Syndicate gets a 9.5 Arbitrary Rating
By Derek Sweet
It’s back! It’s really back!
Syndicate is a game that takes place in a world where massive corporations control governments and their citizens through overbearing monetary power and subtle propaganda, using elite squads of soldiers from their corporate armies to battle and steal from each other in global corporate warfare.
• Published By: Electronic Arts
• Developed by: Starbreeze Studios
• Release Date: February 21, 2012
• System Reviewed: Xbox 360 (Also available on PS3, PC)
I know what you’re thinking: “But wait, Derek, aren’t video games supposed to take place in fantasy worlds? That sounds exactly like the world we live in!” You’re right! But this is in the future and cars can fly. It’s different.
Syndicate comes to us from one of my favorite developers, creators of the original “The Darkness” game, Starbreeze Studios. They were tasked with a difficult objective: Recreate one of the best strategy RPGs of the 90s as an FPS and do not get your studio burned down by an angry mob of old-skool gamers.
The original Syndicate was probably one of the best games of my childhood, and not just because of the cool way that they said the word “Syndicate” when the game loaded up. No, behind that awesome sound effect was a game that many passed over but none should have.
I’m surprised, actually, how few of my friends had even heard of the series when this loving recreation was announced. It was one of the earliest entries in what is now called the Tactics genre. That’s how mutha-f’in old-skool Syndicate-dog is, bitch, didn’t even have a genre back in tha day, shiiiit.
The new game is a first-person shooter and therefore is completely different from the original, but they share the same universe and lore. On the topic of lore, man, is there ever a lot of it! When it comes to an FPS game that’s exactly what you want to be doing, right? Reading? Not shooting people in the head?
I love my lore as much as the next nerd but even I found it to be a bit too much in Syndicate. Seemed like every two or three times I murdered someone I had to read their life story, and empathy isn’t exactly the emotion you want to have for someone who’s brain you just sploded.
Fortunately the lore entries are easily skipped if you are not neurotic like myself and don’t care to read them.
Some have complained about the graphics in this game, saying that the lights are too bright and everything is generally over-exposed, but I completely disagree. What they went for was a specific artistic style and it worked tremendously well in my opinion. It reminded me a bit of the acclaimed style in Mirror’s Edge, but with high-def textures instead of bland solid colors.
The gunfire in this game is solid. If you’re a fan of the F.E.A.R. series you will feel right at home with the patches of slow-mo combat. You are also able to remotely hack into people’s brains! You can force them to kill themselves and everyone around them with a grenade, cause their gun to backfire, or make them fight on your side for a few minutes.
If only I could do that with my mother-in-law! Haha… Ha… Yeah… *crickets*
I liked the story in the game, a lot, but I do agree with the other reviewers out there that it wraps itself up way too quickly and conveniently at the end. Now that I’ve restarted the campaign I can see all the foreshadowing, but they didn’t convey it well on a first play through, making the end seem very rushed and contrived. This is a minor complaint, however, given how awesome most of the game was to play and how much fun the second play-through has been.
Some reviewers have complained that the game is too hard, particularly the bosses, and I just really hope those guys get their skirts hemmed before they head out for their ballet lessons. Was the game challenging? Yes. Should games be challenging? Yes! Stop expecting video games to be interactive movies, grow some testicles, and get out there and kick some ass!
Coupled with the quite good single player game is probably one of the best co-op experiences we’ve ever been given. Team up with 3 other friends and take on 9 objective-based missions that are recreations of levels from the original 1993 game.
There’s nothing like a good co-op game to remind yourself of how old you’re getting, though, as finding three other dudes in their early 30s that all don’t have their kids that night, or work to do, is as hard as finding philosophical substance in a Justin Bieber song.
Fortunately the matchmaking is really solid and I’ve never had to wait more than a few minutes for a game to start with strangers.
I really love the co-op experience Syndicate offers and have already spent more time playing it than the campaign. There is a scoring system and the ability to improve your character and weapons with the experience you earn which always makes wasting your life away with a game seem more palatable.
It looks a lot like Call of Duty when you’re playing: 100 points per kill, extra for a headshot, partial points for an assist. But you’re not shooting at human opponents; you’re competing with your fellow humans to see who can get the most NPC kills. You also get points for healing your mates.
It’s a nice change of pace from the brutal competition of a traditional kill-em-all multiplayer experience which can often leave you frustrated and wanting to torture and murder your joystick like it was in a Saw film.
“I want to play a game…. It’s called Syndicate. It’s dope, yo!” – Jigsaw.
I can’t recommend Syndicate enough – mostly because I want people out there to play co-op with. It’s an ulterior motive, for sure, but the game also happens to be solid so you won’t be disappointed. Whether you were a fan of the original or new to the series there is a lot of fun to be had here.
Arbitrary Rating: 9.5
Derek Sweet is a professional touring comedian and writer. Check his website for clips and tour dates: http://www.dereksweet.com.