At first glance, Syndicate looks a lot like Deus Ex: Human Revolution. As you play through the game however, it becomes evident that the similarity exists only in the representation of an oppressive, bleak future for humanity and of course, cheap boss fights. Syndicate is an all out first person shooter that’s as straightforward as can be. It makes you think that it’s a bit different from the crowd but falls prey to the many gameplay mechanics that have plagued previous shooters in the past. This results in an enjoyable game that’s bogged down by quite a few frustrating issues.

The game takes place in the significant future and players step into the bio-engineered boots of an Agent called Miles Kilo. Now by Agent, the game does mean a glorified errand boy for Eurocorp head honcho, Jack Denham. For the first half of the game everyone’s happy as Kilo spends his time shuttling between locations, killing off all the competition – literally. Things get a bit complicated when Kilo learns the truth about his maker and the price he had to pay to earn his abilities. It’s a plot you’ve seen in hundreds of games (and movies) so you’ll be forgiven if you don’t fall out of your chair out of shock by the time the credits roll.

Boom! Headshot

Boom! Headshot

What makes Kilo such a good errand b… I mean Agent is the fact that he’s been tweaked with the DART 6 bio-chip, a prototype chip that simply put, grants him super human abilities. He can slow time down, hack turrets, doors elevators and pretty much every electronic item out there. Like Kilo, other humans in the future have been chipped as well and the DART 6 chip now allows him to hack into their brains and control their actions. That’s always a plus point in Kilo’s line of work where every day ends with a few hundred dudes being shot down.

Syndicate is a very linear affair which means you’ll be led from one level to another all the way till the credits end. However, gameplay actually offers a significant amount of variety thanks to all the juice coursing through your brains, courtesy of the DART 6 chip. For starters Kilo has the ability to slow time down and see through walls which is always nice. Since he can hack a bunch of stuff, he can breach turrets and use them against the enemy or even hack into and defuse a grenade before it blows his arms off.

Someone gonna get hurt bad

Someone gonna get hurt bad

Other more significant abilities include Suicide, Persuasion and Backfire. Persuasion forces the breached individual to turn on his foes, Backfire temporarily malfunctions weapons and stuns enemies while Suicide causes the breached individual’s head to explode damaging/killing nearby soldiers in the process. Choosing which powers to use at different intervals gives Syndicate a tactical feel not seen in many first person shooters. Every power has a certain cool down period as well so you can’t just continuously spam them. Once exhausted, you need to replenish them by pulling off headshots or executing enemies. Combining these abilities with some stealth missions would have been ace but unfortunately, there aren’t any to be found in this game.

While the breaching abilities give the game a distinct flavor, the festivities are brought to a grinding halt thanks to the game’s boss fights and relentless need to spam buttons. I may not be a huge fan of Quick Time Events but I’ve learnt to live with them. However if you’re going to force them down my throat every few minutes to open doors, we’re going to have a problem. Oh and none of the breaching abilities I spoke about earlier can be used on bosses so that option’s out of the window. Instead you’ll be forced to indulge in mundane and terribly boring fights where you have to dodge his attacks, spam him with yours, take cover, rinse and repeat. There’s absolutely zero tact involved in every boss fight.  Making matters worse is that the bosses are always faster than you, are packing better hardware and in some cases can even fly (kind of).

Snipers FTW!

Snipers FTW!

Once you do take down a boss, you can approach him and rip off his chip that allows players to upgrade Kilo’s abilities like increase his health, decrease cool down on powers, faster reloads and so on. Once you’re done with the campaign, you can head into the game’s online mode that offers co-operative play for up to four players. Like the single player campaign, co-op can be ruined by cheap tactics where you’re ambushed most of the time by what may seem to be respawning enemies. Also the game doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of scaling it back which means gameplay is as tough for two people as it is for four people. And since Normal is the only available difficulty setting, you’ll find the co-operative sections highly frustrating unless you can hook up a team of four skilled players.

Like all games based in the future, Syndicate’s world is full of neon hoardings, pristine clean buildings, swanky looking futuristic weapons and of course, flying cars. The game’s art style is not too bad and is in fact a bit reminiscent of Mirror’s Edge. It does blind you at times with the excessive Bloom effect that cannot be turned down. Weapons look and feel solid and thanks to some bloody headshots, are enjoyable to use. While I enjoyed gunplay, I did not enjoy the control scheme itself that felt very floaty. Even with the mouse and keyboard, I never really felt in complete control of my weapons. Just as well this game does not have multiplayer.

You don't stand a chance against my mini-gun

You don't stand a chance against my mini-gun

Syndicate could have been a really solid shooter because when it works, it’s intense. Unfortunately the game can never maintain its pace and is bogged down by mundane boss fights and erratic spikes of difficulty that feel more cheap than challenging. Even online, the game suffers from the same flaws as the single player campaign. That being said, Syndicate is not a bad game; just don’t go in expecting something revolutionary.

Test Rig:
Motherboard: Intel DP67BG Extreme Desktop series
Processor: Intel Core i7 – 2600K @3.40 GHZ
Graphic Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590
Ram: Corsair Vengeance 4GB DD3 @ 1600 MHZ X2
Power Supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 1200W

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