Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ten Best of 2012: Syndicate

Here is my preamble: I’m going to be counting down the 10 best games I played in 2012 over the next 10 weekdays. You might not agree with these choices, or they might not be the best 10 games 2012 had to offer, but they are the ones I played. I encourage you to leave a comment, send an email, or message me on Twitter if you have a different opinion, or want to talk about my choices. For each game, I’ll put the trailer at the end of the text I believe best encapsulates the game and what was exciting about it.

Remember how EA ruined the Syndicate franchise by releasing a first-person shooter instead of making a new isometric strategy game? No, I don’t. I never played the original Syndicate. I was eight years old when it released, and though I can’t remember what games I was playing at the time, I know it wasn’t isometric strategy games involving corporate espionage in a cyberpunk setting.

Without considering its legacy, Syndicate is a great game. The story’s betrayal aspect may be derivative, but the gameplay leads down a path of wanting to see how and what you can use your Dart overlay and breach ability on next. Breaching brings an extra layer of complexity to combat, whether it’s hacking the shield on drones, disabling armor layers on heavy enemies, deactivating cover for enemies, or disabling grenades in the air before they land at your feet.

It’s interesting that in world filled with corporations more powerful than governments, where technology is at a boon, the most natural-feeling aspect of Syndicate is the way it handles its guns and movement. In the shoes Miles Kilo, the protagonist, you have a sense of parkour as you run and slide your way into cover, almost feeling superhuman yet still grounded in reality. Gun placement takes the same route, moving your weapon to peek around corners or boxes when in cover, and holding them over guardrails when looking down from a catwalk. Holding a pistol and sprinting gives a great, almost John Woo-like animation of aiming your pistol out in front as if ready to jump out a window from a skyscraper.

Syndicate may not be the same type of game you remember from 1993, but as a shooter, it stands up on its own. Between the well-realized visually striking setting, interesting mechanics, and organic gunplay, Syndicate brings enough to cyberpunk genre to make me want more. It also has a timely dubstep-induced boss fight.

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