Syndicate is a re-imagination of the video game of the same name that was released in 1993 and followed up in 1996 by Syndicate Wars. The original games were published by Electronic Arts and developed by Bullfrog whereas the re-imagined version is developed by Starbreeze Studios and published by Electronic Arts. This new take on a classic game stays quiet faithful to the general theme of a cyber punk dystopia but switches the game perspective creating a first person shooter.
The general environment and futuristic take on life remain largely the same as well, set in the year 2069 in a world where large corporation make the concept on nationality redundant and half the world's population have a neural chip implant that allows users to access the "dataverse". We play as Agent Miles Kilo, EuroCorp's latest bio-engineered and chip-augmented enforcer equipped with the new prototype DART 6 implant.
Following a successful test run of the chip's abilities we get our first mission which is to eliminate a rival corporation's scientist, Gary Chang, after receiving information that he has developed a DART 6 chip just like Eurocorp's. So we dawn our Rick Deckard like persona, strap on couple of guns and go corporate!
Syndicate starts as it means to go on, with a punch in the face, which is the initial opening sequence. After overpowering our attacker and escaping from the chair we are strapped to we move through a linear interior environment overcoming a variety of physical barriers, flipping the occasional switch but mainly shooting people.
Once we have run out of people to shoot we make our way to the exit only to be launched into a cut scene explaining that the previous bout of violence was a training mission and filling some plot gaps.
That is the general layout of the game for it's six hour run time. We get treated to an unskippable cut scene which gives us some background information on the world of Syndicate and instructs us to undertake a mission. We then go on the mission which is always set in a totally linear and enclosed environment and we kill everything, occasionally encountering a slight harder to kill enemy. We leave the level to get another cut scene which then takes us to another mission where we kill everything. Rinse and repeat.
The plot does have two minor points of intrigue which is always good to see, though as always we have elected not to discuss these here so that players may experience them as they happen.
Moving back to the main gameplay we enter the combat arena with our cybernetically enhanced character limited to carrying two weapons and grenades. On the odd occasion that we encounter a weapon like a flamethrower or rocket launcher we seem to be able to carry that weapon as a third option in our arsenal but instantly drop it once we run out of ammunition.
The basic game controls are the standard W-A-S-D, R to reload, F to interact with objects, G for grenades, LMB to shoot, RMB to aim and the middle mouse button for melee. We are also able to run, crouch and jump using the standard keys. Most weapons have two fire modes which can be changed using the V key.
The inclusion of the DART 6 bio-chip in the game does give us some interesting features. We constantly get a HUD giving us environmental information and an ammo count. Using our DART 6 abilities we are able to hack other nearby chips, an action the game terms "breaching".
If we opt to "breach" a nearby enemy we can force three options on the enemy; "Suicide" where the enemy kills themselves and damages nearby foes, "Persuade" allows the enemy to temporarily become an ally or "Backfire" which sees the enemy's weapon blows up, stunning them and inflicting damage. We can also breach enemy drones to remove their shielding, forcibly enlist turrets to do our bidding and take control of doors, lifts and venting systems.
In addition to this we are able to activate the DART overlay for a short amount of time which enables us to slow down the game, giving us Sci-Fi bullet time, with an added bonus of X-Ray like vision to see the enemies through walls. While using the DART overlay we can also take and deal more damage.
Backing up the single player campaign is co-op mode that uses a simplified story, over nine maps, which has an emphasis on teamwork.
Unlike the main campaign, co-op offers us three different classes of character, offensive, defensive, and support. It also gives us a greater variety of breaching skills and abilities. The upgrade system is also much more robust. In the single-player mode we simply choose one of a series of mostly health-related upgrades when the game allows us to, but in co-op mode we can customise our weapons, our own chip and its apps.
Graphics and Audio
Blue and inexplicably bright are the best ways to describe the graphic of Syndicate. Regardless of location the game has a distinct blue tone to the palette of colours used and is also suffers from moments of extreme white saturation giving us significant light glare effects. Overall the environments are well rendered but lack of variation is an issue with a lack of world detail failing to give us the impression that we are in the middle of a bustling metropolis. That said character animation is good; the movements are fluid for the main characters and the more generic enemy.
Voice acting is extremely good quality something to expect with professional actors like Brian Cox, Rosario Dawson and Michael Wincott (he voiced Death in The Darkness 2
). Explosions and weapon effects are meaty enough and the musical score bring an extra depth of realism.
Let's get our main issue with Syndicate out of the way first... there is no getting away from the fact that it feels unoriginal. The sound track is reminiscent of Hard Reset, visually its Deus Ex to the point that a member of the team looked over our shoulder and said: "How come you're playing Deus Ex again? Oh wait, is that a new game?"
That said it is an entertaining game, in essence one which delivers generic shooting scenarios and boss fights all wrapped up this seasons fashionable graphics with a linear layout and well used plot. We would have loved a more expansive gameplay element around the augmentations aspect but it should be noted that the co-op campaign does go further down that route and is the highlight, so look to find a friend to play with for the best experience.