The original Syndicate detailed a future gone mad, where rival corporations vied for global control through production of mind-altering microchips. From the ashes emerged the ultimate victor, EuroCorp. The world is now firmly nestled in EuroCorp's grasp - but a technologically superior religious sect hopes to undermine their authority through a powerful computer virus. Assume the role of either a EuroCorp Executive or a Church of the New Epoch High Disciple in Syndicate Wars; this sequel plays not unlike the original real-time action strategy game, in that the player commands a quartet of self-sufficient, heavily armed cyborg enforcers in an isometric cityscape to perform any number of violent assignments.
Syndicate Wars boasts an awe-inspiring, texture-mapped, 3-D polygonal engine. Each city is rendered in astonishing detail; pedestrians wander about unassumingly, shiny hovercars swerve around corners, polluted rain patters endlessly, and flickering video screens stream high-tech advertising. But just as these cities are attractively dismal, they are delicate; your agents' firepower is enough to level even the tallest of skyscrapers and the thickest of walls. Every element of Syndicate Wars' environment can be damaged and destroyed in an awesome, cataclysmic explosion.
Unfortunately, the people of Syndicate Wars are represented by small, harsh-looking, pixelated sprites. Distinguishing harmless civilian from deadly foe may prove difficult at first, and the onscreen radar will do little to help because its color coding is not immediately obvious. And while the vast cityscapes are rendered in high-resolution SVGA, their residents look blocky at all times. Syndicate Wars also falls short in the audio department; vicious firefights between EuroCorp and the Church seem stale because of repetitive and decidedly uninspired grunts issued by battle victims. Luckily, though, the explosions are just as impressive on the ears as they are on the eyes.
Syndicate Wars feels much more chaotic than its 1993 predecessor. Your aerial vantage point can be rotated smoothly at will, an attractive feature that may quickly become frustrating. Enemy agents have a habit of attacking from where you cannot see them, and before you can swivel the map to get a good look at the assailants you'll find your minions heavily wounded or worse. The Deep Radar option helps a great deal by making any visually obstructive foreground architecture semi-transparent. Since ammunition is no longer scarce (each weapon is energy-based and requires mere moments to recharge itself), Syndicate Wars allows for a copious use of fatal force, in contrast to the original's more conservative approach to the killing. Syndicate Wars plays closer to an action game, while its precursor felt more strategic.
Syndicate Wars masterfully recaptures the dark, deadly emotion of the original, adds to it a huge variety of weapons and scenarios, and refurbishes it with a gorgeous new coat of paint. Over five dozen missions and multiplayer support ensure Syndicate Wars a long life expectancy. Corporate persuasion through urban violence: Who could ask for anything more?