New, improved ‘Syndicate’

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new-3starhalfBack in 1993, Bullfrog Productions released a strategy game, which was named “Syndicate,” based in a cyber-punk future where corporations replaced countries and told a tale of corporate espionage. In 2012, Starbreeze Studios, creators of the Riddick games and the original “Darkness,” takes the “Syndicate” franchise out of the strategy space and into the realm of first-person shooters.

Set in 2069, “Syndicate” follows the tale of Miles Kilo, an agent for Eurocorp, one of three major companies vying for control of the neural chip implant market. Miles is one of only two Eurocorp employees outfitted with DART-6, the latest neural chip developed by Eurocorp researchers. After a quick training mission, Miles is immediately thrust out into the world of corporate espionage against the opposing companies, Aspari and Caymen-Global. As the game goes on, “Syndicate” presents the usual kinds of twists one would find in a tale of espionage, with betrayals occurring that the player will see coming, but ends just as it starts to really pick up. While not bad overall, it does make the story feel predictable, especially when Syndicate’s universe is an interesting one that makes the player wish for more. However, the lackluster story is saved with some surprisingly good voice-over performances, anchored by actors including Brian Cox, whose game credentials include Emperor Visari from the “Killzone” series, as Eurocorp’s CEO Jack Denham and Rosario Dawson as DART-6 creator Lily Drawl, along with a fitting soundtrack and an excellent level of graphic fidelity and detail that engrosses the player even more.

Aside from a fun, but somewhat forgettable, single-player campaign, “Syndicate” also sports an excellent co-operative mode. The co-op is where the real meat of the game is, as it channels some of the spirit of the original 1993 “Syndicate” game. The co-op has four players joining up as Eurocorp agents that are out to take down the other companies, taking place over multiple scenarios rather than having a connecting story. There is a bigger emphasis on teamwork between players, such as having to hack allies to heal them to keep the mission going.

The basic controls of “Syndicate” will immediately be familiar to anyone who has played a shooter in the last few years. The enemies are more competent than most other games, with enemy soldiers flanking and throwing grenades to flush the player. To fight back, along with an assortment of unique weapons such as the target-seeking gauss rifle, is the new hacking feature thanks to the DART chip. This feature allows the player to cause enemy soldiers to commit suicide or reprogram a turret to fire on enemy troops. It also provides a kind of slow motion, super mode where the player can see enemies through walls and the weapons have more impact on enemies. This is countered by enemies using different equipment to prevent the player from using his hacking feature. There are also some light RPG elements in “Syndicate,” with both modes having a leveling system accessed from harvesting enemy neural chips. This presents a new level of strategy to the game, giving players multiple options when tackling situations, which is aided by environments that, while linear, do have a level of openness. These encounters eventually culminate in boss battles that, while unique, can feel frustrating rather than challenging.

Overall, “Syndicate” can feel one of two ways. The fun, but occasionally frustrating, singleplayer can feel like playing a game pitch rather than the fully realized game, presenting what the possibilities of the universe and breach mechanic could be. Whereas the fun and challenging co-op feels more like the fully realized product that Starbreeze was going for. Despite this, “Syndicate” is still a fun game and is definitely a game that, while it may not feel like a $60 purchase at times, is still worth a look.

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