Syndicate – Review

Platform | Release Date
PC, PS3, X360 | February 21, 2012
Developed by Starbreeze
Published by EA

The Pitch:

Syndicate is a re-imagination of the classic 1993 Syndicate game – a cyber punk FPS set in a dystopian world where large Syndicates rule and Business is War. In the 4-player co-op demo, team-up to take down rival Syndicate Cayman Global. Blast your way in and utilize your military grade DART6 chip to breach enemies and the environment as you battle for market dominance and your life. Some takeovers are more hostile than others.

Welcome, gentlemen.

After years of competition, two of the great Syndicates have decided to put aside their animosity and join forces. The EuroCorp and Aspari merger has brought us together today to discuss our latest product from EA: a video game titled “Syndicate”.

We launched “Syndicate” in late February of 2012. Many of you have read the initial reports released at this time regarding its reception and their unsatisfactory results. We decided to perform our own inquiry into the matter using the best benefit–to-cost efficiency method:

We abducted one of our loyal customers. The Subject has been under close observation while exposed to the product and we have compiled our metrics.

Session 1: “9”
After orienting himself to his new surroundings, The Subject has shown great promise in his initial trials. He cooperated and began to play “Syndicate” on the terminal provided in the Testing Area. Both active surveys and passive neural scanning showed The Subject immensely enjoyed his initial session with The Product, giving it a “9”. He jumped right into our Cooperative offering, teaming up with others over the internet and tackling a series of single missions. He cited several aspects as positive including the “unique healing mechanic” and “reliance on your teammates and teamwork.” He mentioned the maps were linear, but had sufficient challenge level to maintain his interest. We intercepted attempts to communicate to the outside world for help.

This infraction was reported and we released knock-out gas into the Testing Area.

Session 2: “9”
The Subject continued to pursue our “Cooperative” mode and claimed deep satisfaction in the level-up mechanics and gunplay. He particularly enjoyed the “weight of movement” and mentioned it was similar in feel to Battlefield 3 or Mirror’s Edge. As he began to memorize level layout, his measured proficiency and leaderboard scores rose sharply. He even made ‘friends’ with a few of the undercover EA employees and formed an in-game clan (also called a “Syndicate”). At this point there was another infraction requesting “Help!”, and we gassed The Subject again.

Session 3: “8”
There are visible signs of distress forming in the neural patterns. The Subject has expressed aggravation at the lack of a proper matchmaking system. While we provide a means to Quick Match into any public game you desire with a range of customization or setup a Private match with similar configuration, we do not provide “an easy way to team up with one friend and then go online to fill out the other two slots”. Instead the subject was irritated that we only allowed users to “quick match, then hope there was an empty slot for their friend to force-join into.”
This is clearly a problem with The Subject’s perspective and not the program. Only dissidents wish to organize in such ways with strangers, so we immediately gassed him.

Sessions 4 & 5: “7” & “8”
The Subject’s neural patterns were showing an increased sign of paranoia and agitation, which perhaps led to the reclusive nature of beginning to play the Solo campaign. This Story mode is designed to help show customers the power of the Syndicates, but The Subject complained about a lack of effectiveness. He praised the same, great gunplay from the Cooperative mode, but felt that he was at the disadvantage in most situations, with less health and firepower than his opponents. While challenging, it was not the experience he expected. Nor was it the message we wished to portray, so we gassed him.

Session 6: “4”
You can see a sharp dip here, gentlemen. The Subject grew increasingly frustrated with waves of enemies in the Solo campaign. He cited it was poor form to have elevators unload behind the player during a 3rd wave attack, sending him back to Wave 1. He cited the best strategy and core gameplay became memorizing how many waves there would be and how they entered the arena. Accordingly, we have accelerated several R&D projects related to precognition.

The Subject got up from his console and began to pound on the walls. He wanted out, but our tests were not yet complete so we subdued him with more knock-out gas.

Session 7: “6”
With a renewed determination, The Subject began to rapidly improve in skill. Perhaps he thought that if he won, he would be released? He began to take smarter cover during any encounter, assuming there would be multiple waves of enemies. He began to make liberal use of his powers and gunplay simultaneously. He was approaching the level of skill several of our QA testers had reached in their repeated runs. In interview, he even states “this game would be great from a QA standpoint. The emphasis is always on improvement during repeated replays with smooth gunplay. It’s so fluid. You make music with a symphony of guns and the lack of story lends itself well to playing the game again and again. Each room is just a puzzle to solve with reflexes and bullets. The fact that it is relatively bug-free helps reinforce this idea.”

“But I don’t care. I feel no emotion for any of these characters or attachment to this world. I can’t relate to an environment where every hallway is just connecting two arenas: one containing a pile of bodies where I have been, and the other with at least 3 waves of enemies waiting to ambush me. Why do these people fight? I thought this game was made by the same world-building geniuses at Starbreeze? They always made great worlds with terrible gunplay. This is the reverse of that.”

This assessment was dangerously close to reality. With the possibility of a mole working with The Subject, we immediately contained the situation by gassing him.

Session 8: “6”
The Subject muttered “I am not a number. I am a man!” repeatedly during this session as he made his way towards the end of the Solo game. The Subject was unexpectedly gassed when a low level staff member observing him accidentally leaned on the console.

Session 9 – Final Session: “7”
Concluding the Single Player experience, the first thing The Subject did was begin to read through the extensive backstory presented in our InfoBank. He squinted through the small text entries, one by one, for over 30 minutes. We believe he genuinely wanted to learn more about the world; that he wanted for there to be more than the minimal amount presented in-game. Maybe he sought motivation for his actions, purpose to his play-through, or perhaps he just wanted to make the “New Message!” disappear from the GUI.

We couldn’t expose more than we did. If we revealed too many details, our methods and plans would be public. The people would know our secrets! But, gentlemen, just imagine if we had? Imagine a world where we had brought players into the cyberpunk future and drew them into the experience with more than just “good guns”?

Syndicate is a meta-message. Where playing as a soulless killing drone feels like it. Where a sterile and controlled dystopian future masquerades as nostalgia updated to version 2.0. Where this cyberpunk product can’t even decide if it should be a sweeping, operatic Sci-Fi or a fun,gritty game with a Skrillex soundtrack shoe-horned in.



About Aaron Phokal

Aaron is a staff writer for Splitkick.
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