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Jaradcel 03-06-2012 04:42 AM

Rate this Review - Syndicate
My second review. Always soliciting helpful criticisms and feedback! Don't hold back please, as that's what it takes to improve. :)

High: Using all my hacks to completely kill off an advancing squad of soldiers

Low: Bosses are immune to hacking? But why!

WTF: Being able to use only one power for a long stretch of the mid-game

Previews of Syndicate suggested that it was a poor man’s version of and a mindless ape of big name recent title, Deus Ex. While arguably true – they both are sci-fi, future stories with badass secret agents – that shouldn’t detract from the fun of forcing enemies to commit suicide.

As Agent Miles Kilo, players are the dark terror that Eurocorp relies on for its dirty work. In the future, where governments are puppets and everyone is addicted to “chipping” themselves in the head with their allied corps, such mega-companies rule the world in all but name. With so much technology on the line and mind control of millions at stake, a quiet arms race of industrial espionage and unlocking powers such as creating illusionary clones is bubbling over. For those wondering what the link between this Syndicate and its storied past titles are, the backstory is it.

Despite such a dramatic backdrop, the predictable plot (including oh-so-shocking twists) is pedestrian. Eurocorp’s lead chip creator Lily Drawl is unreliable, their boss oozes falsity, and on and on. In short, Syndicate is window dressing its past on to make way for the shooty bits.

Syndicate blares the fact it doesn’t care for its backstory very much in players faces, either. Despite going through some fairly impressive areas of Manhattan, China and even a floating city, it’s all lens flared window dressing conveyor-belting towards your next objective. With killing the focus, the player’s “Dart-6” military grade chip grants an array of super-powers, like convenient regenerating health and a bullet-time mode that doubles as x-ray vision. These, and a small arsenal of stupidly powerful weapons, are thrust into player’s arms to lay waste to opposing corporations.

Weapons alone though, won`t be enough. Syndicate is of the “Let`s throw the kitchen sink at him” school of gaming design, throwing a half-dozen or more enemies at players at once. Proper use of your abilities, whereby players “breach” an enemy’s chipped firewalls, is key. Ignoring these powers of persuade, suicide and backfire is a surprisingly easy way to drop dead given the amount of lead flying around. Breaching by itself is a simple concept; a big blue bar hangs over enemies when they’re in range of player’s chips. Pressing and holding a button attempts to hack into them, success giving you the aforementioned effects.

But breaching against a roomful of enemies is akin to a work of art. It’s here, when my brain is trying to figure out who to persuade, when to breach invulnerable enemies armor, or cause a suicide that Syndicate comes into its own. When the smoke settles and players realize they’ve just killed some twenty men and robots through the powers of their mind and a good chunk of lead, it’s awesome. Every now and then, this even gets further rewarded with a new chip to analyze and to level up in a quasi-RPG style overlay.

Which makes the let downs stark and annoying. For instance, in a large section of the game Kilo wanders the slums of the underworld. Here, the only power available to him is backfiring enemy guns. Since these guys are low-tech, they don’t have chips to switch them on to your side or malfunction to suicide. Bummer.

If it were just that, it might not be worth the fuss. But similar to its big brother Deus Ex, Syndicate also inexplicably disables most of a player’s bag of hacking tricks during boss fights. Yes, the bosses are varied and interesting. Teleporting ninja kings, jumping RPG maniacs and all that make for pretty memorable fights where using the suicide power might have been… uncool. It does, however, make it a real shame that boss fights come down to figuring out their gimmick – and they aren’t even very tough gimmicks – and breaching various world objects to use against them.

The single-player, therefore, is fun but distressingly short and a bit holey. I finished it in an afternoon’s run on normal, despite several deaths and pauses. With some hope, I fired up the four player co-op missions to see if they fared better.

Here, players are presented with a slightly more expanded version of the single player`s skill trees. Players can level up both themselves and their weapons ala Call of Duty, and there are several new breach skills available. While players don’t get access to suicide and persuade, they do gain new teamplay-oriented options such as hacking allied chips to temporarily boost damage.

Co-op really shows what a missed opportunity Syndicate is with its crippled boss battles and inexplicably plodding story. Distilled mass carnage, checkered by safe rooms full of ammo to rest and reload, give co-op a Left 4 Dead vibe spread across some nine missions and three difficulties well worth playing through over and over.

As a stripped down, guns-blazing version of the futuristic dystopian society we`re bound for, Syndicate works fine. Its co-op sections, especially, should offer at least a few hours’ worth of fun. But when Syndicate trips up, including some unnecessary quick-time events I failed to mention earlier, it makes the rough spots glare as bright as its lens flare.

Disclosures : This game was obtained via purchase and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 6 hours of play was devoted to the single player mode and 4 hours to the multiplayer.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains Blood and gore, Intense violence, Suggestive Themes and Strong Language. The violence can be quite graphic enough for the squeamish to stay away.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: There is a subtitle option, but you will miss a lot of cues from enemies, especially bosses. However, since hacking shows a big blue bar above enemies, and bullet-time lets you see x-rays of spotted enemies, it can be overcome with some difficulty.

Edit: 1.1 Edits from RandomRob and Li-Ion's feedback

RandomRob 03-07-2012 05:51 PM

Re: Rate this Review - Syndicate
I'd compare Syndicate to the original Syndicate before I compared it to Deus Ex. There's alot of stuff worth mentioning, there!

I'm not saying go play the original, but you should give it a look, read some reviews, etc, to see where it came from.

Jaradcel 03-08-2012 01:37 AM

Re: Rate this Review - Syndicate
The sad bit is, I have played the original Syndicate. When it came out even. *Grins wryly* Showin' my age!

While it's an easy comparison to do so, there's practically nothing in common bar the megacorp and agent idea, and the really, really obvious comparison to Deus Ex is hard to miss for anyone who's played both, so I chose to go with that instead. :)

Li-Ion 03-08-2012 04:00 AM

Re: Rate this Review - Syndicate
I haven't played Syndicate (the shooty one), only Syndicate (the tactical one), but I think it's worth mentioning somewhere that these two have nothing in common but the name. If Starbreeze would have developed this game with a different name it might have been judged more favorably I think. As it is Syndicate (the shooter) carries a crippling bag of rocks on his back, since most people only see the wasted potential and not what they made of it.

As for this review I like it overall and it confirms my assumption that I can save the time and money I'd spend on Syndicate (the shooter) by just launching Deus Ex again. Some things:
* try not to use 'you' in a review.
* I don't know what you mean with the 'throw the kitchen sink at him school of game design'.
* I also don't fully understand your last sentence, do you mean that Syndicate's (the shooter) style lets one forget it's shortcomings or that it fails in spectacular fashion?

Jaradcel 03-09-2012 02:24 AM

Re: Rate this Review - Syndicate
/grins wryly

I don't suppose while I edit it, people would also mind rating it? *laughs*

Thanks for the thoughts Li-Ion.

Is there a particular reason why you mention not using "you"? While newspapers shy away from the word, isn't it more how online reviews tend to go? Correct me if I'm wrong, but in general I tend to feel like plenty of review sites and reviewers use the word, so I'm baffled as to what your reasoning behind it is.

If it's something I've never thought of I'd love to hear it! :)

The other two points I'll work on to make them clearer in the article :)

RandomRob 03-09-2012 10:17 AM

Re: Rate this Review - Syndicate
you should avoid using 'you' I think in that the review is yours, not ours. Tell us what your impression and experiences were, without telling me what you think mine is going to be based on your experience----- understand? Sentences like 'Killing is what you were made for' disassociate your opinion, your experience, and sound more like an advertisement, not like you, therefore kindof dishonest. Don't be afraid of your opinion such that you try to window-dress it with cool sounding cliches.

Be yourself.

Jaradcel 03-10-2012 12:06 AM

Re: Rate this Review - Syndicate
Hmm a fair point and a good observation. I hadn't thought of it that way before. Thanks for the input Rob :)

Li-Ion 03-10-2012 04:04 AM

Re: Rate this Review - Syndicate
I couldn't have said it better than Rob did :)

Jaradcel 03-10-2012 07:35 PM

Re: Rate this Review - Syndicate
Edited! Do let me know what you guys think :)

Edit: And if you have the time, do please read through my Jagged Alliance review as well. That one hasn't been edited for removal of "you" however.

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