A mediocre FPS with a memorable co-op.
I think it’s become standard procedure to paint the future as bleak, depressing, and generally hiding some sort of evil and ruthless corporation that runs everything. Granted, this about covers most of the FPS games I’ve played as of late, and unfortunately Syndicate follows along these lines to bring a predictable shooter that hardly leaves a lasting impression.
Syndicate was actually first released way back in the 90s, and involved sending a four-person squad of elite agents to eliminate certain targets in rival syndicates. You were also given the task of investing in research and development to improve your agent’s abilities and weapons. Fast forward to present day, and Syndicate gets a serious reboot as an FPS that only a few players will find enjoyable. This time Syndicate is set in 2069 where the world is run by Eurocorp, a mega-corporation that developed and released the DART chip – a neural implant that makes most other electronic devices obsolete. You play as Agent Miles Kilo, a bio-engineered and chip-augmented special agent, whose sole purpose is to protect Eurocorp’s interest by eliminating key targets in other Syndicates. You are equipped with the latest DART 6 prototype chip, and after a few test runs you’re deemed fit to continue with missions.
The DART chip is what sets the action apart from other FPS games as there are a variety of things that you can perform with it. The DART Overlay allows you to slow time down briefly and also gives you temporary increased damage and damage reduction, as well as giving you the ability to briefly see past cover to track down your enemies. The DART chip also comes with a series of ‘applications’ – these apps can be equipped and utilized during battle for a variety of tactical advantages.
The first two apps you get access to are Suicide and Backfire. The Suicide app targets one enemy and as the name suggests, causes them to go insane and kill themselves, harming or killing any other enemies nearby. The Backfire app will temporarily interfere with an enemy’s weapon, stunning them and making them easier to pick off. Lastly, the DART chip allows you to interact with and hack various points of interest – you can hack into an enemy’s armor to disable it, or hack into a console to gain access to a level, and much more. It’s executed quite easily with a simple tap and holding down of a button, so it doesn’t interfere too much if you’re in the heat of battle. Weapons are of a variety here as in most FPS games, with everything from a shotgun, laser-tag gun, and even a sweet minigun with unlimited ammo. Your DART chip can be upgraded with various abilities that can improve your health, reload times, and can also upgrade your applications.
What makes Syndicate initially frustrating is while the levels seem to have an open-end feel to them, the structure of the levels are quite linear, so you’re left running around to checkpoints and tracking down chips to retrieve from enemy targets. It’s a real shame, because some of the areas you’re in actually look like they’d be fun to explore. What also irritated me about the game was how forced some of the lighting was in certain areas – even adjusting the brightness didn’t seem to help, so watch out for ridiculously lit areas when you’re exploring the game. You also have the occasional boss fight, which rather than being an intelligent encounter where you use your skills and applications to win, boils down to running around to avoid gunfire, hack into an exploit, pellet them with bullets, and then repeat indefinitely.
While the single-player missions may seem a little mundane after a while, the game gets a much needed kick in the co-op missions. Rather than replaying the monotonous single-player story with just more people, the co-op mode puts four agents on a mission and throws them straight into the action. Missions vary from eliminating rival Syndicate leaders to stealing information, and working together as a team is absolutely critical. Should one of your teammates go down, you can quickly get close and target them for a ‘reboot’, which brings them back into the action. It’s a much, much better mode than the single-player, and I think it’s where the game’s true interest lies.
Graphically (apart from the glaring lighting), the game looks and runs quite smoothly. Character models are well animated and the seemingly endless levels look great. There’s also a fair amount of gore in this game, which is quite surprising. You unflinchingly can execute both enemies and civilians in a variety of way, and spraying blood and dismemberment seem to be the norm. There’s also a decent voice acting here for the characters, though the occasional DART robotic voice can get a tad bit annoying.
At its core, I’m sure Syndicate will appeal to gamers looking for a standard FPS game with a few thrills thrown in. The single-player campaign doesn’t excite much and can be finished without much effort. It’s the co-op missions that really give the game some replay value, and I suspect is the only part that is truly memorable.