We review Syndicate, Starbreeze Studios' first-person reboot of the classic tactical shooter.
Siobhan Keogh | Monday, March 12 2012 | 2 Comments
Product type: First-person shooter
Platform: PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Test Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Starbreeze Studios; Publisher: Electronic Arts
A bleak look into the future of technology.
Despite an economic downturn, massive corporations all over the world continue to grow. Some sectors of the technology industry suffer, but others, like Apple and Google, continue to grow and change and introduce new product categories. When Syndicate was first released as a tactical shooter in 1993, the concept of technology megacorporations going to war probably seemed possible, but far off. Now we have vicious patent wars clogging court systems around the world.
The 2012 reboot of Syndicate takes the concept of these wars a step further. The year is 2069, and the majority of humans have been implanted with a chip from their preferred giant conglomerate. This chip is connected to the "dataverse", as the game's intro puts it, and renders digital devices obsolete. Those without a chip are disconnected, both from data and from society - most without chips, it seems, are homeless. These conglomerates are in competition with each other for the best chip technology, and this competition has escalted into a violent, bloody war.
Your character, Kilo, is an elite agent working for one of the big corporations, EuroCorp. Kilo's chip enables him to do many things that others can't, and they're not pleasant. Kilo can force other people with chips to commit suicide, make weapons backfire, and manipulate enemies into fighting on his side. He uses these abilities to infiltrate enemy corporations and steal information, among other things.
Some fans have been upset by the fact that a tactical shooter has been turned into a first-person shooter, which seems to be the hottest genre of the moment. Having never played the original game, however, I found the Syndicate reboot to be interesting, both in story and in gameplay. Aside from the vast collection of guns available, there are two main combat mechanics - 'breaching' and the 'data overlay'.
When you 'breach', your chip interacts with various devices. When Kilo breaches - you hold a button for a certain length of time to do it - he can use the previously mentioned powers, like the weapon backfire, or he can interact with objects in the room. Using breaches tactically and strategically is the key to fighting the tough battles, but they have a cooldown period. In order to replenish the breaches' power, Kilo has to kill enemies.
The data overlay is essentially bullet time - pressing a button will turn on the overlay and slow down time for your enemies, so you can fire a larger number of bullets in a shorter period of time. You can switch data overlay on and off. Power upgrades, which you gain by harvesting microchips directly from other people's heads using a horrifically violent device, can give your data overlay extra powers such as additional healing. The data overlay also enables you to see any enemies you've previously spotted, even if they disappear behind cover.
The 6-7 hour campaign can get a bit tough at times, even on normal difficulty. The boss battles are far harder than the regular enemies in most cases, but there are times when you'll get swarmed with hordes upon hordes of low-level bad guys; you'll die a lot. The final boss battle probably took about ten minutes in total - but it took two hours to complete if you include respawns. It wasn't difficult to figure out what to do, but it was difficult to actually do it.
Once you're done with the campaign, you can move onto co-op multiplayer, which reminds me of Left 4 Dead in that you gather a group of four players - there are two women and two men to choose from - and run through special levels that require you to complete certain tasks. It could be that you have to wipe out all the enemies in the area, or you might have to collect objects and take them to a particular point on the map. You can heal and revive your squad mates, and there's always something going on. It can be tough, but as you push your way through a challenge, you start to feel pretty badass as you run around gunning dudes down, breaching objects, healing others and completing objectives. Even when you're dying a lot, Syndicate's multiplayer has a way of making you feel really powerful.
None of the mechanics of Syndicate are particularly new, and the storyline has been done before in various ways - take Deus Ex, or even the original Syndicate - and those points are its major downfalls. But the breaching and data overlay mechanics feel novel, even if they're not. The satisfaction of using all of these mechanics in conjunction with each other to pull off some really sweet (and really difficult) moves makes the game well worth your time.
Posted by Anonymous at 10:23:17 on March 13, 2012
Posted by Siobhan Keogh, PCW at 12:06:09 on March 13, 2012
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