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LONG BLOG

Simplifying Syndicate: A Missed Opportunity for EA

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A recent venture to the local dollar store yielded a small surprise for me. Amongst the eclectic selection of public domain films and K-Tel CDs I found a copy of 2012's Syndicate, appropriately priced at only one Canadian dollar. While only vaguely familiar with the series I couldn't resist promptly purchasing the oddity, if only to satiate my curiosity. I hurried home to begrudgingly install Origin (and I was successful after only two failed attempts) and after squashing a runtime error I was finally granted access to the world of Syndicate. Three hours later as the credits rolled I couldn't help but feel like the entire game could have been so much more. I'd like to preface this overview by stating that I have never played an entry in this series before, but I am aware that this iteration is a major departure from the originals. With that out of the way, let's take a look at Syndicate.

The game has an interesting premise, one that is becoming more and more relevant with each passing year. In Syndicate, the world is controlled entirely by large corporations and the majority of the populace is augmented with cranial implants. You play as Kilo (kilobyte?), a corporate raider/hired gun who fights for the large conglomerate EuroCorp's interests. You've just been implanted with the company's latest prototype chip to make you a more efficient killer and when one of EuroCorp's rivals readies to unveil a similar product you're sent in to stop them. One of the conceivable advantages to shifting the series' focus from isometric strategy to first-person action could be to tell a more personal story while letting the player explore this interesting future firsthand. Unfortunately Syndicate accomplishes neither, you're never given more than surface level details regarding Kilo and the moments when you're allowed to simply look around and explore are too few and far between. I wasn't expecting the same level of exploration seen in titles like Deus Ex, but Syndicate doesn't even offer you a guided tour like the BioShock series would.



The story is also woefully underdeveloped. Without pouring through data logs players will understand only the basics of their surroundings. Starbreeze Studios have engineered an attractive soapbox to discuss issues of globalisation or transhumanism and the opportunity has been completely squandered. Also, at only three hours long, the entire campaign feels like the first entry in an episodic series instead of a full fledged retail release. Kilo can't even be considered a hero for a majority of the game because he doesn't have his obligatory change of heart until you're two thirds of the way through the story. It's too bad because the game's presentation is top-notch with a competent voice cast and style to burn.


All of this would be excusable if actually playing Syndicate was fun & exciting. While the gunplay is fast & frantic it never manages to reach the absurd heights of Rise of the Triad´┐Żor Bulletstorm leaving it largely forgettable. And while you have access to special abilities allowing you to hack enemies and environments you'll rarely need to make use of them. Halfway through the campaign I was having difficulty finding the motivation necessary to continue. My feeling of ennui is an unfortunate side effect to the development team's unfocused talent. Syndicate can sometimes be a feast for the eyes despite it's modest system requirements, it's just a shame that the game's large budget was wasted on such a disposable experience. It's certainly worth the price of a gas-station cup of coffee, but not much more.
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About segastardustone of us since 2:27 PM on 11.18.2012

For as long as I can remember, I've been a gamer. I was born in the 80s and grew up during the 90s. I was first introduced into gaming by my father when I played video games with him on our family's DOS PC. Some of those old titles included Commander Keen, Duke Nukem, Jazz Jackrabbit, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Wing Commander.

What really cemented my identity as a gamer was when he bought my brothers and I a SEGA Genesis for Christmas in '95, that was the day I was introduced to Sonic the Hedgehog.

From that day I've been fascinated with all facets of gaming and the culture that surrounds it. And despite starting out as a notorious SEGA fanboy (a habit I admittedly haven't entirely shook) I now spend my free time playing a wide assortment of genres across a variety of consoles.