- 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
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Score:8.0 / 10
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
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
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
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.
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
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.