Imagine what might happen if a group of software developers got together to reboot a once-popular PC game franchise. Much like with the re-imaginings that take place all-too often in the world of motion pictures, said game makers would have to perform a major overhaul on just about every aspect of the original — giving their project such a giant face-lift that very little of the new title’s source material remained. Now picture that our company of video game architects — whom we’ll just go ahead and call Starbreeze Studios from hereon in — made the same mistake the people in Hollywood tend to make, and became so obsessed with making their title so modern and niche, that they completely neglected to make it interesting in the process.
Yes, kids, I’m sorry to say that Starbreeze Studio’s version of Bullfrog Productions’ good ol’ ‘90s Syndicate series is a painfully dull one. Straight from the get-go, Syndicate sets out to impress you — but its generic premise and sloppy manufacturing prevent such a thing from happening. Even the “star” talents of Rosario Dawson, Brian Cox, and Michael Wincott (all of whom appear in the game via caricatures of themselves) don’t help any. The game begins with an introduction to the world we’re about to play in: a half-dystopian land of the future wherein mega-huge-über-conglomerate Eurocorp has perfected and created the “DART chip” — a really techie-like thingamabob that has rendered most of our current electronic devices (mobile phones, computers, etc.) outmoded.
The DART bio-chip is implanted within the heads of humans, making it easy for Starbreeze to execute a number of training levels that are too Tron-looking for my tastes. For players, however, the chips enable them to do all kinds of neat stuff, such as access various servers (except the ones at restaurants, unfortunately), unlock electronic doors, see through walls, and even — get this — make some of your enemies disoriented enough that they are forced to fall down dazed and confused, shoot their companions, or shoot themselves! Now, while that little piece of gameplay — known here as “breaching” — might make Syndicate seem like it’s worth checking out in itself, let me assure you that it isn’t.
So, anyway, in Syndicate, you get to play a Eurocorp agent named Miles Kilo (really) — the proud recipient of the new DART 6 chip, and who is assigned one boring mission after another. Breaking into heavily-guarded rival companies, dealing with terrorists intent on starting a war, et cetera — Syndicate’s levels are hardly what you’d call “inspired.” We’ve seen it all before — in almost every form of media imaginable, and things aren’t any different here (with the exception of the whole “breaching” thing, that is): it’s just run, shoot, repeat. The graphics — while good — are often distracting and choppy for a title of this caliber, and the onscreen tutoring you usually get in a game like this just doesn’t seem to be there — even when you’re playing via the “Easy” setting.
Confidentially, the only reason one might want to dive into Syndicate would be it co-op mode. When going head-to-head with a friend online, the game is actually kind of fun (though several of the breaching features aren’t available in multiplayer mode — sigh), but unless you’re the type content with doing the same thing over and over again, it’s probably best to avoid Syndicate altogether.
Syndicate is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes. This game can also be found on: PC and Xbox 360.