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Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 1-4 (online)
Genre: First Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Syndicate is pretty. Your fancy, HD, pixel-loaded TV will definitely get a workout with this game. The standards like lighting and shadows are just very well executed. In addition, lots of details stand out like future magazines that look ordinary until you notice their scrolling text covers. Yes, every future game seems to be either Blade Runner or Mad Max-inspired, but this game really does earn the Blade Runner scout badge with ease. Future Los Angeles is even more crowded, now with towering buildings and skies choked with flying cars. There's a definite Japanese influence here as well, with geisha-like girls lighting up large holographic displays. Blade Runner or not, it feels like a rich, fleshed-out world. You'll see the top of the world, with skyscrapers that are built so high that the ground is no longer visible, to the lowest, grimy places where people live off the trash of the world. This really does look like a Los Angeles with a population of 25 million people.

Though it's not the first game to have done this, Syndicate also makes clever use of the HUD. In this corporation-controlled future, everyone is implanted with a chip that connects you to everything. Basically it's your computer, your cell phone, and pretty much the electronic device of the future, all in your brain. It can scan through walls and track enemies - an obvious plus for the future field agent. It also identifies everything for you, even useless objects like beer bottles and boxes.

Syndicate drops you in a future world where the chipped, connected few are the elite. Corporations own everyone this way, and not being a part of that elite few means you're the forgotten, part of the lowly masses that live below the massive skyscrapers that dominate the landscape. It's a dark view of the future where the well off are incredibly well off, and the poor live hopelessly derelict in comparison. In this world, your character, Miles Kilo, works for Eurocorp, protecting their interests and infiltrating rival corporations' territory. You're also testing an advanced chip for them called the DART 6. Yeah, there's no way you get by in a world of corporations without doing something to make them money, even while you're working.

This future world of corporations also feels pretty real in its story and plot. It's interesting to walk by a holographic greeter when you walk in the building. Rules, rules, rules are the norm in corporate heaven. Don't try to bypass your chip, don't ask questions, don't step out of line; the company is your life and will take care of you. But behind the scenes, espionage, secret projects, and a lot of human abuse is just boiling over. Even when you work for a company, you're never really safe.

Syndicate is a remake of the 1993 original Syndicate. Though I haven't played the original, Syndicate appears to live up to some of the themes of the original, at least. One of those themes is the violent nature of the game. No, this new game is not going to cause much controversy in the current gaming landscape, but it is still pretty brutal. One of the first techniques you learn is one that forces a chipped enemy to commit suicide. Your partner, Jules, is also a little on the ultra-violent side, killing innocent civilians, even though it's not necessary to the mission. It's perhaps not something that warrants discussion, but it it is odd when no one questions why he does this or even addresses it. It's not as if the corporation asks for dead civilians. And heck, in this corporate-controlled world, it looks like civilians are unarmed, completely harmless, and they're probably mandated by some sort of company policy to remain as such (or risk loss of job, house, entertainment privileges, etc.). Hmm, perhaps I've spent too much time in corporate America to let this slide from my mind.

Syndicate gives you some fun toys to play with and help you on your missions. One weapon has homing style missiles that let you lock on to each target and bend your shots around cover. Classic flamethrowers, Gatling guns, and missile launchers are all there. And there are abilities that come with your DART chip that can lead to some creative ways to clear a room or at least get your enemy out of cover. Your DART chip also allows you to see your enemies through walls, so you can get a heads up if they try to sneak around and flank you. But of course, don't expect any of this cool stuff to work on bosses.

Though there are a lot of extras and cool weaponry, this is pretty much a straight up shooter. There's an upgrade tree you can use to power up your health and abilities, but it's pretty simple. This is the kind of game that moves you along quickly, no need to do any heavy thinking or strategizing unless it's combat tactics.

Online play offers cooperative gameplay with a team of 4 people. You can customize an agent here, unlike in the Campaign Mode where you're always Miles Kilo. Online offers some advantages to the team based play, such as the ability to heal and revive your partner. It's just a shame some sort of split-screen co-op couldn't make it. I've probably said this quite a few times before, but it's just more fun to play with people next to you. It's also fun to be able to choose the maturity/age bracket of the players you hang out with, if you know what I mean.

Syndicate is a pretty intense shooter, and it requires a certain degree of skill to get through it with ease. Veteran shooters will be able to ramp up the difficulty level, turn off aiming assistance, and generally punish themselves as much as they like. The easy difficulty will still provide a challenge for newbie shooter players, but it's definitely something anyone can conquer with a little practice.

A.I. is decent enough. Enemies definitely don't want to sit and eat your ammunition. Most of the difficulty of this game, like a lot of shooters, just comes from building up enough skill to be decent at the game. The game isn't particularly long either, so you can also become skilled at memorizing the patterns enemies show up in as well.

Game Mechanics:
Syndicate offers plenty of tweaking to its control scheme. It's a very good thing for a shooter to have, as you may find your aim swinging around wildly if you don't make a few adjustments. X and Y directions are independently adjustable, and directions can be inverted as well. And one more thing: it may be just the fact that I'm more comfortable with an Xbox controller, but there are just SO many independent controls for all the skills and weapons in this game that it can be a little overwhelming. It will take a bit of practice to really feel comfortable. Again, this is all adjustable in the controls anyway.

One disappointing thing about Syndicate is the cover system. Really it's less of a system, and just a matter of, well, trying your best to hide behind things. Hey, some rooms have glass that stops bullets, while in other rooms, some staircases seem like they should have that bulletproof glass, but you quickly find out that no, it's not really clear future glass, it's just air. That, coupled with the fact that you don't really "stick" to cover (so it's hard to tell when you're in cover), can make things a little frustrating. It's not a game where you're encouraged to stay still for very long, to say the least.

Syndicate is a good shooter, and a beautiful game, but it lacks a certain variety I was expecting to see. There are only 3 chip related abilities total, though you can upgrade them. The weapon variety also seems to drop off rather quickly in the beginning of the game. On a personal note, this reboot reminds me of the X-Com reboot. Why does every classic game need to be re-imaged as a first-person shooter? In a world awash with FPS games, I hope Syndicate can get the same treatment as the upcoming XCOM: Enemy Unknown, where a turn-based strategy game more similar in spirit to the 1993 original is being developed as a separate side project to the first-person shooter reboot.

-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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