I’ve always been behind as far as PC gaming goes. Our first family computer was a used 286 from my uncle, and we didn’t get that until I was in the fifth grade. This is odd, considering my dad worked in IT, but in retrospect I attribute it to his desire to escape from the office while at home. I remember the first game I bought for that computer was King’s Quest II, and it was well out of print and collecting dust at an end-cap at my local Target store (come to think of it, it was the Target in the next town over since our store hadn’t been built early enough to have a PC game that old in its stock room). Anyway it was 1997 or so before a friend of mine turned me on to Syndicate, which was already dated, but ran alright on my dad’s shiny new Pentium. And by alright I mean life-changing. In brief, if you haven’t played this game, keep your mouth shut about strategy and squad based gaming. Tom Clancy has nothing on this.
The premise of the game is simple. You run a mega-corporation in a world where governments are no longer controlling world affairs. Borders have been redrawn, and control is seized by corporate spies rather than war and politics. People are essentially sheep protected by ineffective police forces. From a three-quarter isometric viewpoint, you lead a team of one to four cyborg agents completing various missions to acquire new territories. Did I mention a cyberpunk setting? Hell yes! And how do you boost the performance of your team. Implants. Implants, and drugs that is. All controlled with a simple point and click interface. The whole game is almost like an alternate version of Blade Runner. Isn’t the future grand?
You have a variety of missions ranging from assassinations to protection to staff/technology acquisitions. You begin with small arms ranging from pistols and shotguns and gradually move up to Uzis, sniper rifles, machine guns, lasers and rocket launchers. You also have some non-offensive items that can be equipped, such as health kits, shields, enhanced radar and a device than brainwashes civilians, police and enemy agents called the “Persuadatron.” Each of your agents has eight slots that can be individually assigned in their inventory, which affords you a wide assortment of weapon combinations. Transportation options include “cars” and the police versions of such, which from what I can tell are hover-based Toyota Previas, garbage trucks, armored personnel carriers and trains. Vehicle control is amazingly atrocious, but you spend most of the game on foot, so it doesn’t matter that much. And it goes without saying that if you’re vehicle explodes from enemy fire, you’re pretty much going to die a painful death by burning.
Little touches like brainwashed enemy agents being added to your roster and captured enemy weapons being available to research and eventual purchase help add a complexity at the mission level, while you are forced to deal with taxing and managing rebelling territories between missions. An expansion called American Revolt was released, presumably based on American fear of socialism and taxation, which had a few much more challenging missions and if memory serves me right, the ability to call in air strikes. I didn’t play that much of it. There was also a sequel released in 1996, which is an updated version of the original that incorporates multiplayer, but it never took off. There’s talk of yet another sequel these days, but I’m not holding my breath. The only drawback to Syndicate to me is that I was never able to get the audio drivers working properly, but that is likely my own fault. If you get the chance, beg borrow or steal a copy of this game, rock some DOSBox and let loose.
In: Video Games · Tagged with: cyberpunk, future, gaming, pc, Syndicate, video game, violence