Syndicate PC Review

Allow me to make one thing clear from the very beginning: The heart and
soul of this game lies in the Co-Op, and the marketing for it has always
made that point very clear.

Now that this is out of the way, let’s be tidy and start with the Single Player aspect of the game.

As
far as length goes, a skilled gamer with a minimal preference to
explore will complete this game in 7 to 9 hours under Normal difficulty
(three settings: Easy, Normal, Hard). The bulk of the game is
challenging, if not too hard, and so are the boss fights (Yeah, you
heard it right, old-school bosses in a shooter. I loved that) so long as
you realize that you cannot just fight them blindly: They require
specific strategies to take down, much like ye olde bosses from ye olden
games. Which is a huge plus in my book. Bosses grant character
upgrades, but unlike in co-op, they are rather limited. More on this
later.

The storytelling (notice storyTELLING specifically), as in
how the MAIN plot is presented to you during actual gameplay, is pretty
utilitarian. Nothing to write home about; Won’t bore you to tears but
it’s not much better than a simple “meh”. It’ll simply suffice to give
you a reason to go around. The voice actors are actually really good at
their job. EUROCORP CEO Jack Denham is particularily amazing, there is
something about his voice and performance that simply drills right into
your soul.

Now, the thing with this game is that there is SO, SO
MUCH STORY underneath the TELLING. What is presented to you is nothing
but a veil of lies and deception: There are much deeper reasons, much
deeper CAUSES behind the CONSEQUENCES that you get to experience during
actual gameplay. If you like exploring, a series of collectables in the
form of hidden propaganda, business cards and intelligence are spread
throughout the delightful scenarios. After you have collected those, you
can read deeper into the story in a menu called “InfoBank” accessible
by hitting the ‘tab’ key mid-game. The more you collect, the more you
will know, and once you have enough, if you like conspiracies and
connecting the dots, you will see through the lies and discover the
unlikely puppet master behind the entirety of the plot, choreographing
everything to play right into his/her agenda. I will tell you this much,
nothing in the game is an accident. And even though I cannot say I
particularily endorse having to go out of your way to discover what the
story REALLY was about, if you do, you will be rewarded with a rich
understanding of a world that is significantly deeper than what you see
on the surface.

Ultimately, the Single Player campaign’s story is
what you make out of it: Collect everything and read into the backstory
and it is very interesting to see how it all lead to what you actually
get to play. Don’t, and it SEEMS like an empty, average and meh generic
shooter full of plot holes.

Now, let’s go into actual gameplay:
Fast and frantic. Both you and your enemies have higher health pools and
resilience than what is seen in other games like, say, Call of Duty.
Also, weapons have very tight accuracy and spread even when firing from
the hip: This is very reminiscent of glorious PC shooters such as quake,
and even though your movement speed is lower, strafing and jumping will
not affect your hip firing accuracy. Shooting missiles or explosive
shotgun shells at enemies’ feet is particularily endearing, and a
delicious throwback to using rocket launchers in Unreal Tournament. The
ultimate feel of the game is a very fun and genuinely refreshing and
enjoyable mixture of old-school arcade and modern FPS gunplay.

Then
there is your DART6 chip: Gives you the ability to highlight enemies in
orange against dark backdrops and see them through walls as well as
take more bullets, deal higher damage and slow down time (this last
thing only happens in Single Player). This skill, the DART6 Overlay,
lasts for a short while and recharges through time as well as murdering
enemies. Beside this, there are DART6 Applications: Unique skills that
can be directly and offensively aimed at enemies and are only recharged
through combat: Killing sprees, multi-kills, headshots and optimal usage
of Applications all grant bonus points towards recharging your other
Apps and the Overlay, as well as giving you a rating at the end of each
stage (how very delightfully old school this is, actively rewarding
balls-out skill).

Examples of apps are Breach, which can disable
enemy armors and shields, Suicide, which causes an enemy to commit
suicide with a grenade, taking out any surrounding foes, Backfire, which
causes up to three enemies to have their weapons backfire and cause
damage to themselves as well as making them more vulnerable, Persuade
(based on the original Syndicate’s Persuadertron) which has an enemy
change sides for a while and ultimately blow his own brains off…

Enter Co-Op, where pretty much everything I have said regarding gameplay gets MUCH BETTER.

Let’s
start with Applications: There are more, they can be customized, they
can be upgraded. There are SEVERAL of these, none of them senseless
fluff or filler. Things like putting up a shield for the whole team
which, once depleted, results in an EMP blast that incapacitates nearby
enemies, Damage Link which enhances the damage output of all team
members momentarily, Squad Heal (exactly what it says on the tin) and so
on. All of them are recharged in the same way as their SinglePlayer
brethren: Through skillful gameplay.

The Breach Application,
available always and by default, can also be applied to friendlies in
co-op, healing or reviving them and granting bonus points to the healing
samaritan. This in turn encourages tight team play, as aiding your
teammates directly results in benefits for you. While breaching (healing
or reviving) a teammate, you can move around and defend yourself,
although strafing and jumping around while holding down ‘E’, while not
impossible or even particularily hard, proves an entertaining task.

By
earning Experience (basically the points you get by generally being
awesome) you level up your character, getting a series of permanent
upgrades

And this one of the aspects which is just monumentally
better in co-op: As you level up, your character transforms into a
lithe, high-health murder machine, reminiscent of Quake, Unreal, Serious
Sam and the like. Upgrades such as 30% higher health, 20% better armor,
50% better accuracy and spread and infinite sprint are all geared
towards making your character more and more like ye ole’ FPS protagonist
that jumps around dodging bullets and launching rockets. Upgrades are
permanent and, by level 30 (takes a good while) you’ll have them all.

And
you will need them. Them, and teamwork. Because Co-Op is nothing like
Single Player. It will kick your ass. Available settings: Normal, Hard
and Extreme. Easy? Pshaw! Easy is for little girlymen!

Once you
get closer and closer to level 30, you’ll become increasingly
“one-man-army”er, and if you are skilled in shooters, it’s likely that
you’ll be able to beat all co-op missions in normal by yourself.
However, Hard and Extreme will DEFINITELY require you to sweat bullets
and have equally skilled, max-leveled peers by your side if you do not
wish to be sodomized by the game. You will need good aim, a penchant for
moving around dodging enemy fire like crazy and, at the same time, a
blood-written oath to stick together and apply TACTICS. Yes, you heard
me, TACTICS. Such as MMORPG favorites by the likes of slowly luring
enemies away from their pack. Healing, reviving and team-orientented
DART6 Apps will be the order of the day. Oh, and bullets flying
everywhere.

The missions are slightly randomized, more so as you
ramp up the difficulty: Different types of enemies will randomly spawn
or come in dropships in different parts of the stages completely
unpredictably. And even though the “main forces” will always appear in
the same place, as difficulty increases so will the number of random
enemy spawns. This, and the fact that enemies use wildly different
strategies in harder difficulty settings instead of blindly charging you
and spraying lead will ensure every play through every stage will be
different and just as exhilarating as the last.

Recommended for
people who like reading into backstory (such as MGS fans), frantic
old-school gunplay and tactics(IE people who enjoyed 1990’s PC FPS) and
co-operative multiplayer.

No, there is no PvP competitive multiplayer.    

Verdict: 80/100

Details:
Genre

Shooter
Style

First-Person Shooter
Release Date

February 21, 2012
Developer

Starbreeze Studios
Publisher

Electronic Arts
Controls

Mouse, Joystick/Gamepad, Keyboard

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