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Syndicate co-op hands-on preview – work together or die

We’re dead. Again. Lesson one: Syndicate’s co-op is not easy. Granted, we didn’t have the benefit of a typical player who will first learn the ins and outs of the game in single-player, but then that hypothetical person also won’t have any practice coordinating with teammates. Coordination is essential, as Syndicate’s co-op throws challenges at you that no solo player can take on – but from what we’ve seen it doesn’t do so like Left 4 Dead where enemies can incapacitate you – instead, there are simply enemies too tough to take on alone, and everything is so dangerous that you need to have everyone constantly healing each other.

It’s a simple mechanic, but one that gives Syndicate its own flavor: since this is the future where everyone has brain implants that can be hacked, you can remotely heal teammates by accessing their implants. The range is considerable, so not only do you spend time watching for enemies, you’ll learn to constantly watch your teammates for anyone needing a health top-up, and then zapping them from across a room and watching their health recharge. Every class can do this, so in a sense everyone is a medic. This one mechanic means the devs can crank up the challenge - and boy do they. We kept dying in part because we hadn’t quite figured out how easily we could heal each other, but also because certain hazards couldn’t be taken head-on.

Sometimes there will be a security turret which is invincible. It’s always backed up by multiple soldiers. The key is for some teammates to distract the enemies while someone sprints past the spray of turret fire to the terminal that needs hacking to disable the turret. There are also heavy soldiers covered in so much armor that your guns won’t do crap to them – you have to breach their defenses by hacking into their implant remotely. This gives you a few seconds to plow into them before their armor reactivates. It works best if one guy breaches the heavy while the others focus fire on him.

We also hadn’t been making proper use of our class abilities. While the single-player portion of Syndicate features a host of hacking abilities, the co-op has many unique abilities, like area-of-effect healing, team buffs, etc. A good mix of classes will allow for some team buff-stacking, and based on the challenge level the game presents, it could be rough playing with randoms you don’t know, since if everyone acts like Rambo the team will die super quickly, and it’s not like Left 4 Dead where if someone’s in trouble it’s obvious to everyone. This video shows the level we played, although with a bit more competence on the players’ parts:

While the single-player has already shown some very pretty and colorful environments, this particular level was rather generic looking – we hope that there are other co-op missions that take advantage of the diversity of environments the game has to offer. The shooting mechanics felt tight and the guns were satisfying to use, and the challenge was refreshing to be sure. We were specifically told, with great emphasis, that Syndicate’s co-op is not a supplementary mode to the single-player – the game was described to us as two entire separate games, with 50% single-player and 50% co-op. There are nine co-op missions, each of which could take around an hour to complete, and they’re designed to be replayable with infinitely rearranging enemy and item placement.

We’re still not sure what to think of Syndicate. Complaints from fans about the switch in genre from the original aside, we’re looking at an FPS that could show some hi-tech flair or turn out to be rather run-of-the-mill. It has interesting ideas with its co-op coordination and hacking abilities, but will it capitalize and expand on these elements in imaginative ways? We’ve only seen a little bit of the game, and we didn’t fully take advantage of its mechanics with our first baby steps into its world. There’s no denying that it’s smooth and polished with a very slick feel, so we’ll have to see more to get a better notion of whether it will take its ideas to fascinating places.

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