Got Minigun? – Syndicate Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
I’ve not been quiet about my cautious optimism for the Syndicate reboot helmed by Starbreeze Studios. Reimagining an IP is always a risky proposition, sticking a developer with the thankless job of walking the tightrope between modernization and keeping faith with the source material. The demo left me feeling a bit more relaxed about the whole thing and now, with retail copy in-hand, I’m ready to render my verdict. Does Syndicate pay dividends or is it a penny stock in disguise? Spin up your mini-guns and let’s find out.
As with most modern FPS titles, Syndicate is two separate games in one. The first game is a single player FPS much like many you’ve seen before in various configurations. Despite some entertaining voice work from a couple of sorta-famous folks, it’s a fairly throwaway FPS with a few interesting items in the mix. Introduction to the various weapons and the tactical applications of your breaching ability is nice and injects some fun, but pacing and some balancing issues (now taking bets on the shotgun being nerfed heavily in the first title update) lend themselves to frustration. Corporate warfare post-2060 and human enhancement are always fun wells to draw on for thematic devices, but, in a single-player format, we did that already back in August 2011 – and frankly did it better then. Does that mean you should pass this by? Not at all, because there’s another game on this disk…
The second game you’ll find is a Left-4-Dead style squad-based shooter with RPG elements mixed in, where teamwork and synergies make the difference between a twenty-minute run-through vs. an hour long uphill slog. Placing you in the steel-shank boots of an up-and-coming Syndicate agent, a mini-campaign will run you through several levels, each with three distinct levels of difficulty. Players will level up and earn tokens allowing for chip upgrades, as well as weapon and breach (ability) research. The missions mostly consist of the “if-it-moves-shoot-it” objectives, but intermingled in this are some fetch-and-carry missions and a few escort sections thrown in to round things out.
Of note is the level of difficulty in Syndicate. Particularly, how damnably accurate the enemies are. Their oh-so-human ability to spot any portion of your hitbox which is poking out from cover and open fire on it makes for some tough battles and an abundance of last-second saves from (hopefully) attentive teammates. A bit of randomization to the “hard” and “expert” difficulties makes for a nice touch and prevents players from becoming complacent. That lone trooper guarding the hard drives? Replaced with a Reactive-Armored Heavy with a thermal flamer. Those two agents who ambushed you in the tunnels and tore you up last time? No worries, just a big squad of regular troops this go-through – oh, except these ones have coil lasers, good luck!
Controls are standard FPS fare. Veterans of the CoD franchise will pick up and go, with the work Starbreeze has done on The Darkness serving them well here. Regardless of your familiarity, however, controls are simple and straightforward with breaches mapped to the D-pad and the rest of the suite requiring very little of a learning curve. At no point did I feel I was fighting the game; which is good because by the time you’re tackling missions on expert difficulty, you’ll have quite enough on your plate.
The visuals are solid. Even close-up to the enemy, you get to appreciate the detail in their models, particularly when performing a melee execution. As a nice touch, upgrades to weapons carry over into the in-game models. Scopes, suppressors, and the like, are on display in all their lethal glory to show the world the fruits of your labours. Environments ranging from city streets to corporate labs are well designed and are fitting to the world of Syndicate. The only real missteps here are some absolutely awful blooming issues with light sources and the fact that when in multiplayer, when someone speaks, their faces don’t move, at all.
Audio is a mixed bag. The website features remixes of the Syndicate theme from notables such as Skrillex and Nero, though with only the Skrillex track making it into the game. Other than that, the background music didn’t grab my attention and is unlikely to grab anyone else’s either. Weapon effects are hit and miss, although one could argue that modifications to the EQ of the audio device could compensate. Gunshots are a bit flat, though the aforementioned coil laser screams with an appropriate level of aggression. The sound of the mini-gun spinning up, however, always makes for a great intro to some unmitigated ass-kicking.
Overall, I’m happy to see that Starbreeze has done justice to the source material. Fans of the franchise will certainly feel at home and the door is wide open for a multiplayer-based sequel. Starbreeze has laid a good groundwork for expansions on the franchise and I’m excited and hopeful to see where they take it from here.
Wanderson75.net gives Syndicate 4.0/5.0
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