Syndicate Hands-On: It’s Just Like The Original… But Better.

That’s right, I said it. And yes, Starbreeze Studios will back it up in a big way on February 21, 2012. Based on the demo version I played at EA’s Naughty or Nice event about 2 weeks ago, even the most die-hard fan with greasy smoke coming from their eyeballs and ears about this game should ABSOLUTELY play this modern reworking of Bullfrog’s isometric RTS/Action hybrid.

Five (Plus One) Very Good Reasons to commit without question are below the jump…

1: It FEELS Just Right. I loved the original game, so yes, I was a tiny bit worried at first. While watching a fellow editor play, I was sold and once it was my turn to play, I was hooked in completely. If you thought this was going to be yet another dumbed-down hand-holding FPS catering to players who think they’re hot stuff because of all that multiplayer camping and hopping, think again (and more on the game’s idea of MP below). The dev team has managed to translate and integrate the original game mechanics into a first-person experience so well that for many who remember the original, something will click early on that will likely get a wild grin on your face when you see how well it’s come together. You want turret hacking, mind controlled suicides, insanely tough missions and plenty of enemies to stop you from getting from point A to Point B? All there (and more) ready for you (with that Starbreeze flair for inventive HUD design and solid controls). In-engine storytelling takes control from you temporarily, but only for certain events where you see the results of your mental tinkering with man or machine.

2. It’s NOT a Deus Ex Clone, Duh. Despite the fact that the original Syndicate arrived years before Ion Storm’s masterpiece and yes, was a completely different game experience, some wags out there are foolishly comparing this with the latest Deus Ex game based on screens and the trailer alone. Big mistake. In Syndicate, there’s no “morality” system in play nor do you have to deal with being “nice” when you want to be a stone-cold corporate employed killer. Gameplay is fast, brutal and it’s all about (in the words of one character after he shoots a few guards in the face in a cut scene) “Get the job done.” With extreme prejudice, at that. You can ignore non-important targets on the way to your goal, but if you want to snap a neck or bash some poor lab-coat wearing underpaid staffer in the head, it’s your call.

If you’re still harping about Deus Ex “similarities” get over it quickly so you can enjoy a completely different future world. From what I saw in the demo, exposition is minimal, but storytelling is maximal. You’re not tasked with too much in the way of lengthy dialog sequences. That’s not to say the game isn’t well-written or has some great dialog, folks. I’ll have to leave that judgment to playing the final code, but what I saw was smart and well-paced. OK, OK, blast you. If you REALLY need a “But is it ANYTHING like Deus Ex?” answer from me, here you go. the game has a TON of info you can collect and read up on once you collect assorted items. Just like Deus Ex… and pretty much every other game with collectibles that require optional reading. Oh, and you kill a lot of people too… Just like… oh, never mind.

3. That Gauss Gun Is Quite… Nice. You get one during the demo. you can target enemies, scoot away to (relative) safety and shoot around corners. It works REALLY well against shield carrying enemies. It works even better if you manipulate some  poor well-armed guard unpin a grenade, blow up a group of his comrades and finish off the wounded with a few shots before they even know what hit them. AI is fierce and you’ll see guys slide into cover, flank, toss grenades and more. Of course, turning a turret on them (or another guard) will get you through firefights quicker.Nevertheless, prepare to hit cover every so often and keep an eye peeled for dying enemies squeezing off a few shots after they’ve hit the floor. The other weapons I saw were cool as well and all are labeled thanks to the HUD so you can compare what you have to what you want to swap out from a dead enemy. Nice. Expect to see plenty of familiar corporate names and gear from the old games here as well. Trust in Starbreeze, and ye shall be rewarded…

4. It’s REALLY Not For The Kids. If you’re one of those parental units that let your Weebles play Halo, CoD or any other modern day “not for kids” shooter as a means of bonding or whatever, allow me to tell you that Syndicate isn’t that type of game. Four-letter words fly as fast as bullets and blood here and I like that the dev team is pulling no punches in the game. In one part of the demo, you shove a probe into a character’s ear to rip a computer chip from his brain. Expect a Mature rating for this game, along with the usual oddball complaints from adult critics whining about an M-rated game having SO much colorful use of the vernacular. I still for the life of me, can’t figure those folks out – were they raised in a convent or something?

5. The Multiplayer Is A Mystery… But a GREAT One. From what I was able to gather, it’s co-op focused and from what I understand, NOT running around shooting each other in the head and tea-bagging for a stupid flag, either (*yawn-ola*). Just as in the original, it’ll be a team of four agents doing wet work in a mission-based structure that may or may not mirror the main game’s story. I’m also SURE that I don’t even need to suggest this, but I’m hoping that Starbreeze is considering reworking some of the missions from the original game and its sequel into this one as either part of the retail release or as DLC. Granted, I’d MUCH rather play any classic missions out of the box on day one, but I’ll bet EA will shuttle that content to Origin and make us all pay extra for it (I don’t get all my games gratis, folks).

Plus One: Skrillex Soundtrack, Anyone?

Even if you somehow hate this game (which will be hard once you give it a try), the soundtrack is indeed awesome. Makes me want to put on a black trench coat and play make-believe Matrix on my roof. But I won’t because the cops will come and I’ll find that I can’t dodge bullets as well as Neo. Whatever. EA Games and Starbreeze have the makings of a truly spectacular experience that’s on the way sooner than you think. This one has been “secretly” in the works for a while and despite it not getting the usual over-hype of many AAA titles, I’d say it’s going to be one of those titles that keeps a lot of folks very happy.  We’ll see for sure next February, but keep an eye on this one, folks – I think it’s a winner.


1 thought on “Syndicate Hands-On: It’s Just Like The Original… But Better.

  1. Pingback: Syndicate Hands-On Update: A Fresh Perspective That’s Just Right (Again) | "DESTROY ALL FANBOYS!"

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