Dead Head Fred
Fred has a habit for heads. He certainly managed to turn a few earlier in the year when the game was previewed and showed a lot of promise of things to come. But like all good promises, Dead Head Fred turns out to be fairly broken.
The main game has you navigating the town of Hope Falls, swapping heads along the way in order to beat up your adversaries and to solve the many puzzles. Loading times are excessively high, with every area needing to be loaded independently. With a lot of areas needing less than a minute or two to navigate, the constant stop-start nature of the game makes Hope Falls feel much smaller than it actually is.
For a game that relies heavily on combat, Dead Head Fred suffers from a severe lack of combos and an awkward control system. During combat the jump button doubles up as a combat button, but the game often forgets this and instead makes you jump mid-combo or punch when you want to jump. The often claustrophobic areas also mean that enemies soon surround you, making progress much more arduous than it needs to be. The puzzles work relatively well and are by far the highlight of the game, but in most levels they disappointingly play second fiddle to the uneventful combat.
Voiced by John McGinley (Perry Cox from Scrubs), Fred's quips aren't exactly side-splittingly funny and the overused profanity just makes it feel like it's been designed by teenagers desperately trying to be edgy. If however you found Conker funny, this might just tickle you a little.
Weighing in at a hefty 20-25 hours in length, Dead Head Fred outstays its welcome and never really elevates above being a fun yet ultimately frustrating platform-cum-action adventure game. If only they'd have concentrated on the puzzles and exploration more than the combat, and tightened up the loose platforming controls, it could have been one of the surprise hits of the year.
Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow
Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror was one of the most impressive titles to hit the Sony handheld last year. Until then nobody had really managed to do the FPS genre justice on the PSP and few would have expected Dark Mirror to hit the heights of Syphon Filter's first foray on the PS1.
Much was therefore expected of Logan's Shadow and, for once, we've not been let down. Rather than just settling for re-releasing last years game with different scenery, Sony Bend has delivered a game that not only improves on last year's offering but does so with aplomb.
Graphically Syphon Filter is impressive and the musical score is utterly fantastic, though unfortunately the voice-over work features more racially stereotypical accents than your average mobile phone ring-tone advert.
An advanced melee combat system has been introduced providing new abilities, such as enabling Gabe to use enemies as human shields, and Gabe can now use blind-fire to force enemies to seek cover. Underwater combat sections now also play a large part in the game and aren't anywhere near as gimmicky as they sound. Interactive moments also make an appearance, but thankfully they're never really taxing and just there to provide some interactivity to the more mundane sequences, such as escaping wrist restraints.
The single-player challenge weighs in at a hefty 22 missions spread over six episodes, providing approx ten hours of gameplay. Multiplayer hasn't been overlooked either, with two new game modes and some new maps, as well as some updated maps from Dark Mirror. It's safe to say that you should get more than your money's worth out of Logan's Shadow.
It's not all a bed of roses though. The AI varies from incredibly dumb to possessing an almost Colin Powell-esque ability to spot things even if there's no physical evidence of them and the controls, whilst operational, are never really intuitive and can make lining up headshots incredibly difficult. Other than that though, Syphon Filter delivers in every other respect and even puts many PS2 shooters to shame.