Thursday, 15 March 2012


In a market flooded with first-person shooters you have to expect something pretty extraordinary to grab the attention of gamers. Starbreeze’s reboot of the classic sci-fi Syndicate franchise certainly brings some interesting ideas to the table, but it’s hard to credit this particular game as one of the best we’ve seen to date. That being said, Syndicate provides a beautiful world, versatile weapons and a very well structured cooperative campaign that does warrant significant praise.

Reminiscent of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Syndicate is set in a futuristic New York City where giant corporations rule the world and all humans have control chips installed into their brains. These chips instill special abilities that contextualize the story of deceit, deception and corruption. The single player campaign lacks any real depth in the narrative, which is strange for Starbreeze who usually provide well thought out storylines. While the story may not engulf you, the absolutely wonderful visuals and intense combat certainly will. Syndicate really captures the futuristic sci-fi feel and if that’s your preferred setting for FPS action, then this is definitely the world for you.

The sense of excitement continues when Syndicate lets you run riot with the wide assortment of weapons it provides. Starbreeze have always excelled at providing smooth and flowing weapon combat and this is no exception. The AI do a great job providing a competitive level of challenge and the use of Syndicate’s unique applications helps bring depth to the gameplay. This of course is built into your Dart6 chip that gives you access to lots of different applications including taking control of enemies and jamming their weapons. Some of the stronger enemies will even require you to disable their armour and shields before you deal serious damage with their own chip and skills left on offer as a reward for taking them down. These apps combined with gunplay and interesting gameplay mechanics makes each and every encounter fast-paced and thrilling in Syndicate

Unfortunately these key moments are few and far between throughout Syndicate’s campaign and plenty of intervals that hinder the pacing and experience somewhat occur far too frequently. Frustrating puzzles, in game cut-scenes and some unusually frustrating lighting from this futuristic city continuously test your patience and ruin what would have otherwise been a really solid single player campaign. It also doesn’t help that the story becomes convoluted all too quickly and little is explained rather left for you to read throughout the various written entries found in Syndicate.

The beauty of a first-person shooter is the campaign doesn’t have to be the main selling point. While Syndicate’s single player offering is lackluster, the online cooperative missions are freaking awesome. Coop is an excellent combination of teamwork using the wide array of weapons and coop-only special apps. This is really where Syndicate’s excellent difficulty curve and pacing come to life as you run and gun through different locations while being forced to work in sync with your teammates. Once you get stuck into the coop you will question how it was possible to get the campaign so wrong in comparison. Missions are strung together in such a way as to avoid any repetition and a constant flow of enemies and boss-like foes keeps your entire team on their toes. Teammates can heal each other when they are in vicinity of one-another and lots of different apps including power boosts and shields could be the make-or-break between a successful victory and failure on the battlefield. Syndicates coop screams action and adrenaline and you will get it in spade-loads here.

With three different difficulty settings, lots of weapons to find and enhancements to unlock, there’s plenty of reason to keep coming back to the coop mode. The ability to create a syndicate group of your own to compete with high scores on the world leaderboards can also have you coming back for more. It’s just a shame that there are no proper character customization options as something resembling Brink’s system could have gone down very nicely here.

With all of this in mind, it’s very easy to call Syndicate a hit-and-miss game. Starbreeze are an excellent development team and their efficient skill can clearly be seen in Syndicate’s excellent presentation, fluid gameplay mechanics and the intuitive app system. A terrific online cooperative gives players looking to have some fun with friends an excellent opportunity to do so but those of you wanting a thorough single player package should look to the likes of The Darkness II for a much better ride. Overall Syndicate is impressive on many levels but falls at certain hurdles – fortunately it leaps well over the hurdles that count, presentation, mechanics and cooperative gameplay.

7.5 | Gameplay | Syndicate impresses technically with excellent gunplay, a unique application system and a very impressive online cooperative mode. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the single player offering that lacks any real depth, has awkward pacing and never really kicks off to the same degree as the coop. The coop is absolutely the shining star of this package.

8.0 | Presentation | Futuristic New York City is absolutely stunning and gamers looking to spend their video game hours in a futuristic world need not look any further. Syndicate handles really well also with the gunplay feeling similar to Killzone 3. The different apps provide versatility in the heated gameplay.

7.5 | Replay Value | Online cooperative especially has plenty of replay value. 3 different levels, lots of weapons and applications to unlock means you’ll be coming back to experience this thrilling coop mode with friends over and over again.

7.5 | Final Thoughts | I am somewhat disappointed because I expect so much more from Starbreeze. The story and campaign simply do not do this wonderful futuristic world justice. The campaign is frustrating on many levels but fortunately Syndicate is saved by an excellent online cooperative mode. Syndicate boasts terrific gunplay and it’s an injustice that these gameplay mechanics didn’t find a home in a better campaign mode. Those of you looking for a game to share with your friends can pick this up without any hesitation but those of you needing a single player experience need to pass this up and buy The Darkness II.

Igor Kharin.

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