Will Preston

Tag: Syndicate

Putting the murder and executions into mergers and acquisitions

by on Mar.11, 2012, under Review, Video Games

Just like Hollywood, the videogame industry has got the reboot bug. Aging titles like Tomb Raider, Doom and Goldeneye have all been given that extra coat of next-gen shine in the last decade with more titles yet to be revitalised. Most of the time the new vision is faithful to the original and lovingly crafted to the point where you wonder if the guy behind it was an avid fan himself. But with most video game being consolidated into fewer over-arching genres, you’re more than likely to get another Call of Duty clone that wears the skin of that old memory like Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. So what happens when you take a futuristic squad strategy game from the 90’s and give it the first person treatment?

DART vision simplifies things

Before he started to make empty promises, Peter Molyneux was ahead of his time when it came to innovative games. With titles such as Populous, Theme Park and Dungeon Keeper under his much needed hat by the time Y2K became an international concern, Molyneux proved what you can accomplish if you move away from the mainstream. One of his better portfolio pieces lay dormant for a long time before anyone decided to dust it off. The cyber-punk classic Syndicate put you in the role of an owner a growing corporation in the future with the intent of world domination via hostile takeovers. Extremely hostile takeovers. And now we finally have the 21st century remake.

The year is 2069. There are not nations, only corporations. Cybernetics, wireless technology and weaponry have reached an ungodly level where a fully armed individual can hack computers with their mind, fire bullets around corners and act like an unstoppable one man army. It isn’t hard to imagine what a fully funded multi-national company can achieve in this dark future. The big companies are set to battle for world domination and have enlisted their own private army of genetically enhanced super soldiers known as “Agents”. You take the role of Agent Miles Kilo of Eurocorp as you give put the murder and executions into mergers and acquisitions.

One of the first things that screams out when playing this game is its similarities with Deus Ex 3. It’s a futuristic shooter which gifts you with cybernetic abilities. In this world, the iPhone is a thing of the past. There is only DART, a neural chip inplant which gifts its user with access to the dataverse (the internet, basically), making all handheld electronic devices unnecessary. Eurocorp implants you with the new DART 6 chip giving you access top more than Facebook and Wikipedia. The first skill your taught is to override another user’s DART chip, and their mind, to turn on your enemies before taking their own life. Think a crude form of mind control that is alarmingly effective. But that’s not all you’re armed with.

Minigun - no substitutes

But what is a shooter without things that shoot? All of the old weapons from the original game have been restored, with a few others thrown in to give variety to your killing career. You start off plugging away with uzi’s, assault rifles and grenades, but it’s not long before you’re causing merry hell with flamethrowers, pod-rocket launchers and even a portable minigun capable of sawing your enemies in half – literally. One of the more bizarre items in your arsenal is the new gauss gun. Instead of being an overpowered laser blaster, as they usually are in these games, the gauss gun locks onto a target and changes the bullets path, allowing you to curves shots without having to leave cover. It made some of the more annoying boss fights easier to manage.

Surprisingly, the game’s visuals look like a lot more work went into than your garden variety FPS. The same can be said about the gameplay – it looks and handles like Battlefield 3. Running through a gunfight, sliding across the floor before breaking the neck of a trigger happy foe is as easy as paying with chip and PIN. Fire fights flow without any major problems and using the mix of bullets and DART control never happens the pacing. The boss fights do get frustrating, especially when you’re on your 50th attempt at following their pattern before a mistimed slide puts you into the path of yet another homing missile. But there’s only a handful of them, with only a couple that really test your nerves.

Fan of Blade Runner will want to take in the atmosphere

After you complete the main story in under 8 hours, there’s still co op mode. Now this mode really does pay tribute to the original game. Taking a similar set up to Left 4 Dead, you’re part of a 4-person team that has to go into an enemy facility and steal/assassinate/destroy whatever your boss tells you. Using teamwork, you can split your skills amongst you and heal each other should things go awry. This mode has two great things going for it. One is the COD-esque upgrade system and the other is that each level is a re-imagined mission from the original game. Saying that there’s a sense of nostalgia with this, is an understatement. There’s 8 long missions, a lot of upgrades to work on and it never gets dull. This is worth paying the full price on it’s own.

Syndicate is a remarkable sci-fi shooter that doesn’t taint the memory of the 90’s classic. Whilst it features yet another campaign mode that can be obliterated in a full Sunday, the co op mode will keep you coming back for more again and again. There are enough amazing set pieces that makes the main game worth returning to for a mop up of achievements. The only thing that would make this game perfect would be more co op maps and possible a team deathmatch mode with police and civilians thrown into the middle of combat. With Deus Ex, Syndicate and Hard Reset creeping up on the FPS market, are we witnessing the revival of cyber-punk in videogames? If this is the result, then plug me in and update me.

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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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