Review: Syndicate (Xbox 360)

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a review for the site, but tonight, I decided I’d pick up my review cap and talk about a game I’ve been looking forward to playing for about a year now.

It’s not one of my most anticipated titles of 2012, but its a game that didn’t receive a ton of hype, and was definitely lost behind all the other great titles that dropped last year.

Syndicate brings us something a little familiar, bearing similarity to Deus Ex: Human Revolution in terms of its sci-fi action shooter style, but it is also a reboot to a series of games from the early 90s, thus taking the tactical shooter that it was and so-to-say “modernizing” it for a newer audience. How so? Making it an FPS. Yeah, that’s something we’re all too familiar with now, as new, decent IPs are sometimes hard to come by in this day and age.

But let’s get down to business. Syndicate has a somewhat complex story, and as I am not familiar with the lore of its predecessors, I took the liberty of doing a little research.

Developed by Starbreeze Studios and published by EA, Syndicate takes place in the not-so-distant future spanning between the year 2017, signifying the birth of Eurocorp, a mega-corporation which specializes in building up and training syndicate soldiers to carry out missions like agents, and 2069, the current year the game takes place in. Syndicates implanted with a “DART chip” gain access to the dataverse and can render most electronic devices obsolete, having total control over the environment. With this kind of technology, the need for government is no longer an option, and so the agents with DART chips are given higher treatment over regular, unchipped citizens. All bio-engineered, chip-controlled soldiers carry out the interests and commands of their corporate masters, in this case, Eurocorp, for example.

We’re introduced to our main character, Miles Kilo, also known as DART-6, which is the latest chip he’s been implanted with created by senior Eurocorp engineer Lily Drawl (voiced by Rosario Dawson). Accompanied by mentor Agent Merit (voiced by Michael Wincott), the soldiers are order by Eurocorp CEO Jack Denham (voiced by Brian Cox) to assassinate Drawl’s counterpart at a rival corporation, in order to get a leg up on the competition. Throughout the game, you progress through the campaign’s 20 action-packed missions, and uncover more about yourself, while at the same time kicking some augmented butt.

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The weapons in this game are probably my favorite weapons I’ve seen in a while for a first-person shooter, although like Shadows of the Damned as I mentioned in that review, ammunition is not scarce, and you will find yourself gaining the upper hand more times with an insane amount of ammunition to stock up on. You get weapons such as assault rifles, pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, EMP grenades, and even some fun weapons like a gatling gun and flamethrower to give you that feeling of ruling with an iron fist over the weak lackeys. Utilizing your DART 6 chip, you can slow down time by pressing the RB button and kill unsuspecting, slower foes, or you can toggle through “breaching” abilities on the D-pad, which allow you to take control of an enemy and turn the tables during a battle.

This feature is quite unique to the first-person shooter franchise. With the “suicide” breach, you can engage the enemy to kill themselves and damage nearby foes. “Persuade” makes the enemy temporarily become the player’s ally and fire back at foes, before killing himself, and “Backfire” blows the enemy’s weapons up, stunning them for a short time. These types of features in the game allow for something fresh that I hadn’t experienced before, and although I found it quite disturbing to watch the enemy AI commit suicide right in front of me, in an eerie way, you start to forget about it the more you use it. Does that make me a little twisted? Perhaps.

The game also comes with a four-player co-operative online mode with its own separate campaign based on missions from the game. I have yet to try the campaign, so I will not include its merits within this review.

Despite containing several plot holes, story and character inconsistencies as well as a somewhat overly developed story which feels too big for such a short amount of game, the real experience you get is in the action. I’d hate to admit it, but I found more story out of playing both Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1 and 2 than I did in Syndicate. Now I went into this game with lowered expectations given that I had seen extremely mixed reviews on this title, including low 3s and 4s up to mid 7s and 8s out of 10 for the game, but I’m somewhere in the middle, and I’m willing to give this game the benefit of the doubt.

From left to right: Lily Drawl, Agent Merit, and Jack Denham

From left to right: Lily Drawl, Agent Merit, and Jack Denham

 

You could tell Starbreeze Studios put a lot of time and effort into bringing Syndicate into the 21st century (even though its probably well into the 21st century in the game). Rebooting a series from the past is always a risky move for developers, because not only are they looking to gain a new fan base, but they’re hoping not to piss off the fan base the series has built up for years. To be honest, I’m not sure how big of a series Syndicate is, or was, but I’m sure it had its fan base.

As a middle-ground, modern-day gamer with no prior knowledge of the series, I thoroughly enjoyed Syndicate because it was just plain-old-shooting-baddies fun. You have awesome weapons with great trigger response, you’ve got deadly breaching perks which add for some incredibly addictive gameplay aesthetics, and you’ve got an atmosphere built on fantasy which looks ahead to a completely technological age where we, ourselves, have total control over the universe.

Of course, the music definitely sets the mood very well. I don’t mind a little Skrillex dubstepping during my first boss fight; that was absolutely awesome. Getting on to boss fights, I was a little confused as to the difficulty layout of the bosses. It seemed to spike at the top, slowly decline in difficulty, but spike back up just in time for the final fight. Now I can’t remember a game where the bosses felt as though they got progressively easier, but in the end, I still had a ton of fun with the game regardless.

Campaign length, story and character development are definitely its weak points, and it holds Syndicate back from getting a higher score in my opinion. And I’m sorry, but if I as a gamer can find more story and character development in a Modern Warfare game, then you know there’s a problem. Sadly I couldn’t invest myself in these characters. They are definitely not memorable. The story is all too easy to predict, but most of all, there’s just holes that I felt needed to be filled in some areas where I was left scratching my head. I wasn’t going to sit back and read all of the documents I picked up in the game, because that’s not fun. Give me some more engaging details within cutscenes or cinematics, something fresh in that aspect.

To conclude, I’d say this game deserves a try, but if you’re a fan of story and character-driven games, like myself, please leave that cap at the door, you may be disappointed.

FINAL SCORE: 6.5 out of 10

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