact, every mode the PSP supports. It's enough to raise the game to the status of PSP must-have; don't be surprised if your eventual cost breakdown for SF:DM works out to about 10 cents per hour of play.
Beyond the game: This game lets you fight terrorists. Did you know that people in real life are fighting terrorists too? It's true! Why is it now up to The A.V. Club to tell you? Because the heroic terrorist fighters' press guy just got arrested for trying to seduce little girls!
Worth playing for: It's the best portable action going. And yes, it includes a bad-guy-roasting Taser.
Frustration sets in when: Learning to use the controls can be frustrating at first, the guns mostly sound asthmatic, and some of the dialogue makes you want to let the terrorists win, but otherwise, it's great.
Final judgment: Seven years later, it's still a dumb title, but once more a great game.