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Retro Games of Today: Part 2

A Syndicate Lottery... Not a winner

In my continuing series of posts, I write about the next title which has had a recent brush up, Syndicate.

Syndicate was a guilty pleasure of mine for a few years. Getting to blow up everything in sight, including civilians, without any repercussions or remorse was, at the time, a novel idea. Forcing your “agents” to take mind altering drugs so you could control them were not for the thought of Mary Whitehouse. Of course that wasn’t the point of this game was it but let us be honest, who of you played this and when a mission went wrong, you didn’t go on a blistering rampage tooled up to the teeth with gauss’ guns!

The first instalment (in 1993) was an isometric layout with pretty simple controls and overlays. The maps and missions were thought out with a story to tell. As with similar games of the era, you tech’d up, got better agents, weapons and armour and could deal and take more damage.  Despite the games moderately liner play, it was simple to come back to again and again to replay missions differently.  An “American Revolt” expansion soon followed and was bundled together as yet another release.

Syndicate Wars was the second release and was a step further up in the use of technology available to the day. This, I think, is where advances in graphics and chipset capability came in to really enhance games playability as well as looks.

In my previous blog, the graphics in Civ did indeed get better as the series progressed but they didn’t really enhance the game play, everything just looked prettier. As for Syndicate Wars, there was a whole new feel to the game. As well as an isometric look, you were able to rotate the entire game map, zoom in and even tilt the camera. This made for specific game actions like an ambush a joy to pull off. The nuts and bolts were fairly identical to the original game, play it, get better weapons etc etc blah blah but this version just had that “X-Factor” over the previous version.

Recently though, we saw the release of Syndicate “Reboot” and alas we lost everything that was dear to the game. The entire look, feel and game play has been lost. EA had opted to go with the genre of the decade and go FPS. To give this game the name Syndicate is not really a tribute to its predecessors. Yes, it has elements of the original, of course it does, but then it has to, it has the name and we expect it. But we also expected an isometric blast fest that was awesome on an XBOX and better if you have a pair of GeForce 690 GTX’s under the hood. The advances in technology here have been overlooked as the game is all different. I think we could have seen something really special should this third incarnation been another rehash of the original just with sweeter graphics. Not sure where the story could have gone, that’s not my area. Don’t take my word for it, in a CVG interview with Frank Gibeau of EA fame, he said that “Syndicate was something that we took a risk on. It didn’t pay off – it didn’t work”. This, according to many gamers was because of the change of genre. Mikael Nermark, Starbreeze’s CEO said:

 "If we didn't do an exact copy of the game, they'd hate us. If we did do an exact copy, they'd say we didn't innovate. They were never ours to win; it was a lost battle from the get-go”.

Not sure I agree as you will find out in the next blog where 16 years of the same “exact copy” of game has a cult following, modders galore and a massive fan base.