Syndicate Co-Op Hands-On Preview – Breach Around

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The words “re-imagining” and “reboot” have never been more prevalent in the games industry than they are now. For old-skool fans of the originals getting these remakes though, this isn’t necessarily a good thing… it’s like listening to Busted remake and re-record a cover of an Abba song – it just shouldn’t work and it’s as wrong as watching an episode of Sex and the City without your girlfriend forcing you to at gunpoint. That said though, when it does work it brings with it a whole host of new fans to the franchise, and with Fallout getting a successful re-imagining this generation, it’s now time for another isometric classic to get a re-imagining. This time, it’s Syndicate’s turn. Originally an RTS title developed by Bullfrog way back in 1993, here we are nearly 20 years later with The Darkness and Riddick developer, Starbreeze, at the helm, and like everything these days, the re-imagining is going first-person and there will be guns!

Starbreeze’s re-imaging of the franchise looks to take everything that made the original so successful and bring it forward into the 21st century. According to Jeff Gamon, Executive Producer at EA Partners, they’ve taken the world, the agents, the weaponry, the corporations and of course, the chips, and made those the core tenements of the newly re-imagined first-person shooter. Having already seen the single-player in action in a recent dev diary, our attention today is, for the most part, on the game’s four-player co-op.

Syndicate’s co-op element, which is the game’s only multiplayer mode, consists of nine missions – “some of which you may recognise from the original classic game” says Gamon – with three missions for each of the three corporations: Aspari, Cayman Global and Eurocorp. The entirely separate and unique campaigns see players fight against the other corporations in a bid to acquire their competitor’s tech and headhunt their big wigs to put their syndicate at the top of the tree. In this particular hands-on we headed to the brightly coloured rooftops and interiors of Eurocorp in New England to see what we had in store for us this February.

In this relatively short hands-on, our objective was simple: head into the Eurocorp building and steal the blueprints for the Leonardo device. Kicking things off in a helicopter with our three other co-op buddies sat next to us, the action started with a bang as we touched down on the roof of Eurocorp. The first thing that struck us as we left the chopper was the bright and vibrant visuals that oozed class and style from every pore – picture a Mirror’s Edge style environment with vibrant colours and clean whites, but with considerably more detail. It was all rather refreshing.

Being a co-op mode, teamwork and communication is as important as ever, so working out who’s going to support from afar and who’s going to get up close and personal is a good start on the road to success. The main “breaching” mechanic – hacking, in short – is truly at the centre of the game’s co-operative play, encouraging teamwork more so than any other gameplay device. Seeing as everything in the Syndicate world is hackable, whether you’re talking other people – thanks to the chip in their head – or turrets and the like, it’s pretty much at the centre of everything. That extends into the co-op gameplay just as much too, with players able to heal and help downed comrades up from a distance too. Like any good team game as well, you’ll be rewarded with points for every squad assist you do.

Customisation is also the name of the game and apparently EA and Starbreeze see it as the “cornerstone” of the Syndicate experience, says Gamon. The EP cited that Syndicate’s co-op will have 25 chip upgrades, 19 weapons which are upgradeable in 87 different ways, and of course, 12 breach applications that are fully upgradeable. The breach applications make up the meat of the game and with breach apps like the virus app, where you can invade an enemy and cause damage over time, they’re shaping up to be the game’s truly unique selling point.

The hands-on essentially involved us descending down onto a rooftop, making our way across said rooftop taking down wave after wave of foes, before gaining access to the offices and fighting with a mini-gunner in a rather open environment. It’s simple, objective-based horde in a way, but with the breaching, it’s got a unique take on a fairly stale genre. Gameplay wise, the controls were hard to fault and there was a certain fluidity that you almost expect from Starbreeze anyway. Sure, it’s not rocket-science or even complex gameplay, but it has the potential to be a little bit deeper and more tactical than just running and gunning through corridor after corridor.

Although Syndicate’s co-op was a fun jaunt into a futuristic universe that seems to blend the technological advancements of Deus Ex with the clean, brightly coloured levels of Mirror’s Edge and the combat of your everyday first-person shooter, we suspect that its strengths lie in its single-player. Having had chance to try out the recent single-player mission that featured in a recent dev diary as well, it revealed to us a deep, thinking-man’s shooter, with clever head-scratching puzzles, a rich history and backstory, and plenty of crazy gadgets and unique gameplay mechanics that look to set it apart from the rest of the herd. In the case of Syndicate’s re-imagining then, it’s most certainly a case of watch this space!

Syndicate is scheduled for a February 21st and February 24th release in North America and Europe respectively.


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Game Info
Electronic Arts


US February 21, 2012

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