Syndicate PS3 review

Syndicate PS3 2

EA’s Syndicate reboot is as closely related to the 1993 original as Flo Rida’s lyrical arsenal is to Dickens, and that’s no reason to hate it. It is reason to question the practice of dressing up an essentially new IP in an ancient franchise’s clothing, though. It’s in danger of alienating series fans by presenting a complete departure from the game they loved, and confusing new players by placing them in a universe borrowed from a game they haven’t played.

It’s a shame that Starbreeze’s shooter suffers conceptual problems even before the disc hits the drive, because the premise is as engaging as shooters get in an industry bloated by COD imitators. It’s 2069, the corporations have taken over completely – just like the rabid man at the bus shelter said they would – and the world’s basically a horrible, Orwellian dystopia ravaged by warring syndicates.

You, sir, are an elite agent working for one of these mega-evil factions (seduced by the rock-solid pension plan, one can only assume) and armed to the neuro-receptors with special abilities, including being able to make people commit suicide and weapons backfire. These perks are all lumped together in the DART 6 overlay – essentially a Crysis nanosuit without the cool 50-a-day voiceover. Oh, and guns, of course. You’ve got plenty of those, too.

A razor-sharp brutalist art direction and buzz-tastic dubstep soundtrack from the likes of Skrillex and Nero thump home the future-shock. In an audiovisual sense, at least, Syndicate’s well poised right from the opening cinematic to punch through the FPS masses like a cyborg uppercut.

The opening few hours of actual gameplay prove much less incisive. The ‘oh my God, I’m tied to a chair’ opening feels clichéd, and as the first level unfolds you can spot the game references like you’re on a tour bus. Oh hi, Battlefield 3’s close-quarters QTE takedown 20 seconds in.

The gunplay itself is simple but solid at this stage, allowing you to use the DART overlay to turn your vision all infrared and Tron-like so you can spot enemy heat signatures behind walls and take them out in slo-mo. Every gamer’s a sucker for being able to pretend they’re the Predator scouting out Arnie with augmented vision, but despite that, Syndicate’s opening is achingly derivative and fills you with little hope.

Thank the corporate gods it dares to be itself after the first hour or so. Departing from genero-ville, it takes you to shiny company headquarters in the clouds, nightclubs and sprawling military vessels, all presented with a level of eye-watering sparkle only the Frostbite 2 engine (of BF3 fame) can muster.

Levels, though linear, convey a sense that you’re working through something big – you can usually see your objective in the distance, and work towards it through shiny glass corridors, elevators and ventilation shafts, including some oddly anachronistic jump puzzles. Oddly, given the premise, there’s no actual ‘hacking’ as such – it’s just a matter of pressing L2 on various computer screens and doors, while pondering what could have been.

Syndicate also drops a couple more abilities at your fingertips a few hours in: Backfire, Suicide and Persuade. The latter’s especially vicious -hack into an enemies’ skull with L2 and he’ll go rogue, raining fire on his allies before turning the gun on himself.