Will Preston

Nothing says ‘Assassin’ like ‘Cyborg Assassin’

by on Feb.09, 2011, under Remake This!

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there once existed a games developer known as Bullfrog Productions Ltd. One of the founders of this videogame production company was a young man known by the name of Peter Molyneux. During its 16 year run, Bullfrog produced a lot of classic sim and strategy games such as Theme Park, Dungeon Keeper and Populous. Eventually, Peter left Bullfrog and formed Lionhead Sudios, where he began his favourite hobby: overhyping. The rest is history. The classic games made during this time lived on through similar titles. However, there was one game series that has not continued for nearly 15 years. The game was called Syndicate and was regarded as one of the best games ever by a fair few publications.

This is the least subtle way to play the game

Syndicate takes place in the near future where corporations rule over the world rather than governments. You take the role of a growing corporation in Europe with plans for world domination. But rather than play the stock market like a bandit and having endless business meetings to further your empire, you have access to your own team of cyborg assassins. You control the assassins on different missions throughout the world to gain control of various countries. These missions can be anything from assassinating an important figure from a rival business firm to ‘persuading’ a scientist to join your cause.

No idea why there's a purple sky, though

For their time, the graphics were pretty good, and so was the violence. Through progress, you get access to various bits of weaponry. When you start the game, you only have the usual pistol, shotgun and Uzi medley, but towards the end you’ll be tearing up sections of dystopian street with gauss guns and lasers. Did I mention that there are civilians and policemen wondering around the streets? One of the controversial elements for its time was the possibility to murder innocent bystanders in a bloody mess. This does attract police attention, but nothing is stopping you from popping a copper with a well placed shot. Needless to say, it is better to avoid the heat and concentrate on the mission without having to add needless tallies on your kill-o-meter.

Still no news about a 'Penis-gun'

Navigating the levels could be done by walking (which can be upgraded with turbo legs. They are cyborgs, remember?), or by driving. In the future, all cars are restricted to a maglev system and an autopilot built in to the car. This provides for some great drive by opportunities without having to worry about where the car is going. The cities don’t look half bad either. Cars go about their usual day and civilians walk around until they enter your crossfire. Various doors can be opened leading to one of the main problems with the game: indoor combat. Rather than fade out the building exterior for a better look, the developers decided to go for the option of showing you where you are without showing what you’re in, so to speak. This has caused quite a bit of confusion when entering a heavily armed bank, for example. An option to allow the assassins to think for themselves in combat saves this flaw from ruining the game.

In between missions, you get to sit back and watch your income slowly come crawling in, as well as raising and lowering taxes. The main thing to do in these little intermissions, though, is to improve and upgrade your agents. You have a research team on standby to think up new guns and parts for your assassin team. Yes, parts. If you watched the video trailer, you can see that the initiates have their limbs replaced with robot parts. This allows for abilities like being able to run faster and retain more damage. It sounds hideous at first, but after a few missions, you’ll wonder how you ever got on with your boring fleshy legs. Syndicate is an early example of what squad based combat games should play like, and its gameplay and cyberpunk influence can be seen in plenty of games today.


The 3D graphics weren't really needed

3D graphics don't always improve games

In 1996, Bullfrog released the sequel Syndicate Wars, which continued on where the first game finished. The graphics were updated to 3D and buildings in the game could be destroyed. Apart from this, the core gameplay was untouched and left how it should have been. Since then, nothing has been said until recently when it was confirmed by Electronic Arts that a new Syndicate would be in the works. Hopefully, this won’t be overhyped into disappointment as Molyneux won’t be involved. Until then, the game can only be found as an old DOS copy, if you’re lucky.

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1 Comment for this entry

  • Demoli

    Now I must break out dosbox and play some syndicate.

    I may also attempt to get Syndicate Wars running, even if trying to run it on windows 7 is a masochistic act.

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