I got chips in my head and battered fish on my elbow.
OMG, Starbreeze Studios has changed the classic 1993 Bulldog game from an isometric strategic affair into a modern first-person shooter! Well yeah, they have. If you can’t get past that fact, then there is no point in even considering this game. If you are at peace with Starbreeze Studios’ decision, then you could be in for an enjoyable sci-fi romp. But don’t be expecting anything groundbreaking…
In a futuristic world which is pretty much ruled over by giant megacorporations, the player takes on the role of Miles Kilo, an agent for one of these megacorporations known as Eurocorp. The majority of the population have chips embedded in their heads, which has given rise to the understandable underground resistance, trying to combat the control of these chips by the megacorporations. As an agent for Eurocorp, you have been fitted with their latest chip, the DART 6, which allows the player to hack other people’s chips, amongst other things. Your purpose, at least for the start of the game, is to follow the orders of your Eurocorp boss, Jack Denham. I would imagine that you can already guess where this is going.
So I won’t spoil it for you, save to say that the story takes some fairly predictable routes that you may have seen before. It is easy to make comparisons to other games, such as Deus Ex, in both the storyline and the gameplay, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, just somewhat unoriginal.
The key gimmick in Syndicate revolves around the use of that handy DART 6 chip implanted in the hero’s head. This chip endows the player with a host of cool abilities, which gradually become available as the game progresses, with the most interesting being able to hack everything.
Well, perhaps not everything. But the ability to hack computers to open doors or hack a gun turret is certainly nice. However, the chance to hack other people is where it gets really fun. Relatively early in the game, the player is taught how to hack the chip in someone else’s head and force them to commit suicide. It really is quite impressive, in a grim sort of way. But the ways to mess with someone else’s head don’t stop there. Pretty soon, the player will be forcing enemies to turn their weapons on their associates before finishing themselves off, or causing their weapons to backfire, stunning them and causing damage. It is certainly a fun ability to have.
Then there is the DART Vision, a visual mode which allows the player to clearly see their enemies. Whilst this is again nothing new, and it has been done better in other games, there are other benefits to being in DART Vision mode. It also almost turbo-boosts the player by slowing down the enemies, whilst also allowing them to take less and inflict more damage. All of these abilities need recharging though, so the player is constantly forced to guess whether they should use them in whatever situation, or save them for later.
All of these cool abilities would be for nothing if the core shooting mechanic wasn’t up to scratch. Thankfully, it is. The abilities play a major role in the game, but the basic gunfights are just as enjoyable, with a nice range of weaponry available. The combination of the abilities and the weapons gives the player a fairly wide choice in how they approach the game, improving the replayability should the player want to come back for more after they finished the single-player game. But then, they could always head over to the enjoyable multiplayer instead.
The four-player co-op offers nine stand-alone side missions which almost build upon the concepts of the main game by adding new abilities. Progression also feels more built up than the main game, with players earning research points that they can use to customise their character’s weapons and abilities. The mode is more fun than you would expect from a story-driven FPS, but can be quite difficult if not playing with the full four players.
Syndicate is a very good looking game, with visuals worthy of this generation and environments which fit the theme. But personally I found that, at times, things on-screen just became too “busy”. There can be a lot of information to take in regarding hacking options or just basic information. Whilst the sterile environment of the future as ruled over by megacorporations may be somewhat appealing (really?), I can’t help but feel that the information overload would be a bit headache inducing.
As a single-player FPS, Syndicate doesn’t do anything wrong. It just isn’t perhaps as memorable as other similar games, partially because it has all been done before. The co-op game offers more to remember, but is over all too quickly. If you are a fan of the sci-fi FPS experience and are looking for your next game, then Syndicate will certainly tick all of the boxes. Otherwise, the game is enjoyable, but not inspiring.