Syndicate

PS3 (also 360, PC)

If video games have taught us anything, it's that the future is going to be a violent place. Dark and violent. With humans fighting super-humans/robots. So plenty to look forward to then.

Although this title may ring some bells some of you elder gamers (although if it's persistent, you may want to visit your local GP in case it's Tinnitus), this game has very little to do with its 1993 namesake. What was a real-time tactical experience, presented in glorious isometric-vision, is now a First Person Shooter. That's the thing about the future, it can change on the slightest of whims.

The game takes place in New York in 2069, but it's hardly the recognisable city that it is now. A company called EuroCorp seems to be running the show; not just NYC either but the entire world. Miles Kilo is one of their agents. He's just been upgraded to their latest chip set DART 6. These chip implants enhance the abilities of humans, making them super-human. Now there's a surprise.

When top Honcho Jack Denham (voiced by Brian Cox the Scottish actor, not the D:Ream-y physicist)learns of another corporation has scientists working on a rival chip, he sends Kilo out to eliminate him. We told you the future was rough. Although he has all this extra computing power, Kilo still manages to keep in touch with his human side, which begins to make him think if he's doing the right thing after all.

boom game reviews - Syndicate
Peek-a-boo, I can see you!

Syndicate suffers a little being released so close to that other recent sci-fi FPS release Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Thankfully however, this game doesn't get bogged down in the mechanics of it all. The story might well have illusions of scientific grandeur, but in comparison to Deus Ex, it's far more fun to play.

This is probably due to the fact that you pick up a gun and shoot whatever comes at you armed. You don't really have to think more about what you're doing than that. It may well be generic in terms of what you have to do, and it certainly won't win any awards for its bog-standard level design, but its overall game play is solid and respectable.

Yes it presents a fairly dull-looking future, but at least it does occasionally intersperse the dreariness with some Blade Runner-esque neon lighting. It also has a few nice tricks up its sleeve.

One of the main bonuses of being all chipped up is the ability to use the DART overlay. It's a fancy term the developers have given bullet time to in the future. Whilst it's activated, enemies are highlighted in a tangerine orange, making them easy to shoot. Time also slows down, making them, well, easier to shoot. You also take less damage too.

On top of this there are three extra powers you can inflict on your enemy once you've collected enough kills; these are suicide, backfire and persuade. Suicide sees your enemy turn their gun on themselves; backfire makes them more vulnerable once their weapon backfires; and persuade gets the enemy to shoot at their own men for a short while, before turning the gun on themselves. Not only can any of these get you out of a pickle, they're really enjoyable to watch.

You'll need to use these powers as often as you can, because the enemy have a pretty decent AI. They don't just stay in one place waiting to be shot at; instead they prefer to stay in cover, rarely resorting to the same movement twice. Tricky yes, but certainly more rewarding when they do hit the deck.

It's this smart AI that helps make the game an enjoyable challenge. Much has been made of the badass boss levels in the game. Yes they're hard work, but not impossible. We've certainly stopped playing a game simply because we just didn't have the will or patience to devote months to taking down a particular boss. That wasn't the case here.

The game also has an upgrade system, but it's quite possibly the most redundant one ever used in a game. After extracting chips from certain characters (in a deliciously gory fashion, it has to be said) they can be used to upgrade your abilities. However, there's really no discernable difference once you've been upgraded, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Although the game far from re-invents the future FPS, the single player campaign remains an enjoyable challenge.

On top of that, the game also has a nice online co-op campaign mode with 9 different missions available for up to four players to play through. This makes a refreshing change from the usual Deathmatch scenarios at least.

The future might not be bright, and only contain a hint of (tangerine) orange thanks to the DART overlay, but Syndicate does just enough to provide an engaging vision of what's to come. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in being highly playable and solidly competent.

three out of five