By Egge 0 Comments
Syndicate's singleplayer campaign has received some mixed reviews - with most of the praise being reserved for the co-op mode - but personally I very much appreciate the offline gameplay as well. Comparing it (as some have done) to Eidos Montreal's similarily cyberpunk-flavored Deus Ex: Human Revolution is rather unfair, since that game was a dialogue- and stealth-heavy RPG and as such has very little in common with the kind of slightly unusual but decidedly action-oriented games which Starbreeze Studios have been making for the last decade or so.
Syndicate's generic script and two-dimensional characters certainly won't win any prizes (despite voice work from surprisingly high profile actors like Brian Cox and Rosario Dawson) but, more importantly, the overall FPS design is really good and includes satisfying weapons, excellent sound design and a few neat special abilities which spice things up without at the same time overwhelming the player with too many things to keep track of in the middle of game's the fast-paced combat. Just as DX:HR, Syndicate's slick, chilly art style suffers a bit on the PC from multiplatform-related restrictions in terms of texture and effects quality etc. but nonetheless manages to provide a solid framework for some visually striking environments which remind me a bit of Battlefield 3's urban areas mixed with Mirror's Edge's cool IKEA dystopianism. I imagine that Swedish developers Starbeeze and DICE have had a direct influence on each other, especially considering that their headquarters (in the cities of Uppsala and Stockholm, respectively) are very close to each other geographically.
In any case, Syndicate's 4-player co-op is also rather nice and has been described as "Brink done right" by people who know more about online shooting than I ever will. What is certainly true is that the hectic online-oriented missions require proper management of the game's special abilities and includes an almost RPG-like number of unlockables both in terms of skills and weapons for customization in accordance with one's playstyle. The MMO-like elite units/boss fights in particular require the group to engage in a lot of well-timed "de-buffing" while staying away from the most damaging attacks and heal downed squad mates when necessary.
Just like Digital Extremes' The Darkness 2 before it, Syndicate is not quite memorable enough to not risk getting completely lost in the veritable flood of FPS releases (and I think it's fair to say that Jeff Gerstmann's glowing Giant Bomb review will remain a slightly curious outlier), but fans of quirky shooters would do well to check it out.