When I first saw Syndicate, I foresaw two outcomes on the reception of the game. EIther the FPS reboot of the old pc strategy game would be an underground hit that adds some freshness to a stale FPS genre with interesting sci-fi elements to the traditional shoot-dude-in-face gameplay or it would be a bland shooter with ideas that fail to live up their potential and decried everything that was loved about the original. It was my hope that I would get the former when I bought Syndicate for five dollars on a PCDD Amazon sale, but unfortunately I got the latter. Now I’ve never played the original, so I can’t claim that I was disappointed in the treatment of the long inactive series, but still I can’t help but think that this game begun its development as a brilliant idea but became a copy-cutter shooter over time.
Syndicate takes places in 2069 where corporations have become more powerful than nations and all the cool kids have chips in their noggins that act as brain-computers. You play as Kilo, an agent for Eurocorp one of the major corporations. These agents are implanted with the most advanced chips that allows them to manipulate the chips around them and are used for corporate espionage and sabotage. The plots centers around your boss sending you on a mission to find and kill a rival researcher who seems to have contacts in Eurocorp feeding him information. Upon discovering who the mole is, Kilo and his partner Merit, a stereotypical gruff badass, must uncover the truth behind the betrayal leading us to a struggle between those who are chipped and those without the chip. The story here, while containing some cool elements like corporate espionage and a technology-based social class system, can only be described as mediocre and disappointing. It’s as if the writer was filling out a mad-lip based off near future settings while writing the plot. Any twist in the plot are seen for light-years away, in fact it’s safe to say that most reasonable people can figure out the last-third of the story after playing the first two missions.
(Spoiler….I guess) what???? You mean to tell me that the corporation that was having me murder rivals scientist and take no consideration for collateral damage is evil??? Next thing you’ll tell me is that McDonald’s is only trying to make money without caring if their food is healthy, which cannot be true as it is the place to rock.
The gameplay fairs a bit better but still is nothing special. You get the standard FPS fare with the same set of guns you see in other titles, with one notable exception of the gun that tracks bullets around cover to enemies. The game totes the DART system, which is the chip in Kilo’s brain that allows him to hack not only into the environment but also other head chips. You’ll see contextual buttons all over the environment telling you were you can use this hacking mechanic to varying degrees of fun. You see, while manipulating turrets and environmental hazards in combat is fun forcing me to hold down F just to open doors, or worst take down an enemy’s shield so they can take damage isn’t. Hacking into hostile foes is a bit more fun as you can hack into their guns so they backfire or their brains so they turn on their buddies for a short time before offing themselves. While this added a bit of depths to combat as I had to pick when and on whom to use my abilities on, there is a cool down on each, the suicide abilities seemed to add more in terms of story than it did gameplay. The disturbing sight of people offing themselves, many times with a grenade to maximize damage against other foes, gave an uneasy feeling to the combat as you knew that in no way were you playing a hero.
But all these DART abilities are overshadowed by the overlay mode. This mode, which is tied to a meter in the HUD, allows you to become a pseudo-god as time slows, you’re damage is boosted and you become a bullet sponge. I found myself playing in this mode the majority of the game which made the whole 6-8 hour experience a breeze. By simply waiting for my DART overlay to charge I found that most encounters were a cake walk……until I encountered the Syndicate’s biggest flaw.
The boss fights
Boss fights in Syndicate mostly consist of fighting enemy agents who possess cooler powers than you. Unfortunately these agents’ power is wasted in a generic boss battles that are more a war of attrition than complex strategic battles. You’ll have to inevitably use some form of hacking to weaken and a boss, go into overlay, pump him full of lead………and repeat. This process, along with the asinine spikes in difficulty, made each boss encounter a struggle within me to decide whether to continue going through the slog or turn the game off, delete it from my harddrive and cast a Voodoo hex on those you designed these battles of monotony.
The one major draw from the previews I watch, the presentation, was also a bit of a disappointment. I was hoping for a setting and atmosphere straight out of a Philip K. Dick novel and fortunately I got some of that. The problem however, is that for every cool design choice made there were several more that were bland. The overall aesthetic of the game is a blend of Blade Runner (good) and J.J. Abrams Star Trek…..which you know what that means….
Seriously I felt like I didn’t see half the game due to my temporary blindness. Or maybe I felt like I missed half the game because of the overall blandness of the design and gameplay made Syndicate a forgettable experience.
While some may be able to squeeze some ounce of enjoyment out of this bland shooter, I can’t help but feel that I didn’t gain anything from the $5 I spent on it that I wouldn’t have gotten at the burrito place.
Note: I didn’t play the coop which is hear is more fun, I didn’t trust my internet and iu thought the community would be dead by now.