Retro: Syndicate

By Kieron Gillen on January 31st, 2008 at 3:31 pm.

The British cover, which is far superior to the US one.
Another alumnus of PC Gamer‘s Long Play series, slightly remixed and expanded

A ninja dressed in gaudy blue has just grabbed hold of the eyesockets of his opponent and torn his head clear of his body, dangling a couple of feet of glistening wet spinal cord behind him. Cue screams from the horrified Tabloids. Gamers laughed at or with it, depending on their temperament. It’s 1993, and Mortal Kombat, in terms of press controversy, is the Grand Theft Auto of its day. But only in those terms. Anyone who actually plays it understands that this game exists purely in the Grand Guignol traition of video nasties, a comedy fountain of gore. It was just slapstick with a very sharp stick.

It wasn’t bad to the bone.

Conversely, Syndicate was the meanest bastard that the world had ever seen. If you want to find out about the path that lead to GTA, you start with the four gentleman with the trenchcoats, mirrorshades and miniguns, sitting in the corner. Syndicate didn’t get the bad press for a handful of reasons. Firstly, it was primarily on the PC and Amiga, with the corresponding lower public profile. But most importantly, to really understand how grotesquely immoral it was, you had to play it. And playing a game? Well, that’s the one thing the reactionary end of the press will never consider.

The girl-game-friendly Sindy-Kate revival has long been touted

Syndicate positioned you as commander of four cybernetically enhanced goons of a global corporation. Your task was building a new world order, one hostile take-over of a country at a time. After receiving your mission and being left in the city, it’s up to achieve it by any means possible. Normally, this will be wiping out opposing corporate agents, but other things to see and do in the near future include rescue, escort, brainwashing and assassination. It distinguished itself by being one of the earliest examples of a convincing living city. People wandered the streets, going about their daily business before having their routine (and often fleshy bodies) exploded by corporate conflict in the high street. Cars patrol the street, and can often be commandeered with a burst of UZI fire. Cops desperately try to keep the peace…

Then, this was all shockingly new. Emphasis on the word “shocking”.

My first experience of Syndicate was the demo on cheery PC Gamer progenitor Amiga Format’s coverdisk. My brother and I were excited anyway. For the time, it was beautifully marketed. Photo-lead adverts of hands hanging of a chainlink fence with a pollution-painted city in the background were – in fact, still are – a few steps classier than the competition. The British cover – which you’ll find heading this feature, is far more attractive than the American version. We both loved cyberpunk fiction, and in a world dominated by cheery platformers were ready for some of the dark stuff. Hell: Living in dreary Stafford even urban decay seemed terribly glamorous.

Within seconds, we’re running rampage through the streets. I’m controlling, with my brother shouting short suggestions of what to do next. Weapons are pulled from jacket and any of the civilians who see them scatter, running for their lives. Cops start firing and are dropped with a burst of fire, the bullets of which we’ll mentally make notes to charge to our expense accounts later. A car pulls around the corner, and we open fire. It slides to a halt, its passengers getting out and running for their lives. Another couple of bursts and the car explodes, bodies flying everywhere.

Syndi!

We’re both wearing our biggest Bad Boy grins when something makes our faces fall. It’s a noise. High pitched and sharp, it cuts through the general aural melee of a city firefight. We realise its coming from the tiny people. They’re on fire. The explosion must have sprayed them with petrol or something, and now they’re reduced to living torches: Living torches in incredible pain. We sit, dumbfounded and disturbed. My brother’s the first to speak: “Kill them”. I open fire, trying to put them out of their misery…

I keep a list of the emotions games have provoked in me. This was the first time one had ever given me the vertiginous sensation of moral repugnance at myself. In the end, the burning people from car explosions were cut from the final version of Syndicate, saved for the appearance of the flamethrower later. It was still a uniquely brutal effect. The choice of sound effect was masterful, and I can still recall the pitch and attack of that noise and feel it race down my spine – I ended up connecting my Amiga to my soundsystem to play it at higher volumes, which turned my bedroom into a riotzone. Even the tiny animation was suggestive enough to let your mind fill in the gaps of flesh melting away from bone.

It’s one of the reasons why Syndicate still sticks with me. It was phenomenally ahead of its time. While I’d argue that Syndicate’s cities were more advanced than anything previously, even if they weren’t, what the game used them for was. It was stripped down from what Bullfrog had talked up for BOB, the game which Syndicate grew into. In BoB characters would, if they were full of peaceful drugs, go and find the owner and get hold of car keys, rather than jacking a ride. Or so went Bullfrog’s always compelling high-concept machine, anyway. You suspect that the version we ended up was far wiser. It simply works. Forget the slaughter and the realistic response of the environment to it. Think of elements like how you manipulated your agents through pumping their bodies with different drugs depending on what you wanted to use them for, or the Persuadertron which allowed you to gather around a mass of consumerist zombies in a ready-made army.

Syndi!

I suppose that’s one of the things which even in these days when everything is taking from GTA’s rampage-in-a-freeform-city mandate that keeps Syndicate precious. For all the nihilism, there was a brain to it, a satirical edge. Multinational agents leading hordes of consumerist zombies to achieve corporate aims? As a pulp object, it makes its point forcibly. What makes it succeed as a game that while all the critique is still there, it simultaneously explains all too well why anyone would want to wield this amount of power through its sheer illicit transgressive thrill. Pulling the trigger on the sniper laser that reduces a politician who wouldn’t play ball to a smudge of ash. Stealing a police car and getting through prison security to rescue someone to paste, and then mowing down every single prisoner for no reason other than seeing their bodies fall in piles at the end of the prison ward. And the final gauss-gun-painted confrontation at the Atlantic Accelerator mission, still one of the most famously challenging end of game missions of all time.

Bad to the bone. But the most evil thing about Syndicate – the thing all its players will answer for if ever dragged before the gates of heaven – is how good being so bad was. There’s that twitch guilt, sure… but the pleasure overwhelms it. Syndicate: a holiday in somebody’s misery – and, worst and best of all, a misery you caused.

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144 Comments »

  1. Robin says:

    And furthermore, Higher Functions is the best working title of anything ever.

  2. Pidesco says:

    Also: What on earth is Bullfrog’s BoB? Anyone?

    Molyneaux was always a big fan of Brigitte Bardot, so he had her initials tattooed on his arse, one on each buttock. And thus he became known as Bullfrog’s BoB.

  3. Thiefsie says:

    Bullfrog, Looking Glass and Psygnosis. Three of the greatest gaming companies of time lost… never to be seen again :( Their games are what made me the mad geek I am today, and sadly yearning for more and more with the current state of the industry.

  4. NegativeZero says:

    I had it on Mac and I seem to recall explosions from destroyed cars setting people on fire in that version… The Gauss Gun (which incidentally always looked like a giant penis to my hormone-addled teenage mind) definitely did that too.

  5. Schadenfreude says:

    Now that you’ve mentioned Psygnosis I shall go to sleep with the music of Shadow of the Beast II echoing in my head damn you. What a rock hard game that was; even with the cheat enabled you’d be lucky to beat it (In fact thinking back I doubt anyone ever beat it without using a walkthrough at least once).

  6. Fedora.Pirate says:

    I certainly remember this. It was what introduced me to gaming in general. Sure I might have played Maths Quest but that never grabbed me the same way that looking over my father’s shoulder as he played Syndicate did. The visuals were (in my opinion as a 5 year old) amazing, and one of my favourite computer gaming moments was simply telling my dad to get one of the guys to step out of the car while it was still moving at top speed. I was a twisted 5 year old.

  7. Seth Tipps says:

    Oh, I want to rant every time you mention this game. I got it in a gift pack of bullfrog games. Syndicate, Populous II, Warmonger, Theme Park, from Looking Glass there was Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat, and Terra Nova (remember them?) had a Myst-style adventure game called Labyrinth of time that I never beat. Syndicate definitely made an impression on me. I was eight or nine. My mother had expressly forbidden me to play Mortal Kombat, and then unwittingly purchased the bundled set with a few of the darkest games I have ever played. Only cannon fodder has ever come close to providing such a feeling of moral dilemma (IMO) while playing such a simple game, or at least without resorting to the inclusion of little girls. With Syndicate and Cannon fodder it was the gameplay itself that made you grimace.

  8. Caiman says:

    Syndicate is the game that made me swap my Amiga for a PC. The Amiga A500 version was just a little on the sluggish side, and when I saw the silkier, smoothier PC version being played in a store it was all over.

  9. Thiefsie says:

    Terra Nova is probably the best mech game ever made… yep better than Mechwarriors… God I loved it…

  10. Ging says:

    Terra Nova was immense fun – made even better by the awesome cut scenes.

  11. tackle says:

    Can only agree on Terra Nova, ’twas awesome, yet I only played the demo. About 300 times. I have a vague memory of the music being really cool in it, really adding to the atmosphere in a good way.

    Magic Carpet was pretty fun too, that was Bullfrog wasn’t it?

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    Magic Carpet was bullfrog.

    You’re making me want to dig out Terra Nova actually. There’s a game that could do with an examination.

    KG

  13. Alasatyr says:

    One of the things that (for me) ramped up the awesome on Syndicate Wars, I discovered quite by accident.

    The in-game music was stored on the game disc in standard CD audio format. But the game would play perfectly well without the CD in the drive. So if there was an audio CD already in there, it would happily use that.

    The day I found this out, the CD in the drive was the Eels Electroshock Blues. My agents stepped out into the city at the start of a mission, and quietly in the background “Going To Your Funeral” started up. A better song for this moment can not be imagined.

  14. NegativeZero says:

    @Seth Tipps:
    I think that was the pack I got. It was an EA ten-pack that they produced right after they aquired Bullfrog, I think – Syndicate, Populous II, Powermonger, Theme Park, The Labyrinth of Time (I finished that, it was cool), PGA Tour Golf II, Chuck Yaeger’s Air Combat, some crappy poker game and two crappy kiddy adventure games. It was an awesome deal. Syndicate alone was worth the price of admission.

  15. James T says:

    One of the things that (for me) ramped up the awesome on Syndicate Wars, I discovered quite by accident.

    The in-game music was stored on the game disc in standard CD audio format. But the game would play perfectly well without the CD in the drive. So if there was an audio CD already in there, it would happily use that.

    I played Half-Life through several times like this, with the Fight Club soundtrack in the drive. A phenomenally good fit — everyone should do it!

    Oh well, too late now.

  16. Jay says:

    Oh Jesus – I haven’t played this game for 4 years. I’ve still got the disk somewhere, but it’s got no sound apart from the music, so I never knew how aurally violent it was. Visually however, it was enough

  17. malkav11 says:

    Syndicate was great fun, though I confess I cheated at the time…might have to try again and see if my older, more experienced self could better handle the game as written. But me, I don’t need a new sequel, spiritual or otherwise. I need to be able to play Syndicate Wars. The trouble with it is that it’s a terribly finicky game which runs in DOS but wants 3D acceleration and enough horsepower to go with that – something I’ve never managed to cobble together. I guess I should see if DOSBox is up to the task these days.

    (And yes, I could theoretically play the Playstation version but, uh….no thank you.)

  18. Seth Tipps says:

    @negative zero.
    That’s the one. Still got the CD book sitting on my self. Might be a good project for me to try and port those. Oh, for the time…

  19. Mike Diskett says:

    I wrote the amiga version of Syndicate and was project leader lead programmer for Syndicate Wars.

    Some game design decisions that I’ve always regreted on Syn Wars

    1. Limiting the zoom out to the range of your current weapon, In hindsight it was annoying and made little sense after all you are viewing the world form a blimp camera

    2. Sourcing the sprite artwork in low res and doubling it up for hi res, made the game look ugly compared to the hi res original syndicate

    3. making it so hard at the start to get cash, you basically had to collect weapons and sell them, it was a neat side earner, but made the game start rock hard

    4. The persuade a scientist side missions, Sean masterson wrote all the scripts for each mission designing the objectives and we found we had way too many persuade a scientist missions, so we made them side quests that you could ignore and carry on to the next mission but it meant you would have less scientists to use for research, it was really just an attempt to keep the script and not bog the game down with too many persuade missions.

    5. maybe syndicate wars shouldnt have been 3d at all, 3d was the new exciting thing and it did allow us to have full dynamic lighting (shoot out all the lights) and even allowed us to collapse buildings, but I think it made the game look ugly (running in low res on most hardware at the time) compared to the original. And probably contributed to the low sales that killed off the franchise.

    6. Why did we spend all that time working on too full sets of missions play as zealot or agent, we gave everyone 2 games effectively, when we should have concentrated on the agent mission design and flow. (Hardly anyone even bothered with the zealots)

    MikeD (Disky)

    P.S I went on to write Urban Chaos at MuckyFoot which was a kind of succesor to Syndicate in terms of living breathing city, even if it was a third person action adventure with a crap plot.

  20. Dragon says:

    Syndicate kept me and my uni house mates busy for ages – it was a fantastic game. I never got into Syndicate Wars as much for some reason – it never quite had the same sparkle as the original, even if it did have 2000AD and Manga adverts scattered liberally throughout the landscape.

    A few years ago there was an attempt at doing a Syndicate mod for one of the Quake games – can’t remember if it was 1 or 2 – but I don’t think it ever got finished which was a shame.

    A movie would be good too. If, that is, movie adaptations of video games were good.

  21. Nick says:

    I bought Syndicate Wars the second it was released, I played the ehell out of it – even played as the Zealots. The only thing I didn’t like was the aforementioned camera zoom limitation, that really was quite annoying.

    I have fond memories of the zap and crackle as you vapourised people with the beam laser and of knocking down a bank with a nuclear grenade and running off with the cash. Even the way they said “Cataclysm” was satisfying.

    Sorry to hear it didn’t sell well, I never realised =(

    Magic Carpet was the first game I got for the PC along with Theme Park (depending on whether you count the old Amstrad CPCs or not..) in fact I bought them at the same time as getting my first PC (a mighty 486DX66 with 8MB RAM a 2 speed CD ROM drive and 500MB of hard disk space!). I love the original Magic Carpet still, but for some reason my copy crashes when I press both mouse buttons now =(

  22. Phil says:

    @Mike Diskett
    Kudos for having a major hand in two such classic pieces of software and excuse me for dragging you into an old arguement but – Do you think developing SW for console and PC meant you had to compromise the design vision to accomodate accessibilty? I’m thinking in terms of stripping down the ammo management, switching to the whiz bang 3D, that sort of thing?

  23. Nallen says:

    Double!

  24. Nallen says:

    Hah! I’ve been playing this recently, after many trials getting the thing to run now I have I love it to death. It’s still great, still more engaging that many modern games. So much love :)

    Those guys that’ve remade UFO with the Q2 engine got me thinking, the same as you lot, how hard could it actually be to recreate this on a modern(ish) engine?

  25. Xerxes says:

    I loved the original syndicate and played it for months on the Amiga, and re-purchased it for PC with the “American Revolt” expansion which was also great fun, but insanely difficult at times.

    Syndicate Wars was a good successor to the original, and I enjoyed it just as much, and for the time the gas grenade effects were beautiful. Nuking a building and flattening it, robbing banks for cash, capturing scientists, turning enemy agents with a huge army of civilians… it was a classic.

    Now, if anyone knows how to get them both working on a modern machine, I’d go back and replay them both…

  26. Nallen says:

    Syndicate + DOSBox = joy

  27. Mike Diskett says:

    @Phil

    The consoles version had no impact on the design of Syndicate wars, it was well on the way before I started doing the ps1 engine. It was a concious decision to simplify the interface to the agents, all most people did was either wack all bars to max to go into killing mode, or drop them all to zero for healing, so we simplified it to one bar with neg/positive. plus added shields.

    And if anything at the time the ps1 was as powerful as the 486 we were developing on for pc. (ps1 had full 24 bit rgb gourad, while pc used a 256 colour palette carefully arranged to allow gourad type shading). Obviously the lack of a mouse was the most crippling factor for consoles (BTW I left bullfrog before the ps1 version shipped, a seperate team had allready taken it on to complete while we finished the PC version)

    Xerxes:
    Gas grenades were great, especially the madness inducing one which would set everyone fighting each other, I remember setting up a debug level to test the game overnight which had several hundred AI’s all with madness grenades ,miniguns and nuclear grenades, infinite health and infinite ammo, all just going crazy at each other all night.

    BTW syn wars runs fine on windows 95 and ME, I played it just a month or two ago, but what a dissapointment, god it looks ugly now.

  28. DaggleC says:

    Here’s hoping Introversion’s Subversion will be something of a Syndicate remake. Totally random cityscapes with bits of Uplink thrown in, squad commands a la Darwinia? Well, maybe in a dream..

  29. Kieron Gillen says:

    Mike Diskett: Also was the creator of the splendid Mr Wobbly Leg. Thanks for dropping in, sir. I always had a lot of time for Urban Chaos.

    KG

  30. Nick says:

    you know how, as you progress through the game, you cover more and more of the world with your syndicate colours?

    Next time you see a tv advert for HSBC, have a look at their ‘world’s local bank’ insignia…looks just like that…

  31. Xerxes says:

    I tried it on both the XP and 98 setups on my machine, but the entire game ran at such a speed that generally all the mission scripts had run before I’d selected all four agents and got them moving, at which point they shot across the screen at an insane speed.

    It does look ugly these days, but in its time, I don’t think I’d ever seen a particle effect quite like those gas grenades.
    They caused endless entertainment too, especially when your own troops were sent insane by them and you clicked desperately to gain control of them.

    The tv screens playing the advert for Ghost in the Shell were a touch you rarely see in games….

  32. Richard says:

    That there’s no decent attempt at a Syndicate-inspired game is a little bizzarre.

    It didn’t help that most of the ones that tried – Gender Wars, Bedlam and so on – just sucked beyond measure. It’s a bit like the UFO clones that just did the tactical combat system – everyone seemed to utterly miss the point.

    On the other hand, most of them had an ending!

    (Still ticked after all these years… sigh…)

    The tv screens playing the advert for Ghost in the Shell were a touch you rarely see in games….

    Thank Christ. The tannoy announcements, the vans, the constant advertising… I made a point of blowing up the Manga vans with rocket launchers. Pooslice, indeed. Satellite Rain was made for those irritating bastards.

    (That said, the hidden Breakout game was a fun inclusion)

  33. Sucram says:

    My mother reading:
    “One of our politician friends has started to refuse us our normal and courteous requests. This is extremely bad form and is just not tolerable.

    In order to restore the status quo and make an example of him we have decided to kill his good lady wife.”

    Was one of those awkward moments in my history of trying to justify playing computer games.

    And since everyone seems to have their own ideas about a Syndicate sequel: my one involves SHODAN turning up.

  34. Phil says:

    I might be confused but I think they had ads for 2000AD in there as well Manga UK.

    Syndicate Wars, then – a concentrated dose of all that made British geek culture good in the mid-90s.

  35. Mike Diskett says:

    @Kieron Gillen

    Mr wobbly legs versus the invaders from space, perhaps my most influential work;)

    This was the amiga power Competition to win a job at Bullfrog , a wacky PR stunt my Mr molyneux, legend has it that he only picked my game because he thought my name M.C.Diskett was a hackers handle and I therefore wouldnt come forward and claim the prize.

    Let us also not forget Psycho Santa another amiga magazine coverdisk, my first game at bullfrog, one female journo visiting Bullfrog said she thought Psycho Santa was bullfrogs best game, I doubt that went down well, what with populous 1,2 and powermonger all being out.

    Startopia is really the game I’m most proud of having been involved in, Mucky Foot magnus opus

    MikeD

  36. Richard says:

    Syndicate Wars, then – a concentrated dose of all that made British geek culture good in the mid-90s.

    And Manga.

  37. Kieron Gillen says:

    Startopia really was lovely. I always recall (I think) Ste from Edge talking about climbing up to the environmental deck and just sort of panning the camera back so he could watch the stars spin slowly.

    KG

  38. Mike Diskett says:

    Startopia another game that failed to sell and pretty much killed off MuckyFoot we were always limping along after that.

  39. Schadenfreude says:

    Syndicate Wars, then – a concentrated dose of all that made British geek culture good in the mid-90s.

    And Manga.

    In fairness it was nowhere near as bad as Splinter Cell: Airwaves Theory. Gawd that was awful; I stopped playing when the Airwaves blimp made it’s appearance.

  40. Nallen says:

    Let us also not forget Psycho Santa another amiga magazine coverdisk, my first game at bullfrog, one female journo visiting Bullfrog said she thought Psycho Santa was bullfrogs best game, I doubt that went down well, what with populous 1,2 and powermonger all being out.

    Holy shit man, my Dad bought that mag, I played that game, I still remember it now and it must have been what, 15 years or so ago?

  41. Phil says:

    “Syndicate Wars, then – a concentrated dose of all that made British geek culture good in the mid-90s.

    And Manga.

    In fairness it was nowhere near has bad as Splinter Cell: Airwaves Theory. Gawd that was awful; I stopped playing when the Airwaves blimp made it’s appearance.”

    I’ve always thought the extra costumes in Devil May Cry 2 are the most annoying example of product placement – you actually had to earn them and they were completely out of tone with the rest of game.

    @Richard Manga UK – admittanly, Legend of the Overfiend and the like had a target market of pale, replica shuriken owning basement dwellers, but what’s there not to love about Ghost in the Machine or the utter camp of Fist of the North Star?

  42. Richard says:

    Ghost in the Shell is awful, awful, awful, and awful – one of the most overrated things since sliced bread. But pretty much all their stuff was many millions of times worse, making it look like Midas’ own glittering baguette. With Overfiend especially they basically poisoned the well, and bringing over stuff like Violence Jack, Angel Cop, Ninja Scroll, and most of their other toss, they took a great big poo in it.

    Not that they didn’t release some good stuff later on, like The Castle of Cagliostro. And you could argue that if they hadn’t jumped into the market, nobody else would have. But their early years were not good for anime fans, and circa SW, I don’t remember much worth crowing about.

    (Since then, quite a few things. Read or Die is a particular favourite in recent years.)

  43. Shanucore says:

    Syndicate and Syndicate Wars were both fantastic games. I loved them to bits, and they regularly tore me a new one.

    I’m proud to have beaten the Atlantic Accelerator – and it was a close thing. I’d eliminated almost everyone in a huge firefight, losing only one agent. There was just one enemy left, who had unfortunately gotten himself stuck inside a building. It was impossible for me to hurt him from outside. So I send one agent in and he dies before he can get a shot off. Damn. I can’t risk losing another agent – or can I? I send the next hopeless bag of implants and meat inside and self destruct him. Bam: mission complete, game over, with one surviving agent to lord it over planet Earth.

    I didn’t complete SW without cheating – having three separate levels with no checkpointing or saving in-mission was extremely harsh at the time, and would seem genuinely bizarre today. Especially considering it was all too easy to /destroy the entire environment/ on the second of the three end levels. Bonus points for the beanstalk, though!

  44. Richard says:

    There should be two T-Shirts.

    T-Shirt One: “I Beat The Atlantic Accelerator”

    T-Shirt Two: Same, but on the back: “…In American Revolt

  45. Phil says:

    Not to derail the discussion but;

    Ghost in the Shell was stone cold classic – bold and beatiful animation, action sequences that established a template Hollywood has aped yet not yet matched, a relatively well structured, well devolved plot line (which admittantly stole a lot from William Gibson, but then again, who doesn’t?) and overall sense that the people who made it actually knew movies – instead of just the interior of a animation sweat shop.

    I agree though, for the lowest time Manga wasn’t kosher to bring up in pub conversation – mainly thanks to the early associations with demon based violations and childish ultra violence.

  46. Richard says:

    I disagree. GITS was a very pretty, but utterly vapid clip-show turned into a movie. It has some beautiful scenes – Kusanagi’s walk through the town especially, and the eerie building of a cyborg at the start. Likewise, the fights are very impressive, especially – as was the case for most people at the time – if you’d never really seen anything but western cartoons at the time.

    Then the story kicks in properly, being confusing primarily due to just picking scenes almost at random, and playing them out in a way that’s slow and pretentious with either being deep, or having anything of real interest to say. GITS didn’t get a decent conversion until SAC.

  47. Kieron Gillen says:

    I beat the Alantic Accelerator by loading up with Lasers. You run at the start to the bottom left of the map, where you can get in a closed area with a couple of kill-zones coming in. Take out the hordes as they come and get you, then sweep the level for the survivors.

    KG

  48. Phil says:

    @KG – I used the same strategy though mixed in a gauss for crowd control and to give the lasers cool down time (I seem to remember this was problem.) This was on the Amiga so the controls got fairly laggy with lots going on, though strangely I don’t remember it being that hard, especially compared to Cannon Fodder’s horror show. Possibly I had more time to fail/reload, fail/reload back then.

    @Richard Fair points about GIST disjointed nature, though that’s a problem common to most manga, even class acts like Serial Experiment Lain and Cowboy Bebop tend to throw regularly jarring narrative jumps, flashbacks, fantasy seqences and strange pauses where characters seem to do nothing (almost like the loading of a cut scene) into an episode. It’s part of the charm I suppose.

  49. JP says:

    Atlantic Accelerator is actually fairly easy to beat if you know how to exploit choke points. Use lasers and/or shields to reach the first decent-sized building, get to the far back wall away from the door and just minigun everything that comes through the door. If you’re far enough away from it, the occasional self-destruct explosion will never touch you.

    Of course that’s also a really boring way to play, and dodging gauss rockets while jumping from building to building is a more stylishly violent and violently stylish way to play.

    Syndicate Wars did slightly better with this because buildings could demolish and (if I remember correctly) enemies would occasionally use indirect fire like grenades.

  50. JP says:

    This article is well-timed, my current desktop wallpaper is a gigantic screenshot map from one of the first missions:

    http://img168.imageshack.us/img168/4903/syndicateub1.png

    It spans two large (1680×1050) widescreen monitors, cut it down as needed.

    Also I think I made sure it tiles horizontally.