Published on February 27th, 2012 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor1
Syndicate PC Review
Platform: PC [Reviewed]
Release Date: February 21, 2012
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Syndicate Wars originally released in 1996. Even with the PlayStation being limited at the time, it did its best to showcase the augmented future and the power an individual barb can have against a large corporation. It was exciting to see that the reboot of Syndicate was going to be a full-on FPS, bringing players closer to an individual character rather than controlling them from a top-down view.
I was about 12-13 years old and the PlayStation was my primary gaming console. Although the title probably was a few years too old for me at the time, I remember thinking how interesting it was that a tactical group of agents could become stronger by tweaking this here, or increasing strengths there. “This mob is gonna tear down any moving enemy in our next run.” That was my train of thought the first time I had ever laid my hands on Syndicate Wars.
“Our goal with Syndicate is to provide a challenging action shooter for today’s gamers as well as fans of the original. I’m sure they will enjoy and recognize the legacy that made it such a classic,” says Jeff Gamon, EA Partners executive producer.
In the same fashion as its predecessors, Syndicate also introduces us to a future of corporate warfare and agents without a conscience. In this future, people are plugged into the dataverse, leaving those who are not chipped to be treated almost as lepers of society. This is shown to us first hand as we explore certain parts of the city, seeing these people huddled next to barrel-fires, or gathered together in the sewers. Eurocorp begins to sit on edge with the threat of other corporations halting their path to a global takeover.
Kilo, who is an agent of Eurocorp, is chipped in with the latest prototype, the DART 6. Jack Denham, the CEO of Eurocorp, admires Kilo and wants him to do his bloodwork in the name of the company. With the news of insider information being leaked to others, he sends Kilo and Agent Merit out to snoop out the source. Eurocorp is one of the biggest corporations and chip manufacturers, and wants nothing more than to dominate the market with their design. While it may not seem that drastic, the more control the company has, the more dominance of power can be emulated through their global chip takeover. What is the best way to stay on top of your game? Well, nothing beats literally killing off your competition.
With the help of scientist Lily Drawl, Merit and Kilo are prepped for battle with some of the most sophisticated programs. There are also key points in the game where you can choose to kill, or keep them alive based on your snap decisions. By no means is Syndicate a psychological thriller, but it does bring to light some of the core human feelings that lie within Kilo. There are also plenty of foreshadowing instances that occur through the game and give you a hint of things to come. There are a lot more pieces to the general gameplay puzzle, but it is hard to get into these specifics without divulging something that might give away the main story of the game.
It is often hard for first-person shooter titles to separate themselves from the run-of-the-mill spray, pray and walk away games. On the surface, the standard controls are a lot like others out there. Snapping to iron sights is typical, but the majority of the weapons also have a secondary firing option. Sliding behind cover and utilizing these elements add to the list of items that separate it from your typical shooter mechanics.
For example, one of the other major gameplay mechanics is the use of the “Breach” function. There are a few training modes that showcase the use of these “hacking” methods. The breaches become more familiar in use over the course of the game, but do present themselves as confusing at first. Almost to the point where if you didn’t read each portion of diologue, then you wouldn’t have the slightest clue what move you just learned. The breaches come in handy during combat and can interact with devices around you.
Heavy blankets of enemy fire can become suffocating at times. Something that you might find in a game like Killzone 2. Most enemies and items can be breached and even make them blast themselves in the melon with their own pistol. The breaches can also disable armor, activate machinery, and can be used strategically to take out enemies. This makes the guns blazing tactic still a possibility for those of you without patience. The three main weapon breaches are the Suicide, Backfire and Persuade.
The Suicide breach causes an enemy to explode in a violent aneurysm-like state. The Backfire breach can be used to drop an enemy quickly. While it may not kill them, it will buy some time during a reload or firearm switch. The Persuade breach calls an enemy to think they are on your side, destroying all enemies around until ending their own life.
All three breaches can have different impacts based on the small skill tree. The effects can also be heightened through the use of Breach Spikes and the building of the skill tree. The skill tree itself becomes available after extracting chips from enemy bosses or key figures that show up in landmark portions of the game. These implementations are simplistic and do add more than just filling to the pie.
There are certain points in the game where, unlike other FPS titles, that your task does not simply consist of : Go to point A, activate A, then head to point B–where the mission continues. In the case of Syndicate, there is some minor search and complete. At some points you might be scratching your head thinking that the game had to have fallen victim to some sort of load error. After walking the perimeter, you then find the hatch at the back of the map needed to be broken open and crawling through the vent will lead you to your next location. The surrounding area might also need to be breached in order to complete the light puzzle that has presented itself.
So, how else does Syndicate separate itself from other FPS out there? Movement. Movement, you say? Yes. The team at Starbreeze put a lot of thought into their character models and physics. Things like standing close to a wall brings your gun across your chest, instead of mysteriously placing the barrel through the wall and pretending that it just didn’t happen. Also, the body movements of the characters were very fluid and life like. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that swaying from side-to-side while looking down the barrel of a gun on the move isn’t a completely steady motion. The body movements when leaping, sliding, and especially leaning weapons out from behind cover were very slick and minor details that could have been left out—but they were done tastefully.
The storyline itself in Syndicate, just like any other game out there, starts to fall into place over the course of the game. Characters become more well-known and you get to know a few traits and conversation styles from interacting with them. One other thing that you might find out is the backgrounds of each character. This is where things did get a little hairy in their explanations—but not everyone will enjoy how it was done.
Reading is fundemental, but not always fun
Throughout the game there are plenty of kiosks and computers to download information from and collect general data about your surroundings. This is important in finding out details on how to take down enemies, who the key players of the game are, and even things down to the history of Eurocorp. Although most games simply lay it out there with voice acting and extra documentation that can be discovered through exploration, Starbreeze took a different approach.
Most of the games information, whether it be the history of the corporations and their war, or the description of the miniguns potential, is broken down in data files. Not everyone is too keen on reading through pages of documentation to learn something that can be explained in a short cutscene. Not everyone likes to put their thinking caps on when they sit down to play a game, but it does however work in this case. I think Starbreeze was simply paying tribute to the prior titles and its text-infused RTS background.
Like the prior games in the series, Syndicate was based on squad based tactical units. This is the same case with the game’s multiplayer.
In the lobby, squads queued up to be sent out to complete missions in the name of the corporation. Since these missions are no deathmatch, or PVP, the host server option that is given doesn’t sting as much.
Players can create a syndicate, but there is not much to image customization. Most of which that is done here is deals with weaponry and application use. The more missions played the more that are unlocked. When the mission is completed, a score is dealt based on performance (kills, heals, chip grabs). Keeping with the games “corporate” feel, there are leaderboards and the “stock market” where you can view your stats and those of the community.
After completing a mission, players are issued tokens and upgrade points that are based on performance. These are can also be dealt by achieving certain goals, such as reviving X amount of people during a match. These tokens can be used to buy gun parts and applications to upgrade your character. It might not sound all that fun to a person who is gung-ho about blasting someone in the face and bragging about K/D until their eyes bleed, but it is pretty addicting and only adds to the games overall value factor.
The bosses in these levels are sometimes tough as nails, but they can also inadvertently cause a team to work together to complete the mission at hand. I don’t always enjoy playing the medic, but when it comes to giving someone a reboot, or fix their health while they take on some overpowering agents, I’d slap a bandage on O.J. Simpson if he was on my team. My only complaint here is to those “chip thieves” who swoop in like buzzards to pick the leftovers from an extinguished boss kill.
Syndicate was not what I was expecting at all. I had played the demo on Xbox LIVE for the console release of the game. It was hard to take in all of the aspects of the game due to the fact that I didn’t know anything about the main storyline. After playing through the storyline, much more of it makes sense.
The initial hype for Syndicate came on strong and began to slow down towards the games release. It was troubling to not hear much about it right before launch date. After playing through the storyline and multiplayer, there was quite a bit to like about the game. From hard hitting executions, to utilizing breaches strategically, and right down to figuring out just why Kilo is literally—an agent of death. There is a lot to take with the first playthrough and the multiplayer pays homeage to the squad based game of its past. The story also wraps up around 7-8 hours, but if you are looking for a squad based experience, then the game should be an easy buy.
The graphics are a splendid spectacle of a futuristic life, showcasing how technology can infiltrate every aspect of a city. The gameplay supports the title, giving us more than just a pretty picture to look at. It doesn’t seem fair to pit the game with others releasing later this year. In particular, comparing it to games that are in totally different genres. While it may not be the greatest shooter to come and melt your face off, its still a great one. There is plenty to discover in this cyberpunk new age of corporate takeovers, and you my friend are right in the middle of it.
+/- Story Length
- Limited Multiplayer options
- Some small bugs
AMD Athalon II X2 220, GeForce GTS 450, 8GB RAM