In 1993, an isometric strategy game titled Syndicate tasked gamers with managing the operation of a corporation and its agents in a dark and corrupted cyberpunk world. After an expansion pack and sequel, there were no more titles in the series from the original developers at Bullfrog Productions. The modern reinterpretation of Syndicate from Starbreeze Studios,the developers behind The Chronicles of Riddick
and The Darkness
, is a significant change from the original by switching to a first-person gameplay perspective. Fortunately, it's evident that the developers had great care in delivering a game that provides justice to the original, and in the process, reinvents itself.
Modern first-person shooters are often comparable with the action blockbuster Hollywood films and Syndicate is no different. There are only a few moments throughout the six to seven hours of the single-player narrative that provide breathing moments between constant gunfire and explosions. It's unfortunate because the game's narrative had many thrilling moments that came close to greatness, but fizzled out with repetitive waves of enemies.
Syndicate takes place in the year 2069 in which governments have been replaced by mega-corporations. Half of the world's population opted for Eurocorp's DART chip implant that makes all electronic devices obsolete. As a result, small visual indicators appear over every object in the game world. The assets and members of corporations are protected by augmented agents that are at the control of their CEOs.
Gamers will step into the boots of Miles Kilo, a newly recruited Eurocorp agent, on his first mission against a rival corporation. Not surprisingly, events spiral out of control and Kilo becomes entangled in various plots of espionage, betrayal, and corporate warfare. The narrative includes the resemblances and voices of Brian Cox and Rosario Dawson, that both play major roles in its events. With numerous set piece moments and richly-detailed locales ranging from New York slums to a corporation headquarters on the Atlantic Ocean, each chapter in the narrative is an absolute cybernetic joy ride to play through. The narrative would have benefited from further time to expand on the concepts of human augmentation and corporation influence over society. It was rather unfortunate to see that a cast of great actors underused in the narrative's course. Many of the details concerning the protagonist's background are revealed later in the game, missing out on opportunities during the rest of the playthrough.
What sets Syndicate apart from other first-person shooters is the addition of cybernetic powers through the prototype DART6 implant. With the DART6 system, players can enable x-ray vision and slow down enemy movement with the overlay mode. This mode, along with the rest of the player's DART6 powers, recharge through the use of adrenaline from combat. Other powers available through "breaching" or hacking into an enemy's chip implant include suicide, persuade, and backfire. The suicide breach forces an enemy to kill themselves with a pistol shot to the head or a grenade blast if near other targets. The persuade breach will cause a particular soldier to kill all the enemies in their proximity. Lastly, the backfire breach causes the enemy's weapon to explode, shoving them to the ground. Each of the DART6 breaches can be upgraded to inflict more damage or increase its area of effect to multiple targets. With the combination of effective weapons and melee attacks, overlay mode, and breach powers, Kilo has a powerful assortment of tools for eliminating enemy threats.
As with the Chronicles of Riddick and The Darkness, Starbreeze Studios excel at replicating the movement of a person's body in the game world through natural use of hand and leg animations. The game's combat system also benefits from the immersive first-person perspective with brutal melee attacks and hefty weight of each gun. When the DART6 powers are charging, the game's weapons provide plenty of firepower for eliminating any enemy encounters. Most the guns are the basic affair of pistol, submachine gun, and shotgun, except for a particular gun that can track enemies with its bullets. Gamers will encounter numerous waves of enemies throughout their playthroughs. Fortunately, the combat is highly entertaining and can become quite tense and strategic with the use of DART6 breaching powers.
After the single-player credits roll, gamers can continue their adventures in the world of Syndicate with the online four-player cooperative mode. There are a total of nine levels spread across the world that each offer a significant challenge over the single-player mode. The DART6 system plays an important role in the cooperative mode with expanded powers from healing teammates to planting viruses in enemies. The increase in difficulty requires each of the team members to work together in accomplishing level objectives and surviving against enemy agents. With a group of four dedicated members, the gameplay offers intense scenarios that require the team's combined powers. If the group is matched together poorly, expect frequent and infuriating deaths. Repeat level playthroughs will reward upgrade and blueprint points that can be used for raising the player's statistics and unlocking add-ons for weapons.
From a visual standpoint, Syndicate offers some of this year's best graphics on consoles. From the Blade Runner inspired environments to the sleek heads-up DART6 display, the game's presentation demonstrates the dedication put forth by the developers. From the scatter of gunfire to breaching into an enemy's chip, each of the game's sound effects are drenched with a coat of cyberpunk style. The soundtrack doesn't disappoint either with an assortment of dubstep remixes by Skrillex that assist with raising the adrenaline throughout the game. The only complaint with the game's visuals is the overuse of bloom effects that would make J.J. Abrams blush in comparison with Star Trek.
The single-player narrative is worth a couple of playthroughs, primarily with the addition of cybernetic powers. The actual replayability of Syndicate is found within the four-player cooperative mode that offers gamers significant challenge and thrilling combat encounters. Compared with the multiplayer aspect of other first-person shooters, Syndicate doesn't offer any content that will have gamers frequently returning to the cooperative mode. Without any indication for future downloadable content, the game's online community might not last long against the ever-increasing competition.
Syndicate is available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows PC.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
The developers at Starbreeze Studios have clearly put great effort into bringing Syndicate within the realm of modern gaming. It might not contain any of the past strategy elements, but the conversion to a first-person shooter has brought with a variety of entertaining elements including cybernetic powers and a thrilling narrative. The four-player cooperative mode will consume many hours with tense combat scenarios and team-based objective gameplay. Syndicate might not offer the same amount of content as comparable first-person shooters, but the cyberpunk visuals and innovative cybernetic powers combine for a highly-entertaining and worthwhile experience.
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