Syndicate successfully embraces the Cyber-Punk theme at it's core, but does it do enough to stand out?
However, all is not peachy in the world of Syndicate, and war is brewing between the corporations as they struggle for control and power over their competitors. Each corporation has certain Special Forces working for them that participate in international espionage and secret stealing on the company's behalf and these people are called Agents. Agents are given the best upgrades available and have access to high tech weaponry in the aid of this goal. This is where you come in.
As Agent Kilo it is your job to work for the company known as EuroCorp and sabotage the competition while safeguarding your own assets at the same time. The plot of Syndicate is of the incredibly predictable variety and so nothing that happens ever comes as a surprise. In fact, a proper plot isn't even brought in until around the 4 hour mark which is pretty abysmal considering its 5-6 hour length. It starts off well enough but once you finish the very first mission after the tutorial you'll often stop to think "Why am I doing this?" more than once and you'll probably only come up with a very shady outline as to why. As a consequence of the poorly structured story, once you do actually receive some mention of a plot more than two thirds of the way into the game it's an incredibly condensed, ridiculous story of fighting for human rights and the like which just doesn't really compute (see what I did there?).
The final level in the game itself is terribly constructed and handled, and I'll pretty much give a guarantee that you'll be asking "How long until this battle is over?" all throughout the game's horribly handled conclusion, which is meant to peak off the game in a final resolution. It's pretty ridiculous the amount of people that get thrown at you on that level and a certain arena will have you fighting for more than 15 minutes with absolutely no explanation as to why you wait about 15-20 seconds between each wave or why you're waiting in the room at all. To make matters worse when one elevator of three comes down and you think it's time to leave, after killing all the people inside you'll soon realize you have to wait (again with intervals of 15-20 seconds) for each elevator to come down and spawn it's own set of enemies. Finally once each elevator is cleared you can go inside and ride them up to your next scene of relentless gun fights which don't even make good use of the powers at your disposal. Terrible level design is abundant in that level and it comes as such a shock after playing through all the levels before it which were all done in interesting ways to help with encouraging use of combining different abilities and approaches.
While the story and final level are fairly terrible, the rest of the game shines in comparison. The gunplay is quick and brutal and each gun has its own strengths and weaknesses to think about. With the Dart 6 you can hack into enemy's chips and disable them or turn them against foes or even make them commit suicide. You can also hack into the chips that are planted in turrets or grenades, turning them against their own and disabling them mid-air as they harmlessly land at your feet respectively. One negative I'll say is that I had no idea of how to throw a grenade until about half way through the game and I found out by manually going into the menu and reading a codex on grenades (of course it wouldn't be on the control screen) which is all text based and a horrible way of teaching things to a player. The rest of the skills are taught well in the tutorial and I'm not sure why grenades were glossed over.
You can also upgrade passive abilities in an RPG style menu for things like increasing damage, boosting health or upgrading your reload time. One upgrade I found (which coincidentally was the first thing I upgraded) makes it so that your melee kills (press in R3 when next to someone to do an execution style insta-kill) will immediately regenerate 50% of your health, basically breaking the game's entire difficulty curve if used. No gun or grenade required, you could sprint around the battlefield taking unholy amounts of lead and be on the brink of death only to snap someone's neck at the last minute and be perfectly fine again. So basically you could just run around the battlefield repeating this method and never die, winning without firing a shot, throwing a grenade or using your chip.
What? I… what?
There is also a 4 player co-op mode available from the get-go which is the game's only online mode and luckily boasts no online pass. It is fun playing with 3 other people who all have the cool powers you do and there is an RPG progression system similar to in the single player available in this mode. However, the very same melee upgrade is available through this upgrade system so I'm not sure how long it will be before everyone ditches guns online in favour of their fists, but I guess we'll see in time. I finished the co-op campaign in 1 hour and 58 minutes which also includes me playing by myself for about 20 minutes trying to wait for people to join at various points. Make of that what you will.
While this review has thus far pointed out a lot of criticisms at the game I am still a fan of it because I enjoy the Cyber-punk genre and the combat is a lot of fun when not abusing the system. The gunplay of Syndicate is up there with the best and is a fluent combination of Crysis 2 and Killzone 3, both which supported very strong general gameplay.
Syndicate has lots of highs and lows and a completely dreadful story but my love of the genre and the brutal gunplay saves this game from the abyss. That's why I'm giving Syndicate a 7.5/10.
Fans of the genre should look into Syndicate but those looking for a complete FPS package best look elsewhere, you won't find it here.
This review is based on the game at the time of writing and any glitches/bugs mentioned could and should be fixed in future patches. Please keep that in mind when making your own decision.