Published by Electronic Arts
Developed by Starbreeze Studios
Syndicate is an FPS based on a real-time strategy game from 1993 which gave you charge of a small force of cybernetic agents in a world that was essentially run by a few rival corporations. In the original game you had to carry out various mission types such as assassinations, capturing key individuals and infiltration missions. At the time there was nothing else like it and the game proved to be a big success. This re-imagining of Syndicate is obviously a very different experience due to the transition from an RTS to a FPS but it retains enough of the flavour to keep things interesting.
In Syndicate you'll play as Miles Kilo, an agent for Eurocorp in a futuristic world where giant corporations fight for domination. Kilo isn't just an ordinary agent. He's equipped with DART-6 bio-chip technology that gives him a range of special abilities. He has the ability to enable a DART overlay mode which slows down time and allows enemies, weapons and breachable targets to be highlighted. The DART overlay mode uses energy however and can only remain active whilst there is energy remaining. The energy does regenerate over time but the process can be accelerated by killing enemies.
The three abilities that Kilo has however are certainly more interesting. Kilo has the ability to trigger suicide in some enemies causing them to kill themselves with the resulting blast sometimes taking out enemies that are in their vicinity. Sometimes you'll want to use Kilo's persuade ability to convince an enemy to turn against his comrades before eventually turning his weapon on himself. You can also cause weapons to backfire which can injure and temporarily stun the user which buys you valuable time to find better cover or emerge from cover to unleash a volley of ammo on an enemy with one of the more powerful weapons.
Some enemies in the game come equipped with special armour and you'll need to bypass this in order to inflict damage on its wearer. You'll also need to breach jamming devices and solve puzzles, to allow you access to other areas, using Kilo's abilities. The only thing I will add here is that at times the puzzles feel as though they are attempting to simply slow the whole thing down. At times the break in pace is welcome but at other times it can feel as though it's getting in the way of the action. There are plenty of opportunities to make use Kilo's abilities to spice up the action however and it's particularly satisfying when you can overload an elevator that holds a clutch of enemies to take them all out in one go. Kilo can even extract bio-chips from certain enemies and this allows you to unlock additional abilities to use.
Whilst the single-player campaign in Syndicate is enjoyable, and the action is satisfying for the most part with a good weapon selection and alternate fire modes on offer, it's not as enjoyable as it should have been. The real problem is that the storyline isn't engaging enough. That's not to say there isn't a good storyline here but the way it's delivered is disappointing and you'll need to go out of your way to piece it altogether. Indeed you'll learn more about the game world and its characters from reading journal entries, which are made when you collect business cards and propaganda tags, than you will from the game's main dialogue.
Where Syndicate really shines is in its online co-op play. Offering support for up to four players, you have the chance to play through redesigned maps from the single-player campaign. There are nine maps in total where you can compete for kills and points and the chance to unlock new abilities and weapon upgrades. The co-op play succeeds because it takes elements from the single-player campaign and blends them successfully into an addictive co-op experience. In the right company the co-op mode is extremely enjoyable and one that you'll come back to long after you've finished with the single-player campaign.
Visually Syndicate is pretty much what you would expect with the general look of the game feeling appropriate with a suitable dystopian, futuristic look being portrayed in a predictable fashion. It's a gore-filled experience with plenty of blood being splattered around and a fair amount of dismemberment to fully warrant the BBFC 18 classification. Stylistically there may be few surprises but that's not to say it doesn't look impressive. Personally I was very impressed with the performance of the game. The frame rate remained smooth throughout even the most intense of shootouts.
Syndicate is subtitled, although you'll have to enable them before starting the game, and as a result you'll have no problems in following the key dialogue and the game's general storyline. The game doesn't have any captions but good use has been made of various icons to convey information. As a result you'll be made aware of explosives that have been thrown your way allowing you plenty of time to take evasive manoeuvres. All of the game's tutorial messages are in text too, so you'll have no difficulty in getting to grips with the various gameplay mechanics.
This re-imagining of Syndicate does a surprisingly good job of switching genres and on the whole is an enjoyable FPS. There can be no denying that where the game really impresses is in its online co-operative play but there's enough here to keep the single-player campaign interesting. More care could have been taken with the storytelling in the game and it's a shame that not all will be fully aware of the full depth of the Syndicate universe. On the whole however, Syndicate is well worth your attention whether you're a fan of the original game or FPS titles in general.