Review: Syndicate

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An average shooter filled with underdeveloped ideas and gimmicks. The very definition of Playing it safe.

 

Lets address the elephant in the room shall we? This game is not a successor to Syndicate. Sure there are some elements that it borrows from the classic, the names, the persuasions, I think I spotted a brief mention of the “recruitment” from the first game. Other than these minor things the setting has been stripped down and built up in such a way I have to wonder if the developers actually bothered to play the original. Gone is the subtle digging at unregulated corporate greed, instead replaced with a generic “You are the only one who can save the world” plot line. Gone is the excessive force, replaced with a sterile and boring feel, the most noticeable occurrence of this was after literally sawing some faceless mook in half with a mini-gun I went to examine the body and found that there was no gore at all. This is slightly baffling as it’s an 18 here in the UK. So no, This isn’t a sequel to one of the best games out there.

Sooo, lets get down to what it actually is shall we? What I played was a completely safe and bland First Person shooter. It was challenging in places but mostly I breezed through the tightly scripted corridors blowing away a large number of bland enemies. One thing that sprung out at me was it’s similarities to Call Of Duty. Even guns which are supposedly designed almost 50 years into the future look like they could be picked out of any of the Modern Warfare series. There are a few exceptions but these only spring up a few times across the whole game. The guns themselves all have a gimmick in an attempt to make them more interesting, be it shooting through walls or homing bullets, but it seems  forced and in some cases massively improbable.
Graphically like all games these days it looks good, though early on I did notice a few instances of bullet effects flying through solid rubble. There is an issue with obsessive amounts of bloom which can make it very difficult to see basically anything for a lot of the game, One particularly egregious example was a firefight that took place in front of a large wall shining white light directly into the players face making the only viable tactic to sprint straight at the enemies position in order to get besides them and able to get a target. One side note to the graphics, early in the game you’re put face to face with one of the main characters and I couldn’t help but notice how horrible the characters facial animations were.

Syndicate

The plot as I’ve already said is a fairly generic “you are the only one who knows the truth and the only one who can save the world.” The characters are unsympathetic and make really, really mind numbingly stupid decisions. This goes double for the bosses, each of whom, has their own gimmick to make their battle seem more than a straight up fight with a bullet sponge. It did make me wonder why I couldn’t steal their special abilities, but more on that later. The game does try early on to add some drama and tension, but mostly comes across as trite. One moment I couldn’t help but find hilarious was early on in the game when after suffering a beat down a fellow agent walks through a train slaughtering civilians. If this had been handled well this could have been a chilling moments to reinforce the horrible nature of the world. It wasn’t well handled. The music was overwrought and the civilians completely unmentioned til this point, No one feels or even makes a move, they just sit there not even attempting to flee. The moment is a by the numbers tragedy and loses any emotional impact it could have had if it had been handled even slightly better.

The game’s only redeeming feature is the much vaunted “dart” system which allows you access to the cliched bullet time and an Arkham Asylum type X-ray vision, and also three more interesting single player abilities Persuasion, Backfire and Suicide. Persuasion can be used to take over an enemy and have him fight on your side for 20 seconds. Suicide forces an enemy to off them selves, while backfire deals some damage and stuns the opponent. All of these abilities are charged by killing opponents and the system works well.  It can be upgraded when you find more advanced chips (read: when the game tells you that you can) but the advancements come too slowly for there to be much weight, and the upgrades are passive abilities which don’t shake the core system up very much.

I do have a few more niggles, mostly small things. The games music is completely underwhelming, bar the “sad” score to the train murder-a-thon and one instance of actually rather good music, A shoot out in a night club takes place to something like a Daft-Punk dub step remix, Which actually went down as one of my favorite moments of the game.  The game has ridiculously long loading times, which fire up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. you die. It feels unnecessary since the levels themselves aren’t that big. This game also has something like QTE’s when you mass the X button to open a door, but since it’s not timed and there is no way to fail it makes me wonder why they felt this was worth putting it.

Overall this game was probably worth the 7 quid I paid for it, if barely. It’s a competent shooter, if far too short. The plot is terrible and the characters are pointless, but much like so many action films of days gone by if you want to just sit there with your mind switched off and kill stuff the mechanics are here for you too do just that.