Syndicate PS3 Review

Publisher – EA – Developer – Starbreeze Studios – Genre – FPS – Players – 14 – Age Rating – 15+ – Other console/handheld formats – Xbox 360

The Syndicate of 1993 was an isometric action game with strategic elements and, whilst 2012’s version bears the same name, it has little relation to Bullfrog’s well loved game however, and is instead an FPS, which is why, upon its announcement, it was met by so much ire by those with fond memories of the original game.

The setting has similarities with last year’s Deus EX reboot, which results in it being a bit less interesting than it otherwise could have been. It takes place in a technologically advanced 2060 in a world that is not lead by governments but instead by large Syndicates that are constantly trying to outdo each other, to the extent that they’ll steal, kidnap and even kill to stay ahead of their rivals. They employ the trenchcoat wearing Cyborg super soldiers Agents to carry out much of this dirty business and as the faceless and voiceless Kilo; you’re a part of this elite group.

Having previously developed The Chronicles of Riddick and The Darkness, developer Starbreeze are well aware at what makes an FPS tick, and with Syndicate all the basics are executed to an admirable level. The guns are satisfying; the enemy AI puts up a reasonable fight, whilst there’s a physicality to your movements that makes it feel as if you’re in charge of a person (or make that Cyborg) as opposed to a mere floating gun.

A slightly more unique feature is the DART Overlay mode, of which allows you to trigger an enhanced state for a limited period of time, where you are able to sustain more and dish out more damage. You’ll also move quicker than your opponents, and any enemies that you’ve already spotted will helpfully be displayed with orange outlines, allowing you to easily keep tabs on their positions even if they’re behind objects.

Aside from this ability, you’ll pick up three additional skills early on: Suicide allows you to manipulate the mind of an enemy to make him commit suicide, damaging nearby teammates in the process, Persuade allows you to use some not so gentle persuasion to temporarily make an enemy fight alongside you, and finally Backfire will disrupt the weapon of an enemy as well as briefly immobilizing him. All of these abilities are powered by energy of which are gained through skilful play, such as headshots and swift kill chains, and intelligent use of them throughout will save you from many desperate situations.

These three abilities all require you to hold a button for a few seconds to trigger them, though releasing the button at the right moment will grant you bigger rewards. It brings to mind Gears of War’s excellent Active Reload feature, which is certainly a good thing.

As for the weapons, all the conventional firearms are available such as handguns, machine guns and sniper rifles, but there’s also some futuristic weaponry, consisting of the likes of laser guns and machine guns that lock on to enemies similarly to the Resistance series’ Bulldog weapon. Like the rest of the games there’s not a lot of imagination on display, but they’re all fun ways of splattering the blood of your enemies everywhere all the same.

An upgrade system also offers you an edge over most enemies. At predestined points, you’ll get your hands on a chip, usually from inside the skull of a defeated boss, and in turn will get a point to spend in a simplistic upgrade system, which offers a certain amount of freedom of choice in a game that is otherwise rigid in its structure.

Whilst Syndicate doesn’t feature any competitive multiplayer options, it does however feature an enjoyable and efficient 4 player co-op mode that has a somewhat Left 4 Dead like feel to its structure. You fight alongside up to three other players on a possible nine scenarios, some of which are inspired by stages from the original game, of which, if nothing else, could bring at least a tinge of nostalgia to fans of the earlier games, that’s if they can put their anger aside for a moment anyway.

There’s a nice progression system that has you earning points to upgrade your skills and weapons. The skills are pretty much like the single player portion, though a fair amount benefit the entire team, whilst weapons and applications have to be researched before you’re granted the use of them.

Obviously a lot of fans of the earlier games will find the direction of Starbreeze’s take on Syndicate to be too far removed from the series that they’re acquainted with. FPS fans on the other hand will find the opposite, a game that is often bland and simply doesn’t do enough to stand out in gaming’s most crowded genre.

In the end, whilst it’s a perfectly enjoyable and accomplished game, it is however, in comparison to Bullfrog’s games, a mostly forgettable FPS that is hardly going to be a game that is widely looked back on with overwhelming fondness in the way that its cherished namesake was.