Syndicate review for Xbox 360, PS3

Platform: Xbox 360
Also on: PS3
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Medium: DVD-Rom
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

It?s been quite some time since we heard from Starbreeze Studios, the creators of The Chronicles of Riddick, which is surprising considering how critically well received the game was.  You would figure that projects would be piling up on their desk, but alas, it has been a while. It’s even more thought provoking since they did such an upstanding job on The Darkness, which had a recent sequel that was helmed by another developer.  Maybe they were hard at work on this title I?m about to review, but I still find it mind boggling that this team has a hard time finding work.

Thankfully they have come back into the fold and while they are not taking on a licensed outside of video games piece of fiction, they are rebooting a series and making it their own.  That series is  Syndicate, and was released in the early 90’s by Bullfrog Studios. Starbreeze have taken this ? action adventure and turned it into a visceral FPS that offers a lot of new game play mechanics, if not being bogged down by a familiar story.

The year is 2069 and the world has finally given up on corporate democracies and dictatorships, and has given way to corporate war led by three companies called Eurocorp, Cayman Global, and Aspari.  Thanks to this global funding, we have officially gone green as there are no more papers to be found with everything digitally replicated including information, skills, and talents that are driven through chips embedded in your brain.

You’re a soldier, and one of your chipsets is labeled DART 6, which allows you to have capabilities and skills far beyond the normal citizen.  This not only makes you more dangerous, it makes you wanted by the three corporate giants and your life is now a series of actions to rid the world of this corporate war and allow humanity to live in peace once again.  The story telling has a few keen hands lent to it for voice over talents and likenesses such as Rosario Dawson and Brian Cox, which give the story some weight.

Syndicate looks  stunning with very clean graphics that remind me of Mirror?s Edge in a way, with the overly pristine areas, color schemes, and use of speed and movements such as grasping ledges where you’ll see your hands help boost you back into position.  Syndicate comes into its own with the DART 6 vision that’s a lot like an X-ray, but the world is in black and white lines while characters that are labeled bad are in yellow and non threats in blue.  Not only can you see through objects, but the world around you slows down slightly to help you gain the advantage on your enemies.

You also have the ability to hack devices not active or even turn them on your enemies, but what really received a 10 on the ?cool? meter is the enhancements you acquire such as suicides and backfires that allow your enemies minds to be taken over, maybe even wiping out a few of their friends along the way.  The end result is a fun, frantic shooter, with just enough strategic elements to not feel like a cookie cutter FPS in any way.

If taking down baddies on your own doesn’t whet your appetite, then you will enjoy the game?s co-op mode that takes on a variation of what the single player game offers, but brings you into many diverse territories and environments not seen in the single player experience.  It?s almost like you get two games in one as they both play in a similar fashion, but feel totally different in concept and execution. Even more intriguing is the level up system that allows you to utilize the breach applications, chip upgrades, and 18 weapon types in various ways to create over 80 combinations that make each journey you take with a friend feel fresh and exciting.

Syndicate may not be the game that fans of the original were hoping for many years later, but sci-fi and shooter fans will be pleased with the overall execution of not only the story, but also the weapon techniques, game play, and co-op fun. It will provide them with enough depth and complexity to the FPS genre that it will make its own mark among similar games and never be mistaken for just another sci-fi shooter.  The story may not be fresh and original, but the game play ideas, co-op action, and visual stylings sure are, which at least deserves your attention and admiration even if you haven?t had this title in your sights.

Grade: B+