The original Syndicate was a cult classic on the PC, with a real-time tactical approach to the battlefield. Fast forward to present time and a new Syndicate game is in the works – but it might shock fans of the old games, because it is a completely different beast. I recently got to sit down with the game in Sin City and play about with the title.
Syndicate takes place in 2069, where the world is no longer governed by politicians, leaving fate up to three mega corporations known as Syndicates, who wage a never-ending war to control the market place. Each Syndicate places a chip inside the people loyal to them, allowing the people access to all the perks of their group but also allows the Syndicate all kinds of access into their lives. Your role in all of this is as Miles Kilo, a beefed up agent of Eurocorp, who is out to do what his bosses tell him, until something is sure to go wrong. The mission I played had Miles trying to retrieve a chip from a rival corporation’s worker, who decides when you reach him to kill himself, trying to seal the tech. However, as any good agent would do, Miles simply rips the chip out of the guy’s head through his ear, making for one gruesome scene.
First off, Syndicate strays away from its roots as a real-time tactics game and instead goes the route of a fast-paced action shooter. However, the game goes far deeper than just your run of the mill shooter, as players must also use an ability called breach, which will allow you to hack into enemies brain chips. In doing this, you can control enemies, making them fight for you or commit a gruesome suicide where they pull the pin of their grenade but forget to throw it. As I made my way through the demo, I quickly discovered that to win in Syndicate, you HAVE to use your breach ability, there is really no way around it. If you try to just shoot your way through the entire game, you will find yourself dying far too often, as the enemy AI in this game is smart and they will find a way to flank you. The use of these abilities are not unlimited though, so after use you must refill your adrenaline meter, which is done by killing enemies, so it is a nice balance between the two fighting styles.
Breaching is not limited to attacking measures, as you can use this ability to withdraw cover on enemies or unlock a door, with these non-combat abilities not costing you anything on your adrenaline meter. In fact, there was one battle in particular where I was able to remove cover on 4 enemies and then proceed to force one of them to suicide, then take out the rest with my gun. In one section of the game, I also had to use my breaching to hack into a door, then use my gun that can set a target and hit it with bullets no matter where you aim, to blow open the lock on another door. It is this kind of strategy on top of the shoot em up action that looks to set Syndicate apart from some of the competition.
Besides the ability to breach, your character also has an advanced chip inside of him called the Dart-6 brain chip, which allows him to slow down time and take out enemies in a precise manner or look around the room to plan his next move, as enemies can be viewed through walls or any kind of cover. This is an extremely useful mode if you catch yourself in a huge firefight or you just need a second to think, but once it has run out, you have to wait for it to refill until it can be used again, so use it wisely. I actually didn’t find myself using this feature too often, but I am sure when the fights get a bit more intense later on, this is something that will come in handy.
When I was done with my demo time, I didn’t just walk away from the station, instead I just sat there thinking to myself, this is one hell of a game. The game feels somewhat like Deus Ex but then again nothing like it. The game is a brutal, fast-paced, in your face game, full of augmented agents, brain chips, and corruption. Now, when I say brutal I mean it – the game does not shy away from getting a little blood on its controller. In fact, during one scene I was actually tasked with forcing a man to kill his partner, his mother, his dog Marley, and himself… Well actually only his partner and himself, but I think you get the point.
While many fans of the original might still be offended by the change, developer Starbreeze is confident that even those people will fall in love with the new take on this series. After my time with the demo, I am starting to see their point. Early returns are promising, as Syndicate looks to be a hit when it releases February 21st for the PS3 and Xbox 360.