Poor Syndicate. Not only is it a FPS-update of a popular, long-ignored PC strategy game (which is unsettling for many fans of the classic), it’s a game that is coming out early next year with very little hype and bravado given to the game. Thankfully, it looks like EA is giving it some old fashioned marketing TLC, starting off, for me, with a peek into the co-op portion of Syndicate before it launches on February 24.
The narrative of Syndicate places players in 2069. Technology has advanced to the point where people can install chips into their brains and use them to interact with devices – and people – around them. These are expensive products, meaning once a person gets the implant, their whole life is tied to their identity to that company that makes that chip.
Since the whole world is now run by these chip companies called “Syndicates,” identity is tied to which product you choose and which company you have chosen to control your life. Yes, this is basically “Fanboy Wars: The Game,” and I love it.
On the single-player side, players will control Miles Kilo, a prototype EuroCorp agent that has been raised to fight for EuroCorp.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t shown any of the single-player portions of the game. Rather, I played the four player co-op mode that runs concurrent to the single-player game. There is some confusion on the nature of the game, but the co-op mode is a fully self-contained game with many missions that are designed around each specific Syndicate. With levels taking anywhere from 30-60 minutes, I have been promised a substantial amount of multiplayer content. Maybe not quite as much as the single-player, but enough to be more than a throwaway offering.
Starbreeze Studios is developing the co-op experience with quite a bit of finesse. Players choose one of four classes, such as spec-ops and a medic-support class, as well as what Syndicate they want to be a part of. Playing through levels will grant them level experience, and they will also see many random drops of blueprints for new weapons and tools. The whole experience has been described as more Borderlands than a traditional shooter, so come in expecting to level up your character and collect loot.
The stage we were shown is a EuroCorp stage, a level called New England that looks like a fusion of the clean lines and colors of Mirror’s Edge and a more traditional shooter like Crysis. While I personally find the character models to looks a little ugly and dated, the stages themselves are quite nice.
This is also a very difficult game. We only got to the check point of the map, which is about halfway through the level (in which we were supposed to steal technology blueprints from a competing syndicate), and many of our playthroughs resulted in horrible defeat. Part of this is due to our unfamiliarity of the breaching mechanic. Unlike the single-player, where players can breach into enemy units and control them, breaching is designed to break down enemy shields, hack computer terminals to stop shielded turrets, implant computer viruses into enemies to slowly poison them, and more. Additionally, buffs and healing can be applied to players on the positive side of breaching, so a good team of four will offer as much support as possible. When a player goes down, there will be a short period of time that the player can slowly walk away and get quickly revived, but if they bleed out it will take a substantial amount of time for surviving players to revive them. Players will earn many different breaching skills depending on the class they were playing.
All in all, I found the multiplayer to be an interesting application of the ideas of Syndicate. Many of the features of this mode are in other games, so I’m curious to see how Starbreeze will pull everything together. Difficult and satisfying, if they make the multiplayer worthwhile, players may like it as much as the single-player.