Much to the chagrin of oldschool gamers, the new Syndicate shrugs off its PC strategy game roots and returns in the current genre du jour, a first-person-shooter. We aren't bothered by the change - it was 20 years ago, get over it - and instead embraced Syndicate for what it is rather than what it isn't. And what it is is a really great playing FPS with some clever new tricks up its sleeves, a great cyberpunk world to play around in, and it is all wrapped up in great visuals and sound. Top it off with a stellar co-op experience, and Syndicate is a sharp game that is worth a look.
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Developer: Starbreeze Sudios
- ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
- Genre: Shooter
- Pros: Solid shooting gameplay; interesting abilities; great co-op; nice visuals and outstanding sound effects
- Cons: Weak story; blurry menus; overused light bloom; finding that perfect position to hack stuff
Syndicate takes place in a future world where mega corporations are in control of everything. Each megacorp has its own army of specialized soldiers and they wage war on each other for control of the world. You play a Kilo, a soldier for the Eurocorp, and set out on mission after mission against rival syndicates. The dystopian future full of strange technologies is actually really very cool, and the core concept of megacorps taking over the world is interesting, but the actual story you experience as Kilo is sort of, well, boring. You just do what you're told and unless you bother to read the encyclopedia-like in-game infobank of profiles on the people you kill and rival syndicates you infiltrate, nothing really makes sense. And even if you do read it all, the story is still kind of dry and emotionless.
The single-player takes ten hours or so to play through, and while the story is dry, the gameplay is more than fun enough to motivate you to keep playing. In addition to the SP, rather than a competitive multiplayer mode as we've come to expect in FPS these days, Syndicate instead puts the multiplayer focus on a fantastic co-op mode that is separate from the single-player. The four player online co-op kicks up the pacing and action while maintaining a fascinating balance between shooting and offense as well as teamwork and healing and reviving your teammates. The co-op scenarios are varied and challenging and unbelievably satisfying.
The glue that holds the Syndicate experience together is the fantastic gameplay. Movement has a weighty feel - not as heavy and obnoxious as, say, Killzone 2 was - but you aren't floating around like you do in Halo
, either. It is a nice balance that feels realistic, but not cumbersome. The shooting also really feels great. The guns are loud and really have an impact. The range of futuristic firearms - including guns with bullets that lock on and can track enemies even around cover - are all really fun and interesting to use. This is the future, of course, so naturally you have special abilities that let you hack doors and terminals, elevator controls, enemy sentry bots, and more. The hacking is as simple as holding the left bumper when an onscreen prompt pops up, but you have to be in the exact perfect position in a room before that prompt actually does pop up, which can be frustrating. Your powers can also be used against humans as well, and remotely brainwashing an enemy solider so they commit suicide or overloading their implanted computer chip so it explodes is really cool. The gameplay is a constant mix of great feeling shooting and the intuitive hacking, and it is really fun and rather different from most other FPS out there. Enemy A.I. is also noteworthy as they don't just line up waiting to get killed. Enemies will flank you and use clever tactics and actually put up a decent challenge. The variety of enemy types, each with different weakness, also keeps things interesting and fun. Syndicate is just an exceptionally sharp playing game.
Graphics & Sound
The presentation is also quite good for the most part. The environments are nicely detailed and really look great. Character models are nice and everything is well animated. There are a couple of things we don't love, though. First, for whatever reason, the text in menus is distractingly blurry. The game itself is sharp and great looking, but the menu is blurry. Another visual feature we don't care for is the extreme overuse of light bloom where every light source is a blinding sun that prevents you from seeing anything.
The sound is much more consistent. The voice acting is solid, the music is appropriate, and the gunfire is nice and loud. Seriously, the sound effects here really stand out as being better than the genre norm.
In the end, Syndicate is a solid cyberpunk FPS that shooter fans will enjoy. Even with a hiccup here or there, there is no denying that it plays really well and is just plain solid futuristic fun. It is a little bit Perfect Dark
with a little bit Deus Ex
in terms of gameplay, but it hits its own high notes to create a new experience. I don't know that we can fully recommend it if you only plan on playing the single-player - give it a rental in that case - but if you have a group of friends to play co-op with, Syndicate is definitely worth a purchase.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy