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Syndicate
Syndicate

PC | PlayStation 3 | Xbox 360
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Starbreeze Official Site: http://www.syndicate.ea.com
Publisher: Electronic Arts Classification: RC
Release Date:
24th February 2012
Syndicate

Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Starbreeze
Official Site: http://www.syndicate....
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Classification: RC
Release Date:
24th February 2012
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Syndicate Review
Review By @ 04:46pm 24/02/12
PC
As far as linear experiences go, the Battlefield 3s and Call of Dutys of this world are showing us that we gamers are willing to shell out shekels to blast their way from A to B in the way the developer dictates. Developers don’t need to necessarily offer us an open-world open-choice experience but, at least in the case of Syndicate, apparently they do have to offer cel-shaded graphics to get so-called high-impact violence past the Australian Classification Board (a la, The Darkness II).

For those unaware, Syndicate received the dreaded Refused Classification verdict from the Classification Board, and EA chose not to appeal the decision: neither offering an edited version of the game (as was the case with Left 4 Dead 2) nor arguing the case for the context of Syndicate’s violence (as SEGA successfully did with Aliens vs. Predator). But being the stubborn tyke that I am, I took a gamble and purchased an international copy of the game, banking on the fact that a) it would install b) it would unlock (Origin has a release date checking system) and c) that it would play. Thankfully, my gamble paid off.



Naturally, when playing a game banned from sale in Australia because of violence, that was the first thing I tested out; and I’ve got to say it’s pretty weak that this game got banned on the grounds of high-impact violence. Colour me desensitised, but particularly after playing through the brutal gore of The Darkness II, Syndicate feels like NHL 12 by comparison. Yes, there is blood spray, dismemberment and decapitations, but it feels both underplayed and organic in this sci-fi story about a bio-engineered chip-enhanced agent who is a veritable god amongst men.

Powerful enough weapons will blow enemies in half or separate limbs from torso but, outside of this and the occasional scripted up-close bloody chip extraction, the whole violence issue really is just a storm in a teacup. The post-mortem damage is consistent with the sort of damage that can be inflicted on the living, and the vast majority of enemies you’re fighting are more humanoid than human, boasting Iron Man levels of armour. As commented on by the Board, you can attack civilians—more often than not, they become collateral damage during intense firefights—but you can’t dismember or decapitate them. It’s all about context, really.

Further to the whole all-important ‘context’ factor that the Board love so much, Syndicate is set in a dystopian future where megacorporations have replaced traditional systems of government and consumers interact with the digital world by way of a neural chip implant. For everyday people, this makes it easier to do digital day-to-day things with the blink of an eye; for syndicate agents, such as the game protagonist Kilo, it offers whole new ways to take people out.

The onus of awesomeness is definitely on Kilo right from the get-go. Kilo is sporting the latest DART 6 bio-chip that enhances reflexes (reflected in-game as time slowing down), increases damage output, decreases damage input and lets him hack many items in the game world… including people. Make enemies’ weapons backfire, turn their guns or grenades on themselves or temporarily recruit them to fight for your cause. You’ll be able to hack into turrets to turn them on your foes, withdraw computer-controlled cover or even activate an elevator shaft that grunts are trying to use as cover with grisly results. You can even defuse grenades that are thrown at you or hack certain incoming rockets to activate ‘return to sender’ mode.



By far, the greatest thing about the hacking mechanic is how it doesn’t slow down gameplay in the slightest. Unlike BioShock or Deus Ex: Human Revolution, there is no hacking mini-game; instead, simply lock onto your target—be it a computer, turret or enemy head—and hold down the breach button (‘breach’ being the fancy word Starbreeze uses to describe hacking). This means that while you’re running through a frantic firefight, switching between weapons, fire modes, cover and which enemies you’re targeting, you’re also breaching various items in the game world.

The result is an extra level of player control mashed with a frequent feeling of frenzy as, for example, nullifying that incoming grenade might take your focus off incoming reinforcements, or an all-important headshot on a mini-boss who’s bearing down on you with a gatling gun. On the topic of gatling guns, Syndicate boasts the most satisfying gatling gun I’ve used in a game, to date. In fact, all of the sci-fi weapons offer a believable weight in terms of sound and impact; even, at times, erring on the side of overpowered.

Taking a page out of DICE’s book, Starbreeze has also run with the physicality motif, so you can take advantage of powerful single-hit takedowns, sprint and slide into cover or vault over waist-high objects. The vaulting doesn’t work as seamlessly as Battlefield 3, but considering how often you have to keep on the move, you will find yourself sprinting and sliding a lot.

It’s just a shame that the default controls don’t facilitate easier sprinting and sliding. Left Shift and left Control are the respective sprint and slide buttons, but it’s an awkward mess to roll your little finger to Control while holding Shift. You can release Shift and it will temporarily let you slide, but it doesn’t always work. This same default control-layout confusion carries over to having to hold Y to switch to grenades—completely removing your left hand from all-important navigation controls—and I wasn’t able to bind my third or fourth mouse buttons to any in-game functions, meaning I was constantly battling against my natural FPS control instincts. Couple this with the frustrating fact that the top-row numbers switch between breaches and not weapons, and a satisfyingly intense firefight can quickly descent into frustration.



But this criticism is tied into one of Syndicate’s strongest positives. The reason that the aforementioned gripe is so frustrating is because of how well the gunplay is handled. Most of this is down to Syndicate’s AI who are, for the most part, best in class. I played the campaign on the hardest difficulty, and was constantly humbled in my attempts at full-frontal assaults on what I perceived to be lesser enemies; even though I felt ridiculously overpowered in the first level. Your average grunts can be fodder for clever gun-and-breach combos, but they should never be underestimated. They will flank, use grenades liberally, slide into cover, roll out to shoot you and, most impressively, relocate in ways that feel like you’re playing against human foes.

There were a number of times when I sprinted in for a one-hit kill on a cover-hugging bad guy only to discover that he had cleverly relocated and was now pouring rounds into me. Even with the DART 6 overlay activated with all of its time-slowing damage-enhancing benefits, I would still regularly visit the reload screen if I ran into a big enough group of grunts.

And then there are the bosses. Considering how easy The Darkness II’s campaign was on hard, I definitely went in to Syndicate overconfident. Syndicate’s bosses aren’t difficult because they’re cheap or their patterns are impossible to learn; Syndicate’s bosses are tough because they’re relentless and, if you make the slightest mistake, you will go down. It’s rare to have frustration and determination unite in such a way to drive me to continually go back at them in a single session. The first boss alone took half a dozen tries. Of course, there was that awkward moment when he teleported into an area that I couldn’t get to, so I had was forced to reload. But these types of AI fails were few and far between during my time with the campaign.

Interestingly, given the strong narrative history of Starbreeze with the likes of The Darkness (the original) and The Chronicles of Riddick, the storyline seems to play second fiddle to the game world and the combat. This is by no means a bad thing as it doesn’t feel tacked on; it just feels like less of a focus, even if the voice work/likeness roster is pimped out with the likes of Brian Cox, Rosario Dawson and Michael Wincott. The story of corporate espionage and betrayal serves its purpose, but is happy to take a back seat to the fast-paced combat that’s the real star of Syndicate.



And once you’re done with the campaign, the separate co-op missions are well worth checking out. There are nine in total set in various parts of the world, and you’ll have to complete them chronologically to unlock later missions. The menu system isn’t the best, and the lack of dedicated server support means you’ll be limited to private matches with friends or rolling the dice and finding a laggy international match via the Quick Match option.

You can play with up to three other players, and if you’re only playing with one other person, expect to have your work cut out for you. These missions are clearly designed with four players in mind, and it didn’t appear to scale the difficulty when there were less players. After a few attempts at playing the first mission on hard, we bumped the difficulty down to normal in order to get past the first section: it really is that unforgiving.

But within this challenge is the beauty of the co-op. You are forced, by necessity, to work together to cover each other, as enemies will constantly attempt to flank or flush you out of cover with grenades. You can heal and revive each other, which emphasises the need for communication even more, and splitting away from the group tends to ensure certain death. It took me and my co-op buddy just shy of two hours to complete the first mission, with a lot of reloading checkpoints, and it was an absolutely satisfying experience from start to finish.

No matter which way you cut it, Australia really missed out on the first best FPS title of 2012. The list of cons seems minor in comparison to Syndicate’s overall win for linear shooter experiences. Hopefully Syndicate sells well enough so by the time Syndicate 2 hits shelves, we’ll have an R18+ rating in place that negates whatever gripes the future Classification Board might have with another classy shooter from a top-notch developer.
What we liked
  • Sci-fi setting
  • Fast-paced combat
  • The arsenal
  • Intense firefights
  • Addictive and challenging co-op
  • Breaching is badass
  • Reactive AI
  • The ‘playing a banned game’ factor
What we didn't like
  • Unnecessary button mashing sections
  • Bizarre default control choices
  • Occasional AI screw-ups
  • Pathfinding isn’t always obvious
  • Impossible to cancel a reload
  • Sporadic graphical oddities
  • Cover fails
More
We gave it:
8.9
OUT OF 10
Latest Comments
Eorl
Posted 05:17pm 24/2/12
Clearly a pro would also be Skrillex and Nero soundtracks!
DeadlyDav0
Posted 05:22pm 24/2/12
Looks good. Some stupid flaws though (cant cancel reload - WTF).
DM
Posted 06:15pm 24/2/12
Great review. I loved that even the stock standard grunts you meet right at the start aren't push overs. They can take up to 10 bullets or more if you don't aim right so you never really feel like you can just walk over them at any time. And the great AI always keeps them moving and trying to out play you, usually the case when it comes to any open area firefight. I adore the slum areas though, with how dark it is and all lit up with neon lights with the rain. Well worth the money.
Llian
Posted 06:37pm 24/2/12
GAme is good, but there are some WTF moments.
nachosjustice
Posted 12:59am 26/2/12
The music was fitting, Eorl, but it wasn't standout awesome to me. Not really a fan of that style of music.
Reverend Evil
Posted 01:18am 26/2/12
Nice. I think I'll grab a copy. Wasn't too thrilled with Deus Ex but this looks like it has lots of action. Also, won't somebody think of the children!
nachosjustice
Posted 10:50am 26/2/12
Reverend, someone tried telling me that Syndicate is a crapper version of Deus Ex, but it really isn't. There are similarities, sure, but Syndicate is all about the frantic shooting, and Starbreeze does that oh so well.
glynd
Posted 05:03pm 26/2/12
Clearly a pro would also be Skrillex and Nero soundtracks!


I'd say con. I have a hard enough time avoiding that kind of music in real life. now it's invading my games. but to each to their own. more people would like that these days i guess.

loving the game though. pretty straight forward shooter but really entertaining.
joerocket10r
Posted 11:35pm 27/2/12
i don't see why it got banned, gta4, sr3 (what a s*** game) or deadrising is alot more violent, plus it is set in a fantasy world in the future. is it just me or do some games get through and some don't because it depends who is reviewing them on the day for classification
eski
Posted 12:07am 28/2/12
dismemberment of corpses is key.

You can kill all the living folk you like but DO NOT f*** with the dead.
Khel
Posted 12:07am 28/2/12
Yeah, i don't think its always just the violence, I think its often more about the impact the violence has. Like if its crazy over-the-top violence and done in a tongue in cheek kind of way, they don't consider that as bad as brutally realistic violence.

And its not that it got banned as such, they just decided it didn't fit into the MA15+ category, and since we don't have R yet, it can't be sold. Seems like the right decision to make really, from some of the trailers I've seen, just sucks we don't have the R rating yet (though soon hopefully).
James Boags
Posted 12:38am 28/2/12
So you guys not only reviewed this game by importing it illegally, you are also promoting doing something illegal?
Viper119
Posted 06:11am 28/2/12
Sweet, I'll buy this asap, shame its not on Steam.
ara
Posted 09:56am 28/2/12
anyone tried buying a cdkey online and plugging it into origin to download the game?
Ivonin
Posted 09:57am 28/2/12
So you guys not only reviewed this game by importing it illegally, you are also promoting doing something illegal?


It's not illegal?
Ivonin
Posted 09:58am 28/2/12
anyone tried buying a cdkey online and plugging it into origin to download the game?


Worked like a charm for me Ara, bout it from intkeys.com
DeadlyDav0
Posted 09:58am 28/2/12
anyone tried buying a cdkey online and plugging it into origin to download the game?

Somebody in another thread did and didnt have any problems.

And plenty of people bought cheap keys online for BF3, including somewhat dodgy russian keys that require simple fixes for them to work in english.
Khel
Posted 10:46am 28/2/12
So you guys not only reviewed this game by importing it illegally, you are also promoting doing something illegal?


This comes up every time, I think the law though is against selling it or demonstrating it in public, not owning it. Cos like I was saying, its not technically banned, it just can't be given a classification so can't be sold.
Jim
Posted 11:01am 28/2/12
So you guys not only reviewed this game by importing it illegally, you are also promoting doing something illegal?


derp
Fuzzy
Posted 04:14am 29/2/12
g2play I got this game from.

Great site, also got Anno 2070 and SWTOR from it, all legit and all works

Now I need to find co-op buddies for this
joerocket10r
Posted 12:13am 03/3/12
g2play, Norton shows the site as...

g2play.net
Summary
•Computer Threats:0
•Identity Threats:0
•Ecommerce safety threats:1
•Annoyance factors:0
Total threats on this site:1
•Community Reviews:7

Sale of Counterfeit Goods

mixed reviews about this site, looks like a easy target to gain personal info if your a muppet.
half of the people that have brought keys from there have had problems. i would avoid unless of course your a gambling man and you enjoy a 50/50 chance of getting bent over.

google Viktor Wanli and make up your own mind.
step
Posted 12:49am 03/3/12
Some aspects of this game shat me off so much.

Hi, press F repeatedly to open this roller door... move 4m, another door. Shat me off like the constant hacking in Deus Ex.
skythra
Posted 09:22pm 03/3/12
Oddly, i think that the odd controls (not the button mashing stuff) makes perfect sense to anyone who played the original. Once upon a time, a game set out to not sit in the status quo but sometimes branched out to teach people new skills and have them master those new skills as part of the game. Prince of persia the original was like that, the default buttons were simple, but controling the character 'unneccessarily' difficult but once you had mastered that it was rewarding. Syndicate did similar by using unconventional buttons and once you've mastered it, you really can be proud.

This game shouldn't get a negative just because you couldn't use the same skills you learned in every other fps and 3rd person shooter and expected them to suit a totally different game. Would you review solitare for not being able to match pairs? Even though most nearly every other card game you can?

It's part of the game.

Wasn't too thrilled with Deus Ex but this looks like it has lots of action. Also, won't somebody think of the children!
Oddly enough i was gifted deus ex last week by a friend through steam. I've spent 14 hours on it. He gifted it while i was about 50% of the way through mass effect 1. I got to an annoying glitch in ME1 where i got onto an elevator and then was stuck, the elevator didn't move and the last auto save was 2 hours ago (despite a lot of story line completed between..) so i dropped that and now i don't think i'll buy ME2 or ME3 in fact. I Really enjoyed deus ex that much that it made ME1 so unrewarding.
Zakson
Posted 12:08am 04/3/12
I really hope they fix the FOV. The rest seems quite good.
DeadlyDav0
Posted 01:28am 04/3/12
Got a torrent version to try before deciding whether to buy an origin key or not. Didnt play for very long but gameplay looked promising but as mentioned FOV seemed limited and mouse control seemed too sensitive (struggled to get headshots on stationary targets). Maybe i just need more time playing but FPS mouse control is normally pretty easy for me - windows is set to high sensitivity, logitech setpoint DPI of 1200 IIRC and then in game is near minimum sensitivity. Was testing out alan wake too and had no such mouse issues even with my s***** ass 30-40FPS.
Zakson
Posted 01:17am 04/3/12
Yeah they need to support high DPI mice as well.

"Oh hey you're a PC Gamer? Cool, go stand in the corner so it's easier to ignore you."
ara
Posted 12:21pm 04/3/12
Got a torrent version to try before deciding whether to buy an origin key or not. Didnt play for very long but gameplay looked promising but as mentioned FOV seemed limited and mouse control seemed too sensitive (struggled to get headshots on stationary targets). Maybe i just need more time playing but FPS mouse control is normally pretty easy for me - windows is set to high sensitivity, logitech setpoint DPI of 1200 IIRC and then in game is near minimum sensitivity. Was testing out alan wake too and had no such mouse issues even with my s***** ass 30-40FPS.


yeah, i have to turn my mouse sensitivity down when i play it, i turned it down in game and it didn't seem to make much difference.
XaartaX
Posted 06:57pm 08/3/12
Played a few hours of this. Was very ho-hum. After being spoilt with Deus Ex: Human Revolution (which imo captured the Syndicate/Cyberpunk feel much better), Syndicate was a major letdown.

So much bloom that my eyes bled.
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