Welcome to the dawning of a new world.
It's seems like the life of a syndicate warlord is pretty tough in the year 2096. Gone are the governments (as they have little control of any human affairs) and gone are the mega corporations. The syndicates are now in control of planet Earth and all its resources, ruling with an iron fist. The CEO, sitting high above the clouds in their zeppelins, monitoring potential candidates for their cyborg armies, quelling any sort of resistance all for the ownership of the CHIP technology, for which quite literally makes people change their perception of how they view the world. Those who stand in their way are either 'persuaded' or simply disposed of. Do you have what it takes to make it in the Syndicate? Well, this game certainly simulates corporate…err…syndicate takeovers in style.
So basically that's the plot of the game – a simple concept of taking over the world for your pickings. There are no morals other than ensuring you get enough cash to stock up your cyborg army and keeping the research and development team busy by inventing new toys for your cyborgs to play with. And the way to do this is by wooing your way the country of your choosing. Once removed of any parasites that reside there, you can raise that country's taxes up to 100% however the higher the tax rate, the higher the chance enemy syndicates takes over that country. In my eyes, who cares as my cyborg army are easily bored and in constant need of any entertainment they can get.
So you start off with four cyborgs and four in reserve. You can gain more candidates however that takes some serious 'persuasion' (more on that later). All the cyborgs have a CHIP inserted that can heighten their reactions; known as the IPA (intelligence / perception / adrenalin). Unfortunately the manual doesn't explain well enough what these attributes actually do (other than confusing oneself). I know adrenalin makes your cyborg run faster (however limited to the weapon carried – that can change by upgrading their arms) but the other two, I have no idea of their usefulness. However what I can say that if you pump all three to the max, your cyborg will become the ultimate killing machine, albeit for a limited time only (again that can change by upgrades) – i.e. shoot anything that moves with pin-point accuracy.
Yet being a young syndicate, all your toys needs to be researched by your R&D team – which means it cost money, loads of money. And the only way to earn cash is from taxes received from your controlled countries. So once you have a country at your disposal, you can raise taxes however be warily of the population as rising taxes too high causes them to revolt. Other words, you lose that country, revenue stops entirely until the situation is under control – that is redoing the exact mission again when you originally gained that country. I've lost many countries during the early going because of my extremely high tax rate however it wasn't too much of a biggie as I eventually discovered a happy medium.
So you can spend your cash on researching weapons or enhancing your cyborgs. Researching cyborg enhancements takes a crap load of time comparing to weapons and if you happen to locate a weapon during your mission, that weapon will be handed over automatically to R&D for which, in effect, reduces time. For example: if you locate, say a laser during your mission and the mission ends, say goodbye to that weapon as you didn't research it yet. So to 'earn' that laser you need to research it and the more cash you put in R&D, the quicker to complete. However be warily of the laws of diminishing returns but thankfully you have a time graph representing cash versus time. I normally put in twice as much as it halves the time however anymore will be a waste.
Yet there's a small trick to this. Granted that cyborg enhancements take a lot more time and cash, I usually research these when sending my guys on a mission. Why this is the best option is because during a mission, time moves extremely fast. So if I feel the mission will take a while, research the big ones like chest / heart as once the mission ends, either it's completed or just short of being completed. Researching weapons is quite quick (I think around 10 mins of real time) so leave your computer idle when doing this and besides, other syndicates will never conquer your lands (unless the country goes into rebellion). Also you most likely have no cash at certain points yet that only extends the time to completion. However before you know it, you have some kick ass weapons at your disposal. And if you want my opinion which enhancements are the best to research early on, I say first the heart (as IPA levels decreases very slowly at maximum levels) then chest. The rest is then up to you.
Each mission on average should take around ten minutes to complete and it plays in real time. Naturally some can be knocked off within three minutes and some twenty. To gauge the difficulty, during the mission brief, you can spend extra cash to get more info about that mission and spend more to enhance the automap. Frankly I couldn't care less for the automap as I just nuke the entire map anyways (as there are no penalties for killing civilians – yes life is pretty tough for the average Joe) however I do spend the maximum allowance for extra information as it provides great tips – knowledge is power after all. And if the mission gets too hard, just exit out and start all over again as there are no penalties doing that. And because of this makes the game a lot easier in most cases.
The game is beautifully rendered in isometric viewpoint. So as you come to expect, there are neon signs and advertisements flashing about, cops roaming, cars that actually obey the traffic laws (I blow them up for kicks) and people moving about. Absolutely awesome to say the least as it effectively create a living / breathing word - nothing is static. And you can even catch the train for fast travel across the map or hop in a vehicle to run people over if you wish (hey it's their fault that they are in my way). Also if you persuade civilians, the folks will pick up dropped weapons and holster / arm them when you do and assist attacking your enemies (but often get into your way - heck people are replaceable).
However being isometric, your visibility is extremely limited as the top right of the screen will become a 'blind spot' for attacks. What I normally do to counter this to push my guys IPA levels to the minimum right at the start of a mission (as it starts at half way). This pushes the bar progressively lower thus if I need to activate it, it last longer. Then I get my guys to walk the map, wait till the combat music starts then by pressing both right / left click together. This then forces my guys IPA levels to increase to maximum and watch the fireworks. This way, they will become the ultimate killing machine that rarely misses. And if you have a heart implant, your IPA levels decreases even slower when pushed to the limits.
Technically speaking, if you got the maximum level for the heart implant (i.e. level three), you can practically explore the entire map on maximum IPA. Add 'level three chest' to that equation (which has auto heal build in), your guys are practically a bunch of terminators. Equip them with miniguns (as they have a tonnes of ammo), do I have to explain the results? And why I feel the miniguns are the most powerful weapon in the game is because there's no such thing as reload or collecting ammo. So you can have the most powerful weapon in the game (gauss gun) however because the ammo count is very low (six shots I think), if you are planning to max IPA the entire level, your cyborgs will waste precious ammo on policemen like there's no tomorrow. That's why equip them with the minigun as it's got the highest ammo count and decent range. But you may want a team of snipers instead because of the longer range, sniper guns have decent amount of ammo however the damage is quite low in comparison to the minigun.
Because there are fifty one missions to complete and on average, they can be completed within ten mins, you come to expect to finish this game in about ten hours. Well that's not entirely true as countries do rebel, planning your mission takes a little time and sometimes just waiting around until a newly acquired weapon has been researched. Also some missions will fail (and thankfully not heavily penalised yet you do score a great cut scene) but that's the life of a syndicate – expect the unexpected, arm your guys then level the map (well almost as some missions do require some 'persuasion'). Syndicate is what you expect from a dystopian near future, a team of terminators all doing assignments for the almighty dollar clouded with propaganda to suit your needs. You are the alpha and the rest is the omega so welcome to the dawning of a new world – your world.