PLATFORM: XBOX 360
When Syndicate was first released as a tactical shooter in 1993, the concept of technology megacorporations going to war probably seemed possible, but far off. Now we have vicious patent wars clogging court systems around the world.
The 2012 reboot of Syndicate takes the concept of these wars a step further. The year is 2069, and the majority of humans have been implanted with a chip from their preferred giant conglomerate. This chip is connected to the “dataverse”, as the game’s intro puts it, and renders digital devices obsolete. Those without a chip are disconnected, both from data and from society — most without chips, it seems, are homeless. Conglomerates are in competition with each other for the best chip technology: a violent, bloody war.
Your character, Kilo, is an elite agent working for one of the big corporations, EuroCorp. Kilo’s chip enables him to force other people with chips to commit suicide, make weapons backfire, and manipulate enemies into fighting on his side. He uses these abilities to infiltrate enemy corporations and steal in formation, among other things.
Some fans dislike that a tactical shooter has been turned into a first-person shooter. Having never played the original game, however, I found the Syndicate reboot interesting both in story and in gameplay. Aside from the vast collection of guns available, there are two main combat mechanics — ‘breaching’ and the ‘data overlay’.
When you ‘breach’, your chip interacts with various devices. You hold a button for a certain length of time then use powers or interact with objects in the room. Using breaches tactically and strategically is the key to fighting the tough battles, but they have a cooldown period. In order to replenish the breaches power, Kilo has to kill enemies.
The data overlay is essentially bullet time — pressing a button will turn on the overlay and slow down time for your enemies, so you can fire a larger number of bullets in a shorter period of time. Power upgrades, which you gain by harvesting microchips directly from other people’s heads, can give your data overlay extra powers such as additional healing. The data overlay also enables you to see any enemies you’ve prev1oily spotted, even if they disappear behind cover.
The 6-7 hour campaign can get tough even on normal difficulty. The boss battles are hard, but there arc also times when you’ll get swarmed with hordes of low-level bad guys; you’ll die a lot.
The final boss battle took about ten minutes — but it lasted two hours if you include respawns. It wasn’t difficult to figure out what to do, but it was difficult to actually do it.
Once you’re done with the campaign, you can move onto co-op multiplayer. Like Left4Dead, you gather a group of four players — there are two women and two men to choose from — and run through special levels completing tasks. It could be that you have to wipe out all the enemies in the area, or you might have to collect objects and take them to a particular point on the map.
You can heal and revive your squad mates and while it can be tough, you start to feel pretty badass gun fling dudes down, breaching objects, healing others and completing objectives. Even when you die a lot, Syndicate’s multiplayer makes you ice1 powerful.
None of the mechanics of Syndicate are particularly new, and the storyline has been done before — take Deus Ex, or even the original Syndicate — and those points arc its major downfalls. But the breaching and data overlay mechanics feel novel, even if they’re not. The satisfaction of using these mechanics in combination to pull off some really sweet moves makes the game well worth your time.