Syndicate Preview (PS3)

You know how a lot of people been wanting a new Mirror's Edge game? Well I think I just found the next best thing. EA's reboot of the classic Syndicate franchise takes the player away from the more strategic world of Corporate-Management at gunpoint, and more into the world of Corporate-Management at gunpoint in first person. It's probably not what the old-school fans were hoping for, but hopefully they'll be enough here to keep them happy.

The Mirror's Edge reference was to how the game actually looks and feels. If it wasn't for the fact that we were told the game was running on proprietary Starbreeze technology, we would swear that it was running on the adapted Unreal Engine used for Mirror's Edge. There's a lot of fluidity in movement, with vaulting, running, more vaulting... if we were being asinine we'd simply say Mirror's Edge with guns, but obviously there is more to it than that.

Dave: you go around the back, I'll go up the middle. Cheryl... go make us some coffee

For those of you who never played the original Syndicate games, none of this is really going to mean much to you. Apart from the universe they both share, the original Bullfrog-made games (yes, by Molyneux himself) and the new Starbreeze game have little in common. From RTS to FPS, from management/telling people to shoot, to doing the shooting yourself. An executive producer - Jeff Gamon, said how it was never the studio's intent to "remake" Syndicate, simply bring the franchise to a modern audience. Which basically means Crysis meets Deus Ex.

The basis of the Syndicate world is technology, and how corporations have taken control. You don't need to worry too much about the last part other than it provides you with something to shoot at, but the technology part is integral to the game. Each player (playing as a corporate 'Agent') has a chip inside their head which can be upgraded to boost different stats. Further to that, there are Breach 'applications' that can be used on enemies - think of them like spells from RPG's, and these can vary from stunning to turning enemies against each other. Weapons are also upgradeable, and there's a wide range of customization options to help your character to fit into certain archetypes, like scout, tank etc...

The bit where you start stealing other people's chips is surprisingly, well, brutal. YOINK

We think the most surprising thing about this game though was combat itself. Most of the time, it's simply about gunning. Maybe some running and gunning, and you can use your abilities to augment the running or the gunning, but mainly you just gun things. Gun them in the face. The tougher opponents though need a more tactical approach - using your hacks and breaches to cause de-buffing effects on them and make them vulnerable to your gunning. The more regular enemies are susceptible to this as well, as you can make them turn on each other using special 'breach' applications.

So far, we only know of two main modes - singleplayer and co-op, and both seem to be very different experiences. Singleplayer naturally follows a narrative, and will slowly unlock elements of the game for you as you go. Expect classic hallmarks of the original series to return - corporate espionage, corruption etc... to return, and hopefully this will be a more story driven experience than other FPS's out there right now.

What to do... do I hack the turret? Hack the guards? Both? Just kill them all? There's probably an app for that...

The co-op mode however is more open and free form, requiring you to team up with up to three other people so that you can embark on a series of raid missions. You can get blueprints, earn currency and upgrade your weapons, apps and yourself. The campaign in co-op is supposed to be separate form the singleplayer, but it is based on solo missions. It's unclear at this time whether or not stats, upgrades etc... transfer between the two modes. Playing it, you really have to work together as a team, as it's easy to get overwhelmed on your own. Taking down tougher enemies as well, like we said above, requires you to work together whilst tactically using your apps.

With the release date set to February, we imagine the game is pretty much set in stone. It's hard to say how well received it's going to be - the FPS market itself is incredibly crowded, and new audiences may not 'get' the world of Syndicate now that it's lost some of its depth - they'll just see another shooter with upgrades. Add to that those of the original audience who were just pissed off, and it'll be a very interesting launch day indeed. We hope it does well, as who knows EA might get more confidence at releasing more Syndicate titles that aren't FPS if so. As Einstein says in Red Alert though - time will tell. Syndicate is due out on February 21st in North America, and February 24th in Europe.

Most Anticipated Feature: Sadly, nothing really jumps out at us at the moment, but co-op seems interesting.