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Old 03-06-2012, 04:42 AM   #1
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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.

Miniguns of Fire by Jaradcel, on Flickr

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.

Co-op by Jaradcel, on Flickr

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

Last edited by Jaradcel; 03-10-2012 at 07:34 PM.
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