I really don’t have fond memories of the very first Syndicate, or any memories at all, actually. I never even knew the game existed until this game was announced. Luckily, you don’t need to know much (or anything) for that matter, about the first game to enjoy the new Syndicate.
The year is 2069. Corporations and large companies rule the world with big bank accounts and domination products. Corporate espionage runs rampant, as companies try to find out what their competitors are up to and working on. That’s where you come in. You play as an agent named Kilo, working for the mega-corporation called EuroCorp. Agents have been modified with a special electronic brain chip called the DART chip. With the DART chip installed, agents become super soldiers that can see through walls, break electronic devices with their mind, and even force other chip users to do their bidding. An all new DART prototype is rumored to be in development that could possibly change everything. Kilo is sent to investigate an enemy corporation for duplicates.
The game is a standard first person shooter with a few unique aspects thrown in. You can carry two guns at a time, throw grenades, and change alternate fire on certain weapons. Like I said above, it’s all standard. What sets the game apart are the special abilities you can use with the DART chip. There are three main abilities you can use in the single player: Suicide, Backfire, and Persuade. When using Suicide, you force an enemy to kill themselves. When this happens, a large force wave will knock down any surrounding enemies. Backfire overloads an enemy’s gun, does minor damage, and leaves the person vulnerable for attack. Finally, Persuade will force an enemy to turn on his allies and help you by attacking them. When all enemies are dead, the hypnotized man kills himself. The abilities are brutal, and when used correctly, can be what saves you in a life or death situation. All of these require energy that can be obtained through performing well. You will gain energy by performing headshots, kills, and breaches.
There is also a special mode Kilo can go into using the DART Overlay. This will slow down time, show all the enemies even through cover, and boost your attack and defense.
This ability will recharge over time.
The only real problem I had with the single player was the boss fights. They were just so tedious to the point of frustration. All of them boiled down to who can last the longest. More times than not, I would die multiple times. Luckily, the game has a decent checkpoint system, so I didn’t lose much progress. There are even checkpoints during the boss fights.
The single player campaign will tell the story of Kilo in the corporate world of espionage and hostel takeovers. It is somewhat short at around 5-6 hours, but what really shines and what sets Syndicate apart from other shooters in the genre is the cooperative multiplayer. Here, you and three other players can take on 9 objective-based missions through online co-op. You have an all new set of powers to use in the co-op. Many of them focus on squad buffs, healing, shields, and special breaching abilities for the boss fights. The boss fights in the co-op play out much differently. You and your squad must work together to take out enemy agents and brutes. It’s more about coordinating abilities at the right time. You can also extract chips from downed boss characters that will allow you to upgrade your agent with new perks.
Aside from obtaining new perks, in the co-op portion of the game, you can also upgrade your weapons, powers, and learn all new skills by earning experience points, weapon upgrade blueprints, and chip upgrade blueprints. Once you unlock a new blueprint, you can then begin to research that upgrade, and when it is fully researched, you gain that upgrade. Every weapon and power is customizable. The customization in the co-op is very extensive. You can also create your own syndicate. It serves much like a clan where you can invite your friends and other players you meet to work under your corporation. There are also leader boards and stat tracking that compares your syndicate to others around the world. It’s a really nice touch.
There are a few problems with the co-op mode. I experienced a good amount of game breaking glitches where I would get stuck in an animation and couldn’t move, the game froze up, and clipping issues where I would get stuck in the floor. The single player had none of this, but it seemed like every other time I played the multiplayer, either I would have an issue or one of my teammates would.
I think the visuals and the overall feel of the game is great. A futuristic world where corporate hitmen can get away with almost anything is a very bleak, but action packed, ride. The one thing I didn’t like about the art style was the overuse of light bloom. You would think JJ Abrams directed this game there’s so much of it. It’s not like it’s there to make it look nice. It actually hinders the game play. I was honestly blinded in some parts of the campaign and co-op missions.
Overall, I think Syndicate is a good game. The single player is short, but offers up a decent little take on futuristic corporate espionage. The multiplayer is where the game really shines. If you have some friends to play with, you’ll have a blast. The shooting is well done, and the powers are really fun to use. With the customization in place and the multiple difficulties for the missions, you can easily sink 20 hours into the co-op if you let it hook you. If your looking for a fun time with some friends online, you just found your game.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.