Syndicate preview

Starbreeze's upcoming Syndicate reboot is the beautiful blonde girl in the club. Gorgeous to look at, and fun to play. But is it smart enough to keep your attention?

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Who knew violence could be so... sexy?

Starbreeze's upcoming Syndicate reboot is the beautiful blonde girl in the club. Even surrounded by dozens of other games at a preview event last week, it commanded my attention. Although a FPS, it managed to look unlike any other game on show. Controller in hand, I couldn't help but be impressed by how stylish it looked, how smoothly it played, and how polished everything was.

I can't wait to get a second date with Syndicate, but I'm afraid that behind the beauty, there's might be no brains.

The demo starts with a bang. Literally. Your partner casually walks up to enemies and shoots their heads, point blank. His nonchalance reminds you that, hey, you're not a good guy, and your cause isn't exactly holy.

This ten-minute hands-on segment confirmed nearly everything I had thought the game would be. The debut trailer was a sexy, musical celebration of violence, and the game is no different. There's no shortage of brutality: within minutes, you're snapping a guy's neck, forcing someone to blow their brains out, and brutally drilling into a scientist's head. While the work you do is disgusting, there's a feeling of clinical cleanliness to it all--perhaps due to the persistent augmented UI that overlays everything in the environment. You see humans not as people, but as targets--and objects are merely tools to accomplish your goals.

Given you have a chip in your head, it shouldn't be too surprising that the game is very linear, and very scripted. While the game invites comparisons to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, thanks to its setting and visual stylings, the two games feel nothing alike. Whereas Deus Ex presented players with the ability to play as they wish, there's very little room for flexibility in Syndicate. Given the series' heritage, that will undoubtedly be disappointing. From what I've played, Syndicate is "just" a shooter--albeit a very sexy one.

For example, breaching into a person's brain is a surprisingly painless affair. You look at them, and hold the trigger button. The first time I performed this, a cinematic sequence started, showing how I bypass the chip's security and override my victim's sense of self-control. There was no mini-game, or QTEs, or anything--I just held down the button. You don't have any control over the people you breach either; they will just do what they're supposed to do. According to an EA representative, this mechanic doesn't actually get any more complex later on in the game.

While I expected more strategy from a game called Syndicate, it's hard to argue against how the game plays. This is great-feeling FPS, with interesting-enough weapons and abilities to make it stand out. In an era of endless military-themed modern combat shooters, it's nice to get a sci-fi shooter. You can integrate breach into combat, on things other than other humans. You can take over turrets, for example. You must breach into remote drones in order to disable their shields before taking them down. Weapons are also thoroughly enjoyable to control, with unique primary and secondary fire modes that make the game less Call of Duty and more Ratchet & Clank. While Syndicate may not be a thinking man's shooter, the gunfights feel terrific.

Is Syndicate marriage material? At this early point, I'm guessing not. But Syndicate looks and feels so good that I'm going to need another date... and soon. Syndicate will be available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 this February.

From The Chatty
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    December 15, 2011 12:00 PM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Syndicate preview.

    Starbreeze's upcoming Syndicate reboot is the beautiful blonde girl in the club. Gorgeous to look at, and fun to play. But is it smart enough to keep your attention?

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      December 15, 2011 12:09 PM

      "it shouldn't be too surprising that the game is very linear, and very scripted".. this saddens me greatly. What's the point of using a recognised IP when you are just going to piss off the fanbase? Is the recognition status of the syndicate name so good as to outweigh the collective "wtf" of older gamers that actually remember the game and are annoyed at the association with something so different?

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        December 15, 2011 1:42 PM

        piss on the fanbase WHILE taking their money.

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        December 15, 2011 2:52 PM

        I played the hell out of syndicate as a kid. Definitely one of my all-time favs. Unfortunately, we're not the target demo anymore and the game has to change so it will sell.

        This is a gaming site that skews older, so theres a bunch of people upset about the ip raping. However, if you take a random sampling of people who play games, I doubt many of them have heard or care about syndicate.

        It's easier to pretend it's called 'EA's 2012 sci fi shooter' and not syndicate and move on

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          December 15, 2011 3:03 PM

          But in that case why use the syndicate name? Why not come up with a new IP as such, when the product itself is only tangentially related to the originals? If we are the only ones that recognise it, then using the name is only of worth in our demographic? I just don't get the logic in it, aside from "oh we have this unused IP, just slap it on something and ship it".

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            December 15, 2011 3:15 PM

            Besides the nostalgia factor, why pay and develop a new IP when you've already paid for one that no one is using?

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            December 16, 2011 5:01 AM

            Why use the name on something essentially different? Easy: so that they can get people talking about the game. Old gamer complains on a forum, new gamer who would otherwise have ignored the title suddenly is exposed to it. Marketing 101.

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      December 15, 2011 12:53 PM

      "There's always an element of navigation and puzzle solving..." he says as he mashes the x button to open the marked door in the long hallway.

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        December 15, 2011 12:56 PM

        lol

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        December 15, 2011 1:21 PM

        "Time to be clever and tactical, agent!"

        *hud highlights every enemy in the room to autokill with infinitely recharging superpower*

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      December 15, 2011 12:58 PM

      Does this have MP or is it SP only? The MP could perhaps redeem it if it's decent enough.

      Sadly, I'll have to assume that the PC version will be a so-so port at best. Though Deus Ex proved that they can, sometimes, cater to the PC crowd too. Here's hoping this game takes that route.

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        December 15, 2011 1:15 PM

        There is four player co-op multplayer which, admittedly, looks very cool.

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          December 15, 2011 2:22 PM

          Co-op? Eh, not that big of a thrill for me but I know a lot of people care about it, so cool.

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      December 15, 2011 2:11 PM

      Looks like something I'd take a flyer on during Steam's Holiday sale but nothing I'd buy at full price.

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      December 15, 2011 3:26 PM

      Oh my god, he beat that dating metaphor to death.

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      December 15, 2011 4:56 PM

      another whoring of an old name

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      December 15, 2011 6:04 PM

      Stopped reading at "Controller in Hand"

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        December 16, 2011 5:52 AM

        I actually almost did the same.

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        December 16, 2011 6:22 AM

        Where are you posting from? 1999?

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        December 17, 2011 4:31 PM

        lol console controllers for fps games what the fuck is with that.....

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      December 15, 2011 8:11 PM

      should have been left4dead with cyborgs and miniguns, sniper rifles and guass guns. :(

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      December 15, 2011 9:43 PM

      She is sexy. I'll be picking this blonde up and fucking her brains out.

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      December 16, 2011 12:33 AM

      This game looks like nothing more than an attempt at a "Deus Ex killer". Oh gods I hope the REAL Syndicate game of 2012, "Cartel", will still be made.

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      December 16, 2011 1:01 AM

      just a linear "next-gen" shooter huh :[

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      December 16, 2011 4:13 AM

      Right, violence can be sexy...

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        December 16, 2011 4:51 AM

        Only in America were violence can be considered sexy but an attractive nude women is a crime against humanity..

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      December 17, 2011 4:27 PM

      move along, keep moving