syndicate-shooter 22 Feb

In 1993, Electronic Arts and Bullfrog Productions released the original Syndicate on the Commodore Amiga and Microsoft Windows. It was an isometric cyberpunk experience that gained a life-long fanbase. Now, almost 20 years later, EA and Starbreeze Studios (the company that delivered hit shooters such as the original Darkness and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay) have released the series reboot simply named Syndicate.

Aside from sharing the same name, setting and some design-styles Syndicate shares no similarities to the original. While fans might be displeased with the choice of creating another shooter, Syndicate (2012) has turned out to be a damn fine shooter.

In the not too distant future, civilizations swear less and less fealty to countries with geographic borders, and more to private companies with technological, financial, and military control. You are an agent of one of these mega-corporation syndicates and you’re equipped with the latest in technological hardware, enabling you to directly interact and manipulate anything else that is wired into “the system” including computers, some weapons, and even some humans.

This doesn't look like it's going to end well.

What does that mean in terms of gameplay for a shooter? It means you can make some weapons backfire. You can have some enemies kill themselves. You can force them to kill for you. And as an elite agent with immunity, you can dispatch civilians without any legal repercussions.

As a shooter, Syndicate really delivers. It’s fast-paced, looks great, and sounds even better. Graphically, it’s one of the best-looking shooters on the market. The futuristic setting and art style are all very well defined. And while Syndicate is a linear experience, at no point did we feel like that was a setback.

We were impressed by the dynamic HUD system the game employs which added to the immersion instead of pulling you out of it. Ammo count hovers directly next to the gun you’re holding and all other meters that appear on screen bob and weave as you move your head.

Though it bares little resemblance to the original, Syndicate is a wonderful shooter.

Every shooter has its own catch and Syndicate is no different. Your digital implants give you near-psycho-kinetic power that allow you to slow down time slightly and see enemies through walls. You can control distant computers. And you’re granted three distinct powers that recharge based on your killing style.

Suicide power does exactly as its name implies. It commands another computer-chipped human to commit suicide in the most violent fashion possible, by blowing themselves up and injuring everyone around them.

Backfire causes the weapons of your enemies to jam, causing minimal damage, but leaving them temporarily defenseless.

And the persuasion power causes your enemies to fight for you… before putting their own gun in their mouth.

As the game progresses, you discover and forcefully extract other agents implant chips, thereby enhancing your own. You can select which powers get boosted, adding a nice little RPG flair to the game.

In terms of story, Syndicate falls flat. But for a shooter, there is enough motivation to continue driving you forward. There are a few plot twists here and there, but it’s nothing particularly memorable. The voice acting, on the other hand, is phenomenal. Kath Soucie, Rosario Dawson, Brian Cox, and Michael Wincott all perform their roles very well.

The small list of voice actors is impressive, to say the least.

Once you’ve wrapped up the single player campaign, there are several short, but challenging co-operative campaign maps that you can play with up to three other players. Using your implant chips, you can heal and boost your teammates on the fly, and of course like the single player campaign, you can increase your powers through experience points.

There is no competitive multiplayer, which considering the number of competitive-heavy shooters there are on the market, we didn’t mind as much. If Syndicate suffers from anything, it’s from a slightly lop-sided fun factor. The beginning half of the game is infinitely more fun than the second half. And while the game’s super-powers never grew old by the end of our playthrough, the suicide power and the persuasion powers were rendered useless for roughly 1/3rd of the game which felt like a huge tease.

If you’re a shooter-junkie, you can’t go wrong with Syndicate. The action is fast and furious. The visuals are stunning. The audio demands to be experienced at full volume. And the co-operative maps will certainly bring hours of fun to you and your friends. But, like all modern shooters, Syndicate is a bit on the short side. All in all, it is a well-above average game that will please shooter fans, but might disappoint fans of the original tactical gameplay.


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Name: Syndicate

Available on: PC, PlayStation 3,  Xbox 360

Developed by: Electronic Arts

Published by: Starbreeze Studios

Release date: February 21, 2012

EG Score: 4 out of 5 / “Worth Buying and Trying”

8 thoughts on “Syndicate Video Review”

  1. Not gonna buy this out of principle (though it doesn’t look all that appealing either). The idea of grabbing old, fully-functional-as-they-were franchises and turning them into FPSes is one I hate and hope dies in slow, painful agony. And at least, with the XCOM FPS, they were going for a somewhat hybrid ala BiA. For all the fun Syndicate can be, this is just embarrassing.

    1. It IS sad to see old franchises get repurposed. But at the same time, the last Syndicate game that came out was in 1996 or something like that.

      I don’t think people have the patience anymore for “tactical” games. Which is an absolutely shame, because tactical / stealth games are ridiculously addictive and rewarding when done right.

      1. I don’t think people not having patience is true at all. EA never bothered with the question of whether a tactical game is marketeable or not. They just made an FPS to sell to FPS people. FPS people don’t care about isometric tactical games, and that’s understandable, but the only thing that’s changed is EA’s unwillingness to make a game for Syndicate fans.

        Publishers thought no one cared about adventure games anymore and 60k people put 40 bucks each for an unreleased, undetailed and unmarketed (just pretend those are real words) game based on the developer’s pedigree alone.

        Patient people are abundant, what’s lacking is publishers with balls.

      2. I think your right about the tactical stealth games being rewarding, it’s why I love the Hitman and Splinter Cell games so much, but the way games are these days especially the over done fisrt person shooters, so many people are just too lazy or impatient to play something slow paced and yeah it is a big f’n shame.

        Off topic a bit but are you doing a video of the PS Vita? just wondering what you think about it that’s all.

        1. I love how two void generalizations get stuck in the minds of people by publisher agenda:

          1) That people are lazy or impatient to play anything other than a first person shooter, when it’s a problem of offer rather than demand (people don’t even get the choice of playing tactical shooters like XCOM or Syndicate if publishers keep turning them into FPSes) and people being lazy or impatient is plain untrue: Starcraft 2, Civilization V, Skyrim, Assassins’ Creed, Portal 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Borderlands, Pokemon or whatever are all non-straight-up-shooters that still sell in the millions.

          2) That people once weren’t lazy or impatient, and they’ve become so. Also false, because the targeted marketshare of yore isn’t the same as the one of today. It’s like saying there are less declared soccer fans now that you’ve asked not only brits, but also americans. There was a whole lot of people that played Doom back in the day, and there’s a whole lot of people that play Skyrim today.

  2. 1:32 did you shoot that guy in the head and he just shook it off? then when you kicked him in the head he was concussed? hahahah cheesy =P

    Brian Cox hey? the last game I heard his voice in was Manhunt(sick minded Starkweather), he’s very good at doing voice acting in my opinion, I don’t recognise the other voices.

    The gameplay in this video reminded me a bit of Timesplitters Future Perfect, the level in the the future called ‘You Genius U-Genix’ cool =)

    I love the sound of those backfiring powers, I’ll definitely play this in time, saving for Hitman Absolution and GTA V right now.

    Very good video and review.

    Oh and @zkylon – I didn’t play the old school game Syndicate so probaly don’t understand what you mean you really shouldn’t let something as small as a principle get in the way of playing this, it looks brilliant so you’ll probably lose out =/

    1. Lol at principle being a small thing.

      I don’t feel like missing out because I’m not interested in most corridor shooters. I feel my yearly juice of MW free weekends gives me more than I need.

  3. This seems like an awesome rental, as does Asura’s Wrath (I still like interactive movies), so I have a large back catalog already for 2012.

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