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 Syndicate: Different Genre, Same Spirit 

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PostSubject: Syndicate: Different Genre, Same Spirit   Mon Nov 28, 2011 6:30 pm


EA and developer Starbreeze may have ruffled a few feathers when it
was confirmed that the long-rumoured reboot of the beloved RTS series Syndicate
was going to be a first person shooter, but that's not necessarily a
bad thing. The really good news is that after going hands-on with the
game and chatting with Syndicate's Executive Producer Jeff Gamon, it
feels like the spirit of the previous titles is very much intact.


The Syndicate series is set in a cyberpunk future where massive
corporations resort to extremely brutal tactics in order to achieve
world dominance. Sure, that may not sound that different to our current
world, but Syndicate takes it a step further, with agents storming rival
corporations, assassinating their members, and outright stealing data
directly out of employee's brains. So much for patent law!


The original Syndicate games employed an isometric viewpoint that had
players controlling four simultaneous cyborg agents and using real-time
tactical gameplay to attack these rival corporations. An added layer of
strategy was added to the game by having managing funds via taxation on
their conquered territories. These funds could be used to purchase
upgrades and weapons as the player would progress through the game.

We
asked Jeff how the decision came about to pull away from the unique
gameplay that made the Syndicate series what it is, and place it into
the world of first person shooters.


"Within EA there has always been a movement to bring the Syndicate name
back to gaming but we were waiting for the right opportunity. The aim
was never simply to recreate the original classic but to come up with a
new take on concepts it executed on so well," said Gamon. "In the
original game, the Agents were the instrument of the player and this
concept still applies today but from the point of view of just one of
those agents – Miles Kilo."


"It was important for us that Syndicate have a style of its own. That
said, the three main syndicates within the game each have their own
cultural references and aesthetics. There is 'The Downzone' with its own
unique look, which is where the masses, locked out of the privileged
lifestyle provided by the syndicates, reside." The resulting style is
somewhere between the slick, minimalist aesthetic of Mirror's Edge, with
the futuristic look of classic futuristic films.


"It's glorious!"



"There's a wealth of inspiration out there but Blade Runner and Minority
Report were key influences for us when conceptualizing the contrasting
worlds of the have and the have-nots," said Gamon. Not a bad set of
movies to be inspired by, if you ask us.


"We did not set out to make just another FPS," Gamon continued.
"Partnering with Starbreeze, we've created an FPS with the personality
that you saw in Riddick and Darkness stamped all over it." It's true
that Starbreeze's style is all over Syndicate, with beautifully designed
environments, weighty and satisfying combat, and terrific voice acting.
Whatever your feelings are about the series' change of genre, the level
of quality displayed in this reboot cannot be argued. Syndicate is
incredibly slick in both looks and gameplay.


Indeed, within moments it's obvious that Starbreeze is going to great
lengths to give the world of Syndicate a very striking look and feel.
It's simultaneously reminiscent of previous titles from the studio,
while also recalling the cyberpunk vibe of the original games.


Bright and beautiful.



"Syndicate is more than the original RTS game," Gamon tells us. It isn't
just about how the game is played, but also about the universe it takes
place in.


"It's as much about the cyberpunk world of brutal corporate governance,
the technology and the story as is it about the specific gameplay," he
continues. "That said, it is the spirit of the original that we wanted
to capture in this new game. Filling the boots of an agent is just the
start. We've remained faithful to the original fiction; the weapons and
technology are also recreated, and of course, the chips embedded in the
heads of the population are key to the gameplay. Closer parallels to the
mission structure of the original are also realised in the four player
co-op game."


Syndicate's four player co-op does indeed bring back memories of raiding
syndicates in the original games. When talking about what the co-op
experience will entail, Gamon tells us that "Players start as level 1
agents and progress by raiding enemy territory in teams of four to win
loot in the form of blueprints. These blueprints allow gamers to unlock
new weapons, weapon upgrades, new breaches, Agent Augmentations and so
on."


This is exciting to hear, and very much in line with the spirit of
Bullfrog Productions' Syndicate games of the past, if not in the same
genre.


To quote Tenacious D: "That's ****ing teamwork!"



One element that's key to the gameplay in both co-op and the single
player experience is breaching, which allows players to take control of a
target, and was definitely one of the highlights of our time with the
game.


In the single player campaign, having different breach abilities at your
disposal allows the player to take all kinds of tactics into a
firefight. One such tactic - and simple pleasure - is to drive guards to
the point of suicide, where they either shoot themselves in the head,
or pull the pin on a grenade attached to their belts.


The 'Persuade' breach causes guards to turn their guns away from you and
onto their fellow guards, while 'Backfire' makes your enemies weapons
malfunction and shoot back at them. We also had the ability to breach
automatic turrets, which can be extremely useful when outnumbered.


"Co-op presents more choices and strategies with breaches," Gamon tells
us, "as players have to load out a limited set of slots from those
breaches they've researched/unlocked. On higher levels teams need to
collaborate on their loadouts and tool up according to roles."


The importance of breaching in co-op is paramount, with Gamon declaring
it the core of the co-op gameplay. "Players are able to temporarily
augment their teammates, heal and resurrect through breaching as well as
attack the enemy."


Workplace paintball day was a huge success.



Fans of the original games will also be happy to know that most of the
brutal weapons from the original games are back, along with futuristic
versions of the standard FPS guns we've come to expect.


"There's a host of weaponry in Syndicate, many of which are familiar
ballistic projectile weapons but moved forward fifty years. Many though
are recreations of those seen in the original game. The Gauss gun, the
Coil Rifle (Laser), Thermite gun (Flamer), and so on," Gamon explains.


More Syndicate Videos


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