The ‘mega-corps’ have taken over. World citizens no longer swear allegiance to sovereign nations, opting instead to take the next step in “brand loyalty” having sophisticated micro chips implanted in their brains. A new world of connectivity and consumerism is open to those who would align themselves with one of these corporate syndicates, but with this ultimate cyber convenience comes ultimate electronic enslavement. With a diminished government the biggest of the corporations are free to openly wage war pitting their soldiers and enhanced Breach capable agents against each other for technological supremacy. Opening statements of a book by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones? Nope, this is the premise of Starbreeze/EA’s futuristic sci-fi shooter SYNDICATE.
Deep down in its heart Syndicate really wants to take place among the greats in the FPS genre. It’s new, it’s flashy, it has some cool features; but like that over eager kid back in school who wanted nothing more than to be your best friend Syndicate falls short of that top tier despite its promises of late night junk food binges and super lenient parents.
Syndicate is a strange game to give an opinion of, mostly because a clear opinion is hard to come by. You want to like it, there are plenty of things that are really well done. But all that is good about the game is tempered back by disappointment. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Syndicate is how much it gets right on its way to that plateau between mediocrity and greatness. The game possess a deep living world with a fairly rich story none of which is ever foisted upon the player, in fact one could go through the game mostly ignorant of these things.
Beyond the surface story elements all information about the world you are inhabiting is presented via data transfers, business cards (NPC bios), etc., mostly text based this way of presenting information is one of the great things about Syndicate. Some players just want to look at outstanding graphics and blast the crap out of their foes with powerful ballistic hardware, both of which are present in abundance, without the burden of multitudes of dramatic cut scenes. That action is a joy, it’s fast and fluid and surely stands up to comparison with the elite first person shooters out there. Along with this great run and gun action comes… a disappointment; the cover system in Syndicate is completely broken. Consisting of little more than crouching behind cover the “system” allows the player to aim over their cover, but lacks the ability to stick to your cover so you’ll find yourself drifting right or left out into the line of fire. This failure makes a ten foot thick concrete barrier about a useful as a mosquito net.
What should have been the defining element of Syndicate is quickly relegated to a minor curiosity at best and at worst a frustrating example of a great idea left unfinished. With the “Breach” ability being so central to the gameplay it would have been nice to have more than three combat options, and maybe a way to combine them to allow a little creativity. The three breach applications, suicide, persuade, and back fire are absolutely useful in combat; how could the ability to force an adversary to kill himself, turn on his comrades, or disrupt his weapon not be? The issue with your three breach applications is the limitation in variety. With only three apps, which you get very early on, they get a little repetitious and stale. Breach has some other uses too. In fact in most situations you’ll come across breach can be of use. A grenade land a little to close? Breach it! Irritating boss fight? Breach it! Come to a road block? Look for the glowing LB… and breach it! Need to freshen up that drink but don’t want to get off the couch? Brea… well breach can’t help you there but you get the idea. A great idea simplified and over-used seems to be the order of the day with breach.
Despite its disappointments and what upon second look seems to be a negative review; this reviewer would absolutely recommend Syndicate. Perhaps this is the final triumph of Syndicate. Its done just enough to make the player forgive the flaws, just enough to leave the final impression “I am a fun game.”
Syndicate is available now for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
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