In a digital future of industrial espionage, dark chips, and much firepower, EA brings us back into the world of Syndicate.
Timelessly reflecting on the name “Syndicate,” a beloved classic from our yesteryear, the Bullfrog original made a strong impact by encouraged intelligence along with the pure joy of a top-down shooter. Marvelled as innovative, it is a mean monster to try to best. Even with its past accolades hovering overhead 'Starbreeze Studios' gives it their best shot. Opting for a new format, a FPS (first-person shooter,) we get wrapped back up in this corporate drama of oppression.
Syndicate is very much a “modern” shooter. Think of this as a adapt merging of 'Crysis 2' meets 'Dues Ex: Human Revolution.' The graphics are at the top of their game and the gunplay, well, its smooth and sharp. Similar to Crysis, Syndicate can feel a too robotic, emotionless at times, but that is ok. The future chipping that they have built around the narrative allows for some leeway in that department. All the tricks are included, so expect to really "cyber-out" as you blast through waves of brain dead drones. Even 'Crysis 2' and 'Dues Ex' had a little more competition then our digitally enhanced hero in Syndicate.
Disregarding the pokey attitude of the antagonists, Syndicate is fun. It has several moments that are indeed “cool,” and exactly what we've come to expect out of the 'Call of Duty' generation of cinematic meets action. The weapons have a certain punch which is what you want when shooting various weapons over the course of multiple hours. Unobtrusively, I felt connected to the handling of the weapons, the animators are very clever with their attention to detail here. Damn even the simple pistol feels like a real weapon you could be firing. A+ you keyboard wizards.
Interesting enough the hyper speed of your character lets you go in for melee attacks just as much as shooting from a far. Taking down foes hand-to-hand throws in a quick animation that is extremely satisfying. Also amping up the interest in the scenario of killing is the “special powers” via your dart overlay that lets you see through walls, making enemies commit suicide, boost your damage resistance and more. The only slight criticism you could point out is the somewhat shallow enemy artificial intelligence which struggles with multiple assailants concerning their tactical brain-power.
Upgrades through chip enhancements are another addition to Syndicate making its upgrading progression feels like a superhero game minus the mutations and snik snik of claws. These enhancements fall under many uses assets like regenerative overlay (nanomachines that heal a portion of your health) – killing spree (surplus of energy from rampage kills) – perforator (directional breach explosion) – safeguard (increases base health) and so on.
The other component to a shooter is obviously the weapons. Syndicate plays its selection pretty close to the chest with a few standout weapons that seem picked from the back lot of 'Resistance.' Even if the collection feels a little borrowed, the handling and power behind pulling the trigger makes up for it. The guns feel good, and when you are dealing with a shooter, that matters.
From the first scenario in New York (2069), Syndicate equally keeps up a steady pace of big moments that include some neat narrative twists. Moles, agents, mind-melding, yup, Syndicate is filled with enough twists (even if they are expected) to keep you pushing forward. It's actually quiet surprising how solid some of the writing is, even if it doesn’t feel a hundred percent original, it adds up when you consider the other strengths in the game. Beyond the writing, the progression is kind of standard, the same old shoot them down as they come out. It's not a bad formula because it works, but Syndicate does nothing to break the mold.
The environments do get a little dull, admittedly, however, its nothing you are not used to from any other developer. The attention to detail in these environments really helps make Syndicate feels like its own entity. Oddly enough there is a slight 'System Shock' or 'Dead Space' vibe in the game. It's not really that dark, but it slips into the blacker shades from now and again.
Milestone stats also provide motivate to keep pushing to better you personal best. This goes from your completion time of a level, damage taken, to your headshot accuracy. It's a strong addition that only deepens the experience. At least you know you actually can do better and it gives you one more reason to replay the game, and/or level. On top of the milestones co-op play might have you coming back. However, Syndicate feels more like a solitary experience. While it provides an alternative way to kill a few hours, this is not going to be a replacement for anything like 'Gears.'
Syndicate has flashes of brilliance, but these flashes are just that... flashes. The game has a great look a vibrant feel and strong shooting mechanics. However it doesn`t always click into the super-polished AAA title it wants to be. Still, Syndicate is worth the investment and it has enough going for it to make you brain explode your way through its cyberpunk tale. While the new Syndicate will not hold up our memories of the original, it's a solid title for the moment.
Similar Games: Deus Ex: Human Revolution (8.0) | Crysis 2 (8.3) | Dead Space 2 (8.8)