Syndicate review

Back in 1993, before the world of FPS gaming had arrived, those hoping to maim and kill their way through a game had to do it either top down or isometrically. The trouble with either view is that you are detached from your character – you don’t see through his/her eyes, instead you control your avatar much like a puppeteer; pulling strings and watching the outcome. That being said the original Syndicate, through its clever use of limiting funds needed to upgrade and research weapons, armour and such like meant that you had to really get involved with the world you police. Taxing conquered territories was just one way of gathering the R&D funds you desperately needed, the more astute could find uglier ways of amassing capital.

Almost two decades later the original’s controversial graphic portrayal of violence wouldn’t raise the proverbial eyebrow, so has the removal of the isometric viewpoint and the capitalisation of placing the universe into the FPS genre hindered the reboot, or brought it bang up to date? The answer I’m afraid is both positive and negative. Negative in the respect that the game is no longer recognisable in the Syndicate franchise, but brilliant sound and talented voice acting elevates it above standard FPS fare.

The whole crux of Syndicate still hinges on the fact that you are essentially a super soldier – implanted with a DART chip that enables you to slow time, hack into gun emplacements and the like, while also being able to cause lesser soldiers with chips implanted in their cortex to do all sorts of unpleasant things, such as go on suicidal rampages. Even the opposition weapons have chips installed that can be hacked into to cause the weapons ammo to explode. The DART chip is a convenient way of explaining the game’s cluttered HUD, which unhelpfully points out random static objects that have no interaction value, as well as outline helpful objects like doors.

Big name players.

Upgrades come slowly with time and are of little inspiration, the standards all being covered with little creativity; armour upgrades, longer slow motion time as well as quicker hacking and such like. It’s seems of no consequence and most will find the forced upgrading of distraction from the main game and story driven action.

The plot gets a welcome boost by the talents of Brian Cox, Rosario Dawson and especially Michael Wincott (Alien Resurrection, The Crow). Their Hollywood talent lends great box office quality to the game that complements the effort made on the entire sound department. Starbreeze are known for the quality of its audio output (think Chronicles of Riddick), so it should come as no surprise that every element of the game is pitch perfect in the audio department. Guns feel heavy just from hearing the sound that comes out of the muzzle, and should the player be using surround sound then expect a very immersive experience.

In a world where nationalities have blurred into corporate conglomerates and the not too subtle espionage war being acted out in the name of research, you play a syndicate agent  responsible for keeping secrets safe and stealing those of interest. The story twists and turns and becomes too clever for its own good but still, better a slightly convoluted story than none at all. The other element that has its ups and downs is the graphical qualities of the game – sometimes (lighting effects in particular) the graphics are sublime but at other times textures are barely that – being substituted for none at all.

In conclusion…

Syndicate players from the nineties will be severely disappointed in what essentially could be another Deus Ex, the games are so similar in plot, scope and execution you would be forgiven for assuming it’s from the same studio. That being said, FPS fans looking for big bangs, a tight(ish) story and some clever moments can do a lot worse than what’s on offer here. At the time of writing it’s already at half price, and for less than £20 it does offer a lot of bang for your buck.

  • Liam

    Sadly it was never going to be as good as the original.

Game details

Game title: Syndicate
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Available for: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: EA
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Strengths: Sound is stellar, as are the lighting effects. Very good voice acting.
Weaknesses: Graphical inconsistency. More Deus Ex than Syndicate.
Score: 6 out of 10

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