by / March 8th, 2012 /

Syndicate – PS3, X360 (EA)

No, it’s not a remake of EA’s classic strategy title of the same name. Instead, the Syndicate of 2012 is a futuristic first person shooter that’s low on story but high on action. The year is 2069 and global corporations rule OK, thanks to the invention of the DART chip, inserted into the brain, which runs on adrenaline, dividing the human race into the have’s and have not’s (those with the chip and the poor souls without). You’re one of the lucky ones: well, kind of. You are Miles Kilo an agent for EuroCorp, one of the biggest corporations on the planet. So far, so what? Well being an agent for one of these multinationals basically gives you carte blanche to do exactly what you want and kill anyone who gets in your way as you bid to thwart the scientific advances of the rival Aspari corporation.

It all sounds suitably Orwellian, and the graphics and feel of the game are realistically grey enough to give Blade Runner a run for its money, but for State‘s cash, there’s not enough invested into the game’s storyline to make us really care about any of its characters except in a perfunctory way. However, when it comes to shooters, plot and reason can go and defenestrate themselves: it’s the action that matters, and once you get through the first couple of humdrum levels, Syndicate starts to get under your skin, just like the experimental chip they’ve embedded in your brain.

You are the first of a new level of agent, with the ability to add apps to your chip, seriously upgrading your skill-set with some downright nasty abilities. There’s ‘Suicide’, which does exactly what it says on the tin: convincing an enemy that shooting themselves in the head is their only option; ‘Backfire’, which causes an enemy weapon to do just that, giving you valuable seconds to fill them full of holes; and, my favourite, ‘Persuade’, whereby an enemy agent shoots all of his allies in range before turning his gun on himself. Morally questionable? Undoubtedly. Fun? For sure. You can also earn other, more mundane, abilities, such as Emergency Resuscitation or Killing Spree, as you progress up the EuroCorp-erate ladder, but it’s these early apps that really get the pulse racing.

While the single player campaign sometimes delves into the realm of shooter cliché, from our hero’s moral dilemma to the fighting-enemies-on-a-train level, there is enough real quality here to hold your attention, while the cracking co-op mode, whereby four people can fight together online, is worth the price of admission alone. Not the best shooter we’ve ever played, but there’s enough innovation and action to keep you interested.