Preview:- Syndicate

Syndicate BSAnyone who was a fan of sci-fi games (or indeed a fan of great games in general) back in ’93 will be only too familiar with the legacy that the name “” carries with it.

Don’t worry, are very clearly fans too. Big fans.

We recently had the opportunity to play early versions of both single and co-op parts of the game and talk to some of those behind its creation.

For me personally, and I think I speak for the rest of the team who’ve seen it, this is one of the most exciting games to emerge for 2012 in the genre.

I’ll come to address some of the issues raised by “old skool” gamers (such as myself) concerning the Syndicate universe’s translation into an FPS in a moment, but first, particularly for those who may not have been gaming in ’93, I want to just tell you all about this generation’s Syndicate.

The first thing that strikes you as you enter this new, futuristic, world is the awesome hud. Every object, item, person and system is tagged visually with a data layer, so you real feel “augmented” and “informed”, it is a strangely empowering sensation and a very impressive visual feat. Little “windows” appear for most things from trash cans to dropped enemy weapons, surveillance systems and, of course, the enemy. Very cool. This impression is quickly followed by the feeling of quality in the underlying graphics across the board. Part Blade Runner, part Mirror’s Edge, it is a fantastic fusion of old and new visions of the future. Not only are the architecture and environments rock solid, but animation is also excellent and weapon effects superb. Perhaps the final piece of the “feel” puzzle is the strong “Syndicate” feel pervaded by the omni-presence throughout the game world of the 3 major organisations; Europcorp, Cayman, and Aspari which dominate the global society in which the game is set. Topping this sense off is a very strong sound-scape which contributes to what is already a very polished experience for a game still some 3 months away from going gold.

Syndicate Screenshot 3

A stylish... if fairly brutal world come alive once more.

Now, you may have developed (I hope) a sense of the style of Syndicate, but let me leap in there and quickly throw a few more tricks the game has at you to round out that overall impression. The shooting itself looks, feels and sounds great, weapons feel heavy, powerful and accurate. We are promised a deep level of weapon customisation, which is always hugely welcome, and will only serve to add depth to the existing experience. With one particular weapon we used we were able to “lock on” to an enemy and then each bullet would track the target, shooting around corners / over obstacles has never felt this slick or fun! But the dynamic combat experience does not end there, and perhaps Syndicate’s greatest contribution to the genre will end up being “breaching”.

Breaching is the act of using the military grade “DART” chip in your head to overcome and control other chips, be they in a turret, door lock or indeed in an opponent’s head. This is a brilliant nod to the original game and yet also feels so fresh and new. The most impressive aspect of this “breaching” is that it occurs in real-time. Yes, real-time. Think about this for a moment. No longer must you sneak past tricky opposition to gain access to it’s control panel to hack it, oh no. Now you can “breach” it on the fly, mid combat, and you can do this to various ends. Not only is this a game changer when you breach an enemy defense system mid-fight, turning it against them, but you can also breach the enemy themselves directly causing them to deactivate their own shields, become stunned, turn against their own side or even immediately commit suicide. Of course there are cool-downs and costs associated with this, but it makes for an exceptionally intense experience. When you are shooting and breaching, sometimes at the same time, even manipulating your environment to affect cover or subvert AI defense systems you really do feel like a powerful force in control of the battlefield.

Syndicate Screenshot 1

OK, I know; Breach, Shoot, Breach, no, erm... Shoot, Breach, Shoot... or both... or neither...

So, we have shooting with a large array of deeply customisable weapons and dynamic breaching to multiple ends, but these are by no means the only tricks in the Syndicate arsenal.

Next I want to talk about character development. This is something very close to my heart and I place it high on my list of value adds to any FPS type game. Well, not only does Syndicate bring full weapon customisation, it also brings a flexible skill like system based on upgrading your DART chip with various technologies you find in other chips you come across, most often, it seems, from the heads of significant rival figures you dispatch. Via this “research” like mechanism, another nod to it’s ’93 progenitor, you can choose to move your characters play style in a number of different directions. Some options will improve your ability to shoot, others your breaching options and still more how rugged or perceptive you are. This does seem like it will really allow you to tailor your character to suit your style and make the most of the many options you have before you in dealing with the opposition.

Before I close this out I want to spend a little time on the co-op element of the game. And this is where things get really exciting for a big co-op fan such as myself. Make no mistake, in Syndicate’s case co-op is no mere bolt on, it’s a whole extended game mode. Within the “co-op” experience you have a separate character which levels up and is customisable within this mode. Furthermore this co-op is fully 4-player, a further nod to the earlier Syndicate. The separation of single player and 4-player modes has allowed the team to develop 9 missions, at this stage, which really work when you have 4 skilled players in them. And boy do they work! This is some of the finest co-op I’ve yet seen with players having to work together; Sniping, breaching, healing, going in close quarters, flanking, achieving objectives, supporting and covering each other against large numbers of powerful opponents. This certainly looks like a part of the game where I will be spending a significant amount of time.

Syndicate Screenshot 4

Hmmmmmm... cool but cryptic... it's an official screenshot though... any guesses?

Finally, some of you fellow aged gamers out there may of course be thinking “FPS?” and I can understand that, the original Syndicate was the very opposite of FPS. Thus I would like to clarify a few points right now, before proceeding; Syndicate 2012, as I shall call it for now (although it’s set in 2069!), is an FPS through and through, but very clearly and faithfully exists in the Syndicate universe us fans hold dear in our hearts. How faithfully, OK, well some of the maps in the game are almost exact replicas of those from the ’93 game. Yes, the team have taken the old 2D maps and rendered them into gloriously stylish, living, breathing, multi-level, 3D buildings and areas. Not only that but they have done so in a way that still feels so very Syndicate that I can imagine myself running from the 2D world of old Syndicate and straight into the inside of a building rendered in 3D in the new one. Glorious. The chip breaching is also an obvious tribute to the original as is the research / upgrade mechanic. I guess the real question for fellow fans is “Is it a Syndicate game?” to which I can faithfully attest. “Yes”.

We very much look forward to bringing you more information on this game as we get it!

- Richard “” Burley

Richard "Rax" Burley (378 Posts)

I like games, more specifically achievements, I'm like a gaming boy scout... I like my badges. Oh, and I also like; story telling, well realised characters, character progression, complex skill sets, shiny graphics, building things, shooting things, jumping over things, hiding from things, driving things and fighting things. Sometimes I even write about these things, sorry...


  1. Every Syndicate fan secretly knows that the enormous appeal of the original game was that you played puppetmaster to four mind-controlled female assassins who you gradually transformed into unkillable robots while simultaneously taking over the world, vaporising thousands of bystanders along the way (insert insane giggle).

    Who wants to be one of the puppets, in first person? This game will do well in its own right but it’s not *Syndicate* unless you can roll four female characters and march them around as a relentless wrecking crew in third person.

    Oh well -_-

    • I hear you.
      But I think it’s important to take each game on it’s standalone merits. I can’t wait for it because I can testify that the tight 4-player FPS co-op is some of the best & most frantic I’ve ever played. It just has so much “width”, with not only weapons, but in the moment skill usage & environmental manipulation to contend with. Multiplayer will awesome.
      Now all that is not to say that I don’t also have concerns about the “research” side, and the “tactical” elements of which you speak, but it doesn’t stop me anticipating a superb experience.
      No one should approach it expecting isometric strategy, but action FPS clearly rooted in the Syndictae universe is abundant and well delivered from what we’ve seen so far…
      I can only hope that, like the new XCOM stuff, we get an awesome FPS (remains to be seen) AND a superb isometric reboot to boot… if you follow!

  2. I wonder… that might actually be a reasonable explanation.

    But how do Copyright laws apply to videogames? Cause if they have the usual longevity it should not be a problem to keep the license…

  3. The cynic in me thinks it may be a way of keeping their trademark active, sorta like how marvel comics does a new Captain Marvel comic every five years or so, just to stop DC from getting the name for their Shazam characters…

  4. Can’t argue with that!
    It’s as Rax says though, why can’t we get both?

    I actually dig the idea of a shooter in the Syndicate universe, it has potential, as Rax review so nicely points out. It just pains me that what we old fans want and what studios want is different, and frankly, I don’t see why a younger gamer that never played the original is going to even care that it is a Syndicate game… so… what’s the logic? You’re not giving old fans what they want and the new people is not going to care…

    What I’m hoping is that if the game sells well they might let some smaller studio actually do a “proper” Syndicate game, and hell I’d lie if I didn’t say that I salivate on the prospect of another fine 4 player co-op game… those are awesome!!

    Actually… why did they pull that… thing… whith the Shadowrun game?? Hell Shadowrun was a perfect universe to do something like this!! O_O

  5. The thing is that I don’t buy the argument that it will not make money… I might not make as much money as MW3 for example, but I think that a tight and well designed strategy game can bring some bucks in, and they are cheaper to make than a full 3D shooter.

    The command and conquer examples are a bit wonky, because C&C3 was awesome and completely revived the saga, with Red Alert 3 keeping close. C&C4 was really underwhelming and at times boring, no wonder it did bad!

    My point is, the kind of game is irrelevant, for a game to do good in sales it needs two things: being a good game and having a decent publicity

    So again, I’m not saying this will be a bad game, much the opposite, it looks awesome. But the thing is that I see it as a contradiction, if you resurrect and IP, why turn the corpse upside down and make it walk backwards? It seems irrational to me, if you wanna do a shooter, do a shooter, I will fork down my cash if it’s truly deserving of my money, it doesn’t need to be attached to a decades old beloved franchise for it.

    But I guess nothing I’ll say will steer the tide if I’m the only one that sees the problem with that way of thinking :(

    • Wait! Jose! I greatly value your voice in this discussion! :-)
      To take a wider view for a moment I believe we agree on more than may be immediately obvious…
      Firstly I strongly contend that this is a game which definately feels like it is occuring in the Syndicate “Universe”. But I am not saying that it is similar to the original Syndicates in any other way. Yes there is mind control, of a sort, as you breach opponents chips etc, and there are innocent civilians who cower & flee, there are also long black coats and cool tech, the corporations are the same and the global culture style pervades both games. That is why I say it is a “Syndicate” game. It does however obviously play extremely differently. I believe this brings a lot of excitement & immersion to the table, but I also admit it does decrease some of the tactical elements that made the original Syndicate the great game it was.
      In a perfect world I would love to have my cake and eat it. Have a isometric style tactical interface with the original Syndicate research approach for travel and some quest types, but then switch to 1st person when the action heats up. Alternatively I would fully support (& pre-order) any serious indie remake / reboot of the originals (As I am doing for a certain Xenonauts game!).
      Fundamentally I believe there is space for both. We should not straight-jacket game franchises / universes, but rather encourage all play styles / game types to be created using our beloved classics as inspirations in numerous forms. (See the recent approach taken with the new Bionic Commando Platformer & FPS games for instance, or better still Xenonauts + XCOM 2012).
      As games expand in appeal, success and profitability I hope people will continue creating myriad flavours and forms of games, of all styles within our favourite universes, in addition to awesome new IPs of course! ;-)

    • One thing you need to remember is that the big publishers make the vast majority of their money from the consoles – due to how fiddly RTS games are to control they will never sell as well as any shooter (even Duken Nukem!), no matter how good they are or how good their marketing campaign is.

      Of course there will be those, like ourselves, that will be willing to try it, but Mr Smith that wanders in to Tesco and decides to pick up a game is more likely to pick up the flashy shooter he has seen on the TV than anything else.

  6. I dunno Jose, I can see where you’re coming from, but let’s be honest here – EA are in the business of making money. As much as it pains us to say this, there is no way a strategy game would make even a fraction of the amount of money a good shooter could make them. case in point, the recent command and conquer titles.

    If this were another bland military shooter I’d be less happy about it, but it is clear that they want to make a game that is as true to the original experience as possible. I’m going to buy it, because I’ve liked Starbreeze’s other games, and I hope it does well.

  7. I agree that you there can still be strategy on a 3D shooter. But, and this can’t be argued it’s not true, the kind of strategic thinking, the perception and they way you reach your strategies it’s completely different. Thus I still think this slew of non-remakes is something we should stand against… I know modern game companies are capable of awesome things without the need of new IPs, EA already showed us with Dead Space for example, we really have to put our money were our mouth is and tell them that new is not bad, and that rehashed of beloved IPs are unnecessary.

    J over and out.

  8. This is a game that I will not by any means miss.

    I love the Syndicate universe, the cold evil cyborgs, the music, the weapons, and I am sure that the clever guys at Starbreeze have made a great effort in developing the Syndicate brand to fit the state of the art of games of today.

    The original Syndicate was a brilliant game at its time, but we will have to admit that the whole game culture has developed since then. The 3D perspective is not a strategy killer as believed by some of the hard core fans. There are loads of strategic decisions to make, they just visualize the world differently.

  9. Awesome… This sounds like my dreamgame!

  10. I really appreciate your opinion Rax, I really do, however, I have to disagree.

    Sure the game follows the aesthetic to a T, and it looks like an awesome FPS.

    But sorry, I can’t forgive it for not being an strategy game, it’s another insult for old gamers and an insult for gamers intelligence in general to think that an strategy game “won’t work” nowadays and that they have to build another dammed FPS from the corpse of a great game from another genre. They could have come up with their own new IP and the game would have still rocked without pissing us old fans off again.


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