First Impressions: Syndicate
I like to take chances on games a lot, especially when they have some sort of promise of originality. I took a chance on Brink last year and it turned out terribly. I took a chance on Sonic Generations and was incredibly impressed. This week I took a chance on Syndicate and came away, as Charlie Sheen would say: winning.
Syndicate is a re-interpretation of a 1993 classic. A tactical strategy game that had an overhead view. Admitedly I have never played this game, so I was not a part of the throngs of people bemoaning the conversion of this game to a first-person shooter. Maybe that was for the best? But as I don’t have experience with the original game we’ll never see what would have been a terrible screen-for-screen comparison between the two.
I was pretty blown away by the trailers for this game and the great reception of the demo, so I decided to pull the trigger. Its been a great run so far. For a first-person shooter, this game has a lot of neat ideas: you have a see-through-any-wall ability that you can activate at any time as long as you have the ability charged up. You can “override” enemies guns to distract them and buy you a few seconds to take a killshot. But probably the most interesting thing I saw was the ability to override people very minds and cause them to commit suicide, taking out anyone around them.
These little additions make the game pretty impressive from the first few hours that I’ve played. There’s a surprisingly deep looking skill tree, but I haven’t delved much into it yet, so I can’t speak to whether or not this will force you to think about the long-term implications of choosing a skill, or if it’ll be like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and you’ll be able to get pretty much all the abilities available.
There’s also some interesting little gameplay ideas going on, you can disable incoming grenades in mid-air and throw them back at your enemies for instance. Charging your enemies will give you the ability to execute them on the fly.
But the most impressive thing I found was how intense the AI has been. Groups of enemies will try their hardest to approach from all sorts of angles, chase you out of your hiding spot and flank you at every opportunity. I found that in the more stand-alone rooms where enemies charged in this proved very difficult and I was frequently dying (I play on the “normal” difficulty). In standard “corridor crawl” areas I found that I was easily beating enemies as they would line up for my suicide button.
The game is fun and different. It has a lot of that cyberpunk motif that I feel is very underused these days. It follows a formula not too different in concept from Deus Ex, but in that game you will find yourself plotting your approach more carefully, the pace much slower. This game has running and gunning, but also thinking quickly to find solutions before you get riddled with bullets.
I’ve dabbled a bit in the Co-op multiplayer, which is sort of like a MMO-style dungeon crawl. Players need to take on roles the classes of support, assault and defense like they would for healer, DPS and tank. It makes for some fun gameplay, but I haven’t delved into it enough to really comment on whether its good or not yet.