All these systems feel a little underdeveloped. The three offensive apps feel like just the tip of a larger iceberg, but they’re all you get (at least in single-player). Character upgrades are rare and somehow unsatisfying. And the killstreaks need better calling out, à la Unreal Tournament; we barely noticed when we were on one, or that it was helping us. Still, breaching works well enough, and it’s undeniably cool to start running toward a would-be piece of cover and make it rise while you’re en route. It’s like, you’re a cyborg, man.
Like many other contemporary first-person shooters, Syndicate emphasizes aiming carefully and seeking cover rather than jumping all over the place and dodging with superior agility. Imagine the fun AI and semi-realistic gunplay of F.E.A.R., the modest pace of Killzone or Resistance, and a tinge of Halo-like sci-fi. The shooting feels very solid, augmented by a satisfying bullet-time mode that boosts your damage and lets you see through walls. The normal difficulty level isn’t a complete cakewalk, and the Achievements / Trophies are well-considered and mostly fun to strive for. (One thing we don’t like: Grenades are really clunky, necessitating a weapon-switch to toss).
Based on single-player alone, Syndicate is a solid, mostly enjoyable, workmanlike shooting game. The clincher comes in its four-player online co-op mode. Yep, we said co-op; compulsive deathmatchers should look elsewhere. Co-op offers nine fresh missions, some set in the same locales as the single-player outings. It does a good job of offering all of today’s expected bells and whistles, such as experience-based leveling, weapon and app unlocks, and rudimentary guild functionality. If you enjoy the single-player, you’ll find a lot of the same satisfying itch-scratching in multiplayer.
Just one warning: The co-op missions do not scale with player count at all, and they are definitely designed to be tackled with four players. Three players? You’ll probably do fine, if you’re careful. Two? Really stretching it. And solo? You’d have to be a masochist to even try, which means we’ll be seeing some really badass solo runs on YouTube in approximately two weeks.
Syndicate is a fun, well-made shooter that introduces an appealing new sci-fi dystopia, which we’d love to see another game explore further. Whether this is enough to justify 60 bucks is your call, but it’s nice to know that there are other solid, meaty shooters to explore once you’ve had your fill of Call of Duty and Halo. If this is what it looks like when EA desecrates old licenses, maybe it should do so more often.