Easter Eggs: Syndicate

By Jonathan Barnes, 5 years ago
Welcome to Easter Eggs, where the TA Team shines the spotlight on games that many gamers might have missed, perhaps hidden away behind the millionth copy of Call of Duty or FIFA. Much like a gamer who finds an Easter Egg hidden away in a game and proceeds to trumpet it from the highest hills and forums, the TA Team is going to be featuring these Easter Egg games on the front page for all to see.
First-person shooters are a dime-a-dozen on the 360, quality ones are a bit more rare, and excellent ones are generally stamped with a Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Halo prefix. Coming out of Starbreeze Studios (makers of The Darkness, The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, and this summer's XBLA hit, Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons), Syndicate carefully traipses the line between "quality" and "excellence", combining solid shooting mechanics, a neat techno twist, and an engaging setting.

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The Basics

It's the year 2069 and there are no governments; there are only "Syndicates", huge corporations that control the world. You play as Miles Kilo, an Agent of the Eurocorp Syndicate and one of the first agents to be equipped with the newest DART chip (more on this in a minute). In this cyberpunk future, most citizens get "chipped" allowing them to interact with the highly-technical world around them, work for Syndicates, and generally stay involved with society. As with most futures, however, there is a dark underbelly. Some people refuse to get chipped and are relegated to a much lower-class status and forced to survive in the slums of the "Downzone". Since this portion of the populace contributes nothing to the Syndicates, they are ignored and left to waste away. As you would expect, this fate is not exactly embraced by the huddled masses and the revolution is slowly rising.

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The Hook

Let's talk about that amazing DART chip again. At the beginning of the story, Kilo is outfitted with the newest of DART chips, the DART 6. One of the primary functions of the DART 6 chip is that it gives you a nice HUD while also enabling various abilities that allow Kilo to do conduct a symphony of destruction. By enabling the DART 6's overlay mode, time slows down, spotted enemies glow orange and can be seen through walls and cover (great for penetration shots), and damage taken is reduced. Furthermore, the DART 6 gives Kilo three "Breach" abilities. "Backfire" causes enemies' weapons to... well... backfire. This backfiring also causes enemies to fly backwards and out of cover, opening them up for more damage. "Suicide" causes an enemy to explode. The coolest power, however is "Persuade" which causes an enemy to take your side in the fight before "retiring" themselves. On top of the visual overlay and powers, the DART 6 chip also allows you to interact with the "datascape" (future internet), allowing you to disarm grenades, hack drones, open locked doors, and provide access to other bits of wizardry. In short, DART 6 makes you a complete and total techno-badass. Furthermore, many of these abilities can be upgraded, allowing you to customize your Kilo allowing for amazing variety to the experience.
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While I had some issues with the campaign's story on a narrative level, the gameplay and unprecedented feel of the action more than made up for it. Each level and combat scenario was like opening up a toy box full of destructive options. I'll never forget one scenario close to the end of the game where waves of enemies would emerge from elevators. Within the span of seconds, I would "Breach" a grenade, slow down time, pop off about four head shots, "Persuade" one of the enemies to join my side for a few minutes, take cover behind a desk, hit three guys with my upgraded "Backfire" power, and then use my penetrating rifle to take them down like a ballistic surgeon. I cannot overstate how incredibly fun the combat is and how powerful it makes you feel as you level up and advance.

The cherry on top of this combat goodness is that the weapons in Syndicate feel and sound better than almost any other game I've played this generation. Each weapon feels heavy and powerful and the sounds that they make are music to an audiophile's ears.

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Let's take a moment and talk about the real hidden gem in this Easter Egg: Syndicate's multiplayer.

Rather than investing time in a PvP multiplayer that would no doubt be lost in a sea of better-funded titles, Starbreeze chose to make the multiplayer for Syndicate completely co-op based and the results are fabulous. Each co-op mission is designed for up to four players and challenges the "Agents" to work together to take down targets and/or acquire rival Syndicate's assets. All of the weapons from the single player campaign make an appearance in the co-op, the only exception is that they all start in much weaker states and require experiential investment that allows them to deal more damage, become more accurate, and enable alternate firing modes. Furthermore, additional "Breach" powers are accessible and upgradeable in the co-op, making the experience highly-customizable and addictive.

While the online community isn't that large and finding partners (especially at higher difficulties) and joining a Syndicate (the game's built-in clan system) can be difficult, there are few things more fun and satisfying than rolling with a four-player wolfpack, taking down missions in minutes as you level up and progress towards the coveted "CEO" Achievement (hold that thought).

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The Achievements

Here is where Syndicate really starts to shine or sh*t, depending on your perspective. The game is FULL of high-ratio achievements, many of which are easy, but slightly time-consuming. On the fun front, achievements like "Hurt Locker" (Breach 873 grenades) provide extra incentive for helping yourself and teammates. On the challenging front, you've got pops like "Greed is Good" (Achieve CEO ranking on all chapters which track difficulty, on hard difficulty). You've also got achievements that require friends like "Oh no you don't!" that will require you to "Complete 10 Contracts against members of your syndicate". Then you have the "Seriously" achievement of Syndicate, the one that will have you coming back with friends for months, "CEO". The "CEO" achievement requires you to achieve 100% completion on all levels (difficulties), research, and challenges. For those who don't want to click on it, that bad boy is worth 100G and carries with it a 4.34 ratio. I can't tell you how much time I invested going after "CEO", but I can tell you that it was an incredibly fun ride, especially when playing with friends.

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The Stats

Just under 12,000 gamers have experienced the breaching bliss of Syndicate and only 549 (of which I am one) have completed it. As of right now, 99 gamers are also looking to boost the multiplayer, so you shouldn't have too much of a problem setting up gaming sessions with other community members. Unfortunately, whoever is in charge of the "TrueAchievements" Syndicate appears to have moved on to other games, resulting in it being locked down. The sweetest part of Syndicate are all of those gloriously high ratios. Adding up all of those achievements gives the game a hefty 2,437 TA score.

Our community rates Syndicate at a 3.8/5 which stands pretty close to the consensus of a 74 at Metacritic.

The Price

Here's the really good part. Gamers in the US can pick up one of the most underrated shooters of 2012 for less than $15 from Amazon. Gamers in the UK can score it for £7.72. As always, you might be able to find the game cheaper used, if you're into that sort of thing.

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The Verdict

Syndicate is too good of a game for shooter fans to miss. Period. Full stop. End of sentence. With its rock-solid mechanics, leveling and customization features, and amazing combat systems, there are few better experiences on a pure gameplay level.

The biggest downside to the game (aside from the grind to "CEO" for completionists) is that the game failed to find a larger audience at launch which lead Starbreeze and EA to not support it with some DLC. As an unabashed lover of the game, I would have paid handsomely for more co-op maps and a few more campaign levels. Even without additional content, the package that Syndicate offers presents dozens of hours of fun and a great game to play with friends.

If there's a game you'd like to see featured in Easter Eggs, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.