Business is war. Unfortunately, in today’s world it’s a rather boring war. Filling out paperwork, making phone calls, checking your market share… It’s not very exciting is it? It’s fortunate then that developer Starbreeze is rebooting the old Syndicate franchise. In Syndicate’s dystopian future, business really is actual warfare!
The year is 2069 and mega-corporations have taken control of the world. Don’t be too blue though, it’s a rather exciting time to be an employee! Instead of making sure your office has enough paperclips and pens, you’re now checking that your stock of bullets and grenades hasn’t depleted. Instead of making boring phone calls you’re now hacking into computer chips installed in people’s brains. Who would have known that work could be so much fun?!
With the release of Syndicate’s co-op demo, two of our contributors have teamed up to give you their thoughts on the cyberpunk FPS.
Phil: Mechanically speaking, Syndicate does everything right. It looks, feels, and sounds great. The controls are responsive, and although the standard assortment of rifles, pistols and shotguns are a tad mundane for a sci-fi game, the guns have just the right amount of kick to them. The sound design is also top notch, making for shoot-outs that feel hectic and at times claustrophobic. The only visual complaint is that the urban level included in the co-op demo is completely lacking in color.
Marcus: Like Phil, I also think that the shooting mechanics in Syndicate, for the most part, are pretty solid. Shooting gives you a sense of feedback thanks to its smart sound design, animations and attention to detail. The player feels like they’re affected by gravity and thus have a sense of added weight while moving around. Your movement feels a bit slow due to the fact that you’re lugging heavy equipment about. This isn’t too much of a hindrance, however, as you can perform a slide while sprinting to take cover from enemy fire. This makes Syndicate’s shootouts feel realistically hectic and chaotic. However, this sense of realism is diluted by the fact that a player can take several rounds to the chest and still live to tell the tale.
Phil: Mechanically-sound linear first-person shooters are a dime a dozen these days, and Syndicate doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot to differentiate itself. Starbreeze and EA’s messaging suggests that “breaching” will act as Syndicate’s unique gameplay feature, setting it apart, but if the co-op mode is any indication, this addition is relatively shallow. Breaching is little more than a glorified action button. You can use it to unlock doors or heal and revive teammates, a feature that makes up the entirety of the teamwork required in Syndicate’s co-op mode. It seems that the cooler implementations of breaching, such as making enemies shoot themselves, are reserved for the single-player campaign.
Marcus: Syndicate’s co-op mode feels like it’s taking different aspects from various titles while at the same time trying to distinguish itself from the pack. While it is competent, it doesn’t feel very unique. The mission structure in the demo feels somewhat like Left 4 Dead meets Battlefield: Bad Company 2’s Onslaught mode. Throw in some cyberpunk and you get Syndicate.
Before the beginning of a mission you’re given a number of options to customize your agent. You can select your weapon loadout and then choose upgrades from a large skill tree. When the level begins you move from area to area blasting bad guys apart. At the end of each stage you’re given a checkpoint and ammunition.
As Phil already said though, Syndicate’s most unique gameplay offering doesn’t seem to be used very imaginatively. While opening up a new path to flank an entrenched turret might be interesting, it doesn’t feel very complex and rewarding. Healing and buffing your allies is a thoughtful way to encourage teamwork – but it also removes some of the challenge as breaching doesn’t seem to be limited. Abilities outside of breaching are useful, however. By using the Dart Overlay, players can see their enemies’ heat signatures, thus revealing their positions.
Phil: Syndicate’s frantic shoot-outs and tight gunplay ensure that shooting dudes in the face is still as fun as it’s always been. It may not be as deep an experience as you may have hoped, but it’s enjoyable just the same.
Marcus: While playing on the 360 version of the demo, I experienced some strange visual and lag glitches. Those small qualms aside, however, Syndicate shows promise. Hopefully it’ll live up to its potential when the game launches later this month.
Syndicate will release on February 21 in North America and on February 24 in Europe on 360, PS3 and PC.