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Platform

Xbox 360

Genre

Shooter

Publisher

Electronic Arts

Developer

Starbreeze

ESRB

M (Mature)

Released

February 21, 2012

 

 

- No one does the first-person perspective better than Starbreeze
- A successful translation of a isometric squad tactics game
- Great setting
- Good co-op
- Subliminally urged me to play a Dead Rising game

 

 

- Closing levels are a slogfest
- Something happened, but I'm not exactly sure what

 

 

Review: Dead Rising 2: Off the Record (360)

Review: Hard Reset: Extended Edition (PC)

Review: Mass Effect 3 (360)

 

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Syndicate

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

syndicate          syndicate

 

No one does the first person perspective quite like Starbreeze. The developers there are somehow able to tap whatever magic they're using to make the first-person perspective so utterly convincing. Syndicate is a great example of this, particularly in the way the guns handle. There's a heft and bounce to them that feels extremely good for a video game. Or the slide and jumping mechanic that outdoes Brink.

Mechanically, Syndicate is a great experience. Besides the guns and light acrobatics and sliding -- Teflon must be incorporated into the fabric of the future -- the player character, Agent Miles Kilo, acquires access to three different "magic" powers, one of which is Suicide, where a target can be "convinced" to put a bullet in his own

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brain, usually with a scream. This "breach" mechanic, where Kilo hacks the chip in the target's brain, extends to objects in the environment like sentry guns and elevators.

If that weren't enough to make Kilo a one-man killing machine, he can also access the "DART System" which heightens his reflexes (i.e. slows down everything else) and allows tagged enemies to be seen behind

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cover.

When all of these elements come together, Syndicate can be great experience. The closing chapter of the game is a unmitigated slogfest, but it's also where everything learned and honed in the previous levels can be used to great effect. Slide behind cover, hack a sentry drone to fight on Kilo's behalf, pop off a few shots, switch on the DART system to get a bearing on where the enemies are, slide out of cover, render an enemy grenade inert, Backfire a couple of enemies to momentarily stun them, Persuade a solider further down the hallway to fight for Kilo, then unload a couple of clips to finish clearing the hallway. That moment-to-moment gameplay is fantastic.

What is not so fantastic are the boss fights and the delivery of story through the single-player campaign.

There's a story happening in Syndicate, but I resorted to Wikipedia to just explain it to me. Almost all of the story is provided in slow, in-game cutscenes that are great to watch and I think the characters are acted well, but at many of those points I was too busy looking at the world to pay any attention to what was being said.

It's a little like being told, "Pull up a chair. I have tale to tell." I'd rather be playing street hockey.

 

syndicate           syndicate

 

I'm one of these players that likes to have most of the story told through the environment as I move through the game. I didn't even get a good sense as to what was actually happening in Syndicate, the bigger picture. There's a glimpse of it when Kilo plunges into the lower levels and has to fight against unchipped soldiers, which renders Suicide and Persuade options useless, but that's about it.

I can't remember the last time I played a game where I had to make so many repeated attempts at clearing a boss. With one in particular it was all about hitting the "magic button" but I was too busy taking cover to notice the button. I eventually did, but it wasn't until I'd been plugging away at the encounter for more than an hour.

And the boss fights seem to happen too often.

By the end of the game, when Kilo is a little more leveled-up and I was more experienced, the boss and mini-boss characters fell into a rut and to defeat them amounted to following a set of specific actions. Crystallize their personal shield, shoot them until the shield recharges, crystallize, shoot, repeat.

As an ode to the old games -- an isometric squad-based tactical game -- Syndicate does a great job sticking to the source material, taking it's cues and underlying story of corporations run amuck. The first time Kilo spins up the chaingun, it was hard not to flashback to those original games. The sound of that gun is exactly as I remember the gun sounding on my 486DX. (That might not be the case, but it's similiar enough to my memory of it.)

The real ode to the originals, is the 4-player co-op that strings a series of objectives together and waves of enemies dropped in to try to stop you. What's more, this is the first time in a long time, especially on Xbox Live, where I experienced players working together and chatting and strategizing as they did so. I was the Snake Eyes of the group, not saying a word but listening and playing along. What a difference cooperation makes! It's enjoyable rather than frustrating.

I'll call it right now, Syndicate, especially it's co-op mode, will be the under-appreciated gem of 2012. The game doesn't create a massive fissure in the first-person shooter genre, but the DART and breach systems do add some cool wrinkles to an otherwise straightforward experience with some of the best gun play I've had in recent memory.

- Aaron Simmer

(May 12, 2012)

 

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