STAFF REVIEW of Syndicate (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012.
by Adam Dileva

Syndicate Box art Ive never played the original Syndicate series back on the PC almost two decades ago, but I know some people were confused with the announcement of the new game, as it was originally an isometric view strategy game. Its now been changed into a FPS title, though fans of the original will see some nods of nostalgia, as key elements, themes, and settings have carried over into this reboot. Developed by Starbreeze, whos had success with the Chronicles of Riddick games and The Darkness, youll be plunged into a world with unique visuals and some interesting mechanics behind it, to try and make it stand out in the overcrowded genre.

Written by fiction author Richard Morgan, the year is 2069 and you control Miles Kilo, an agent for Eurocorp. The world has changed drastically in the past fifty years, as Mega-corporations known as Syndicates essentially has complete rule over everything. These syndicates developed a chip that can be implanted into any human being, and when it went public, people flocked in droves to get them, as you were given a better life for doing so and can now access the datascape, which is basically the Internet 2.0. The catch is that these Syndicates now have absolute insight into any chipped person and can even control them if they desire. It turns out that over half the worlds inflated population has been chipped, and a team of agents were created to keep the corporations interests safe from the other rival companies.

Being an elite agent, you also gain unique abilities from your prototype implant and an overlay that interacts seamlessly with real life with an almost invisible HUD. You can toggle an alternate vision mode that helps highlight enemies and even heightens your reflexes and tracks enemies positions behind cover and through walls. Youll be thrust into a tale of espionage, but the few curveballs it throws at you for its narrative, youll sadly see coming a mile away. For such an interesting and somewhat plausible premise, it feels like the story eventually falls flat nearing halfway and I quickly stopped caring why I was doing what I was doing.

Your implant is a unique DART 6 chip that is not only cutting edge, but will also allow you to breach and hack into other chip users and systems. Your HUD shows updates in real time and even an ammo counter floats above your weapons as if it was attached there in real life. Dart Vision allows you to use an overlay to easily distinguish enemies from friendlies and doing so will also slow down time to line up shots and also grants you the ability to see your foes through walls. Youll also take less damage while using Dart Vision, so it becomes imperative later in the game to simply stay alive.

Youll gain some unique abilities with your Dart 6 chip as well that can be used against your enemies. The backfire ability will cause the ammunition in the enemys weapons to damage themselves and knock them back. During this quick stun, theyll also take double damage and will be needed to quickly disperse packs of adversaries. The suicide ability will cause the targeted enemy to grab his own grenade and blow himself and anyone else nearby up for some easy kills. Lastly you gain access to hack into peoples chips and persuade them. When you persuade, youll cause them to fight for you for a short while, and then hell kill himself in the end to make things easier on you.

Your main ability is going to be breaching, and youll use this to toggle switches, unlock doors, and drop the armor of certain enemies. You breach (essentially hack anything from a distance) almost anything with a chip implant, so some of the strategy comes in breaching some enemies to drop their guard or armor, then finishing them off with your arsenal.

Speaking of arsenal, the star of a FPS has to be its weapons, and while youll gain access to your standard assault rifles, sniper rifles, SMGs, and shotguns, youll also access some massive weaponry later on, such as a minigun with infinite ammo, a flamethrower that can fry anything from a distance, and even a gun that can lock onto enemies and seemingly shoot around corners.

The few bosses you do get to battle are quite interesting and frustrating at the same time. Some seem to be unshootable where others are no brainers to figure out their trick. Defeating bosses and getting to set story arcs will also grant you upgrades for your chip which you then get to choose what skills and attributes to upgrade based on your play style. You can choose from health upgrades, breaching quicker or more enemies, weapon proficiencies such as quicker reloads or more ammo, and many more to customize Kilo. While you wont get to fully upgrade every skill by the end of the campaign, youll have a good selection of the better skills come credit rolls.

Somewhat unexpected, was the inclusion of a four player online co-op mode that take place over nine unique missions that are said to be re-imagined from the original Syndicate. As I said, I never played the original, so I cant vouch for these claims, but I can say that I did enjoy the co-op experience. While you can technically play these missions solo, I dont suggest it, as the game is tuned for four players and doesnt scale down for less people. Keep in mind those with real life friends that want to play on the same couch, there will be none of that here, as theres no split screen co-op at all.

Before you jump into one of the nine missions, you setup your weapon loadouts and abilities. This is where things slightly differ from the campaign mode, as your chip abilities are vastly different and are more group focused that seem to fit a role of offensive, defensive, or support. I kept getting matched up with people that rarely used their abilities, so I went defensive and was able to heal and shield my squad in battle. If you play with some friends, I can see some abilities that would work very well together if playing as a true team.

Everyone has the breaching ability to defuse incoming grenades, open doors, and revive downed teammates, but its the unique abilities that you upgrade that will make these missions much easier or difficult. Youll gain levels and upgrade tokens for simply playing online and completing missions; using these ability tokens can be used to unlock new abilities and the weapon tokens can unlock new weapons to use. You can go even further and upgrade specific skills to be more powerful or quicker, and weapons to have better attachments and statistics. While it doesnt take a terribly long time to gain these much needed upgrades, a great team will help it happen much quicker and with ease. A team with diverse abilities will work very well in some of the more challenging missions that require a large amount of team work.

The voice acting is superb across the board, though I found the music lacking. Not the quality, but more the frequency of a memorable score aside from a few specific boss fights and set pieces. The breaching mechanic is fun when used properly in tandem with your arsenal, though the co-op experience was much more diverse with the numerous abilities than the single player campaign.

While Syndicate has a great premise and story, the story telling is paced too slow to keep interest high, a plot twist youll see coming because its been done many times before, and sadly the ending is very disappointing and unsatisfying. Syndicate in the end felt very mediocre aside from a few of the weapons and the boss fights. I know Ill forget this game in a short time, and if it wasnt for the interesting co-op, it probably would have been scored lower.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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