When I first heard that Syndicate was being remade into a first person shooter this year, my heart sunk into my stomach. Why would someone want to take a hatchet to this classic original title?
Fans of the original Bullfrog Productions isometric style game will be surely disappointed to hear that the remake has very little of the unique style of gameplay which so attracted hordes of gamers in the 90′s. Sadly, in today’s climate, Electronic Arts are very focused on making money so it was decided that a FPS recrafting was the way to go.
To be fair developer Starbreeze have pieced together a game which both looks great and runs well on a variety of computers. The futuristic setting looks suitably ‘neon’ with bright lighting on street corners and a polished, detailed environment to set the mood. The visual similarities with Deus Ex: Revolution are easily noticeable although Syndicate seems a little more disjointed in places.
The game experience shares very little in common with Deus Ex: Revolution however, as Syndicate is sadly much more linear by design. It is strictly a shooter by heart, which may appeal to fans of F.E.A.R.
Presentation as we would expect, considering the Electronic Arts heritage is first class. Voice actors Rosairo Dawson and Brian Cox deliver some stellar performances throughout, injecting plenty of personality into the proceedings.
Like the game itself, the plot is rather predictable and the voice actors do all they can to lift it from the realms of mediocrity. Perhaps I have been playing games too many years, because I had the main plot worked out from the very early stages, with no clever twists and turns surprising me later in the game.
Syndicate isn’t a bad game however, because I really did enjoy the combat mechanics. While the weaponry itself is nothing we haven’t seen many times before, the combat system is extremely appealing. Some of the high tech weapons can fire around corners, locking onto enemy characters. This can make for some really attractive death sequences.
The developers have also thrown in three styles of combat powers, called Backfire, Suicide and Persuade. Suicide will make enemy soldiers eat grenades, which is hilarious. Backfire forces enemy weapons to misfire, knocking them into a stunned state, backwards. Persuade is a mind control technique which forces an enemy to temporarily fight for your cause, targeting enemy (friendly in his case) soldiers. If he runs out of enemy units to attack, he will put his gun to his head and take his own life. Nasty!
The developers have also integrated a DART Overlay mode, which engages ‘bullet time’ in a very similar fashion to F.E.A.R. If you can manage the combat power and the slow motion combat, then the scope for entertaining combat will last many hours.
Like many first person shooter titles, there are boss fights. I had a good time fighting some of the bosses, although one or two seemed to be an afterthought. Simply unloading bullets into the bulk of the boss, while trying to avoid his weapons was simply a ‘run in circles’ exercise which left me feeling shortchanged.
The developers have added a four player cooperative section to the game which is actually better than it sounds. It helps to balance the complete lack of multiplayer, and was entertaining to play with some friends. The developers have even thrown in some specially designed cooperative levels to enhance the experience. The level design on these environments is very impressive and I could tell that the developers spent plenty of time fine tuning the structure to help improve the combat.
Both single player and cooperative modes have weapon and chip upgrades available, which requires the gamer to invest tokens and points, which are earned for completing levels and specific tasks. These can be used to improve weapons via research. I like this system, it is rewarding, fully featured and gives the player more control over the character they are playing.
While many areas of the game disappointed me such as the complete omission of RPG elements the core FPS element of Syndicate is appealing and enjoyable. The cooperative mode is great fun, although multiplayer purists will be annoyed that the developers have ignored them completely. I really don’t understand why they needed to call the game ‘Syndicate’, it shares nothing with the original 90′s title and we can’t help but feel that people who loved the original game will feel shortchanged, especially if they buy the game without researching first.