More Molyneux Broken Promises: Syndicate

If only we could talk to the subjugated people of a future dystopia. Now that would be something.

We were excited about Syndicate as everyone else. Well, we were excited about it when it was codenamed BOB. We were excited about it when it was Higher Functions. And we were still pretty excited about it when it became Syndicate… until we realised how much this game which held so much promise has been gutted. Unless something major happens between now and its release in late Summer, we can’t see it being anything other than an unmitigated disaster and an insult against all PC gamers.

Consider this preview on page 69 of Amiga Power – may the sun never set on its glorious pages – where we describe a game unlike the simple violence rampage that we’ve promised, instead we’re hinted at a subtle, intelligent thriller. They promise making everything exact to the real world, so your corporate agents must not be caught actually breaking laws, so hurting the share value. When footage has been released of men in coats, standing in the middle of a plaza, opening up with miniguns, I think it’s safe to say such considerations are out of the window.

Tactically speaking, promising aspects like the team-management have been stripped back entirely. Previously, it was promised that you’d be able to specialise your team according to which role the four would play – making one more technically adept. In place, we have simple cybernetics which provide bonuses in each area. Apologists may say that you can do similar things with just choosing what upgrades you take – making one character fast, while the other resilient… but that doesn’t include any of these “technical” areas and with the costing, I suspect we’re all just going to upgrade the agents pretty evenly across the board. Let’s forget technical aspects, like four-player system-link mode which have been jettisoned.

The levels were going to be much bigger than this. The Shame.

Perhaps the most tragic loss is the cutting back of the AI system in the world and the agents. You still control the agents by drugs, but it’s far more simple ability boosts and general responsiveness than the subtle game which was hinted towards. Giving them too much intelligence drugs so they come to their senses and run off? A brilliant addition to the Blade-runner universe, swapped for simple dumb slavery. Or maybe we were being lead along as fools all the while. Molyneux and Bullfrog are notorious for promising more than they could possibly deliver. When elsewhere they talk about wanting to have an aggression/pacifism system where, if you order them to take control of a car, your actual approach will vary. High aggression would simply steal the car. High pacifism and intelligence would lead to the agent running off and finding the car’s owner and getting the keys off them.

That sounds amazing. And that would have been amazing, if only Bullfrog would have stayed true to their convictions. In going for this dumbed-down travesty, we’re getting the ultimate irony. That a game about a dark future is a dark future.


  1. Manwe says:

    All more reason for a remake. Come one, films keep getting shite remakes, why not a tiptop game remake?

    Saying that, I loved the original, persuadatron and laser sniper rifle all.

  2. KikiJiki says:

    It’s after midday. A fool is you Gillen!

  3. KingCathcart says:

    Lets be fair here – looking back Molyneux has rarely overhhyped a game and I’m prepared to give this the benefit of the doubt. I eagerly await its release.

  4. CdrJameson says:

    I never read previews until after the game is released. It makes them more fun.

    • Sonic Goo says:


      I like games best before they are released. All the power of promise and imagination combining to create the greatest gaming experiences ever, unspoiled by deadlines and technological limitations.

  5. Richard Beer says:

    This is just an irresponsible use of sick, twisted violence for entertainment! What kind of message are we sending to our kids if we say it’s ok to mow down innocent bystanders with high-calibre miniguns?

    I despair for the future of anyone who grows up playing a game this depraved.

    • Grunt says:

      Hear hear. I bought this computer for my son under the mistaken impression it was to be used for educational purposes, not for these frivolous, corruptive ‘video games”. I had not realised the danger until it found it’s way into my very home! But as a decent, church-going man it is my solemn duty to eradicate these poisons before the lives of my children (my daughter is 4) are irreparably damaged; my son’s grades are already showing signs of deterioration! No wonder when his mind is filled with barbarism and violence!

      I’ve half a mind to sue!

  6. Helm says:

    Truly disappointing PC game, I agree.

  7. Umpaidh says:

    Bah, just upgraded to a P90 for this as well!

  8. robrob says:

    Just another example of a PC game getting dumbed down for the mouthbreathing Sega crowd. I predict that in fifteen year’s time all games will have their interaction reduced to a single button which you have to quickly press in time to events appearing on screen. I predict they will be called: pushing a button quickly in time to events on the screen events.

  9. JoeDuck says:

    Meh, just another cheap company trying to make a succesful movie spinoff.
    No matter how much they try to copy them, games will never be as big as films.
    Strategy games belong to tabletop boards, role playing to dice and paper and storytelling to films.
    And it’ll always be like that, believe me.
    We should stick to what computers do best, classics like Pong and Space Invaders.

  10. Colthor says:

    It’s obviously being dumbed down for the consoles.

    • Richard Beer says:

      I don’t understand. To console who?

    • Colthor says:

      …As robrob said.

      Refreshing just takes so long. I wish I could afford a 28.8 modem.

    • Richard Beer says:

      It’s just occurred to me that there’s an awful lot of comedy mileage in referring to dumbed-down console versions of games as ‘consolation’ prizes or some such from hereon in.

    • Colthor says:

      @Richard Beer
      Y’know, the Megadrive and SNES. They can’t cope with proper simulations.

    • robrob says:

      Don’t feel bad Colthor let’s all just kick back and have a richard beer

  11. Sobric says:

    I think we’re beyond April Fool’s now. We’re locked into some sort of early 90s time warp. It’s like visiting Germany or something.

    • Richard Beer says:

      Could be worse. Could be New Zealand rather than Germany, in which case there’d only be 4 large IBM mainframes in the whole world, which is all the computing power we’d ever need, frankly.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I think the appropriate response in these sorts of situations is to approach the nearest stranger, shake them violently and shout “WHAT YEAR IS IT? WHAT YEAR IS IT???” in their face. If they tell you, stagger backwards, muttering “ohgodohgodohgod” and run off down the street.

  12. Schaulustiger says:

    I sincerely hope that RPS keeps posting this stuff for at least a week. so many memories…

  13. Radiant says:

    link to

    Can not wait to buy this.
    I heard it’s an awesome game.

  14. Ffitz says:

    I was so bloody looking forward to this as well. But you know what? I’m not prepared to put up with this dumbed-down corporate bullshit any more. Not only am I going to BOYCOTT this when it comes out, I’m also going to copy the floppies from my mate Chris and pirate it. Twice.

    That’ll show Molyneux, the bastard.

  15. armlesscorps says:

    failgame. lets boycott

  16. Rinox says:

    Wait, Peter Molyneux has hair in those Amiga Power previews – SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THE TIMELINES MARTY!

  17. Acosta says:

    I have faith, I’m a big fan of Populous and I’m sure Molyneux will make Syndicate work with these changes. I am still interested,

  18. Ravenger says:

    We’re fortunate that Molyneux develops primarily for home computers rather than games consoles. He’ll never abandon his loyal home computer customers, never!

  19. Flameberge says:

    Oh sweet jesus, all 4 of the hivemind have posted now, surely there will be no more?

    Especially as I think we’re in danger of having some weird spliced-timeline accident if this carries on much longer.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Quinns & PhillC could come up with cameo appearances (although Quinns has no iron) & there’s always Lewis Denby of the mod roundups & LewieP of the weekend bargain basket fame.

    • Grunt says:

      Uh-oh, John may be enjoying himself too much – he’s just posted another!

  20. Berzee says:

    Hey guys, this game came out a while ago. JSYK!

  21. Britpunk says:

    I loved Syndicate. Wonderful game. I also quite enjoyed the Mega Drive version, which actually worked very well.

    Seems pretty bugged playing it now…some weird AI glitch meant enemy agents charged toward my team at high speed and often would get stuck behind some fence making it all too easy to use the persuadatron on them.

  22. Huggster says:

    The demo is just out, first 3 levels.
    On the first level, if you kill the guard by the gate you can recover an UZI and research it early, in time for the 3rd mission!

  23. Simon says:

    I loved Syndicate, playing on my good ol’ Macintosh, OS7. I even had to upgrade from 8MB RAM to play this fluently :)

  24. Miko says:

    You know, if this was all you guys did, I would continue to read the hell out of RPS.

    • robrob says:

      I don’t know, these previews are good but it would be nice to see some retro features once in a while.

  25. Rive says:

    All i hear is “quack, quack, quack”. Im thankful for any attempt that someone gets the cyberpunk right at last! I finished Neuromancer for the 10th time on my 13th birthday and if youll excuse my im going to go to bed now, dreaming about how i will actually and SEE all that cool stuff that we are doing when were playing Shadowrun. Second Edition.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Shadowrun != Cyberpunk

    • Thants says:

      Sure it is. It’s Fantasy + Cyberpunk. You’ll see when the Genesis version comes out next year.

  26. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Bah! The game looks crap alright. I will NEVER buy this.

  27. Flimgoblin says:

    What’s happened to this site? You guys have been Amiga gaming since 1873 and here you are chasing stories for the jumped up new kids on the block “PC” crowd?

    PC Gaming is a dead end guys, it’s all work computers built for running spreadsheets – the future’s with the Amiga – when the CD32 is released next year it’s going to blow this fad out of the water.

  28. Pijama says:

    Okay RPS, who tampered with the time-machine?

    I suspect that since the first one was Day of the Tentacle, it was John. MR. WALKER, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE

  29. Dominic White says:

    On a vaguely more serious note, ever notice how gamers didn’t seem to get nearly as angry back in the days when we just kinda casually discovered games, rather than tore apart every bit of press release and PR leakage? Back then, a game could change from the original design doc, people would be none the wiser, and wouldn’t have built up this bizarre imaginary super-game in their head to compare reality against and fail.

    • EvaUnit02 says:

      That’s because the internet back then would’ve mostly been the niche of university students discussing Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes on the Usernet and Bulletin Boards, yeah?

      Most people’s primary source of gaming journalism and news would’ve been dead tree media published once a month, I’d presume.

    • Dominic White says:

      Seriously though, was there anyone furious about Syndicate changing from the original design doc? I remember early previews of Quake describing it as a nonlinear action-RPG.

      Funny how people seemed to be able to cope with these things back in the old days. Back when I was a kid, people seemed to act a lot more like adults. Go figure.

    • Vinraith says:

      Seriously though, was there anyone furious about Syndicate changing from the original design doc?

      I’m sure a percentage of the very few people who were even aware of the original design doc were upset about the change, it’s human nature to be upset when something you’re looking forward to turns into something you’re not interested in. There was less public outlet for that frustration at the time, though.

      Funny how people seemed to be able to cope with these things back in the old days. Back when I was a kid, people seemed to act a lot more like adults. Go figure.

      No, in the old days there were still people that cared about different things than you, you just didn’t have to hear them talk about it.

    • Helm says:

      yeah I don’t think anyone really protested because there weren’t 34525 gaming websites to throw Molyneux’s promises in gamer faces all day long and then something completely different came out. My experience with Syndicate for example started with me writing “syndicate.exe”.

  30. apa says:

    How about Syndicate, Wing Commander and Ultima VIII on PSP?! They are on EA Replay collection. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it: Syndicate on a portable device… except, not. I was quite disappointed to find out that the games on that collection are old console ports, not the real PC versions. They’re seriously dumbed down and have lousy controls :(

    link to

    • Britpunk says:

      Do you know, I had completely forgotten that I own EA Replay. And that it had Syndicate and Ultima 7 on. You sir, have just given me something to do this evening, and for that I thank you.

  31. BooleanBob says:

    You think this is bad? Check the Compuserve gaming B.B.S. for more B.F. B.S. (L.O.L.!) on Molyneux’s next big thing, Magic Carpet.

    Fully 3D graphics, 360-degree movement, a (frankly weird and probably horribly unintuitive) mouse-controlled viewpoint system, 8-person multiplayer, “city-building”, real-time ‘first person perspective blasting’ (presumably something akin to Wolf 3D, or this miserably over-hyped DOOM) and up to a dozen enemies on screen at once!

    If even half of the features listed above make it into the game I’m wipe my install disks for Oh No! More Lemmings and Jill of the Jungle.

  32. beistet says:

    My zaibatsu corporation asks for very little in a syndicate game.

    Just some rag-doll effects, Havoc physics and the ability to strike at fleeing employees with tactical WMD.

    We sincerely hope you agree to these conditions.

  33. tigershuffle says:

    Im still waiting for a some new Llama games. Hurry up Minter you lazysod

    oh and the Syndicate flamethrowers will be my fave i bet :)

  34. Wulf says:

    That’s Molyneaux for you, he’s like some kind of mad savant. He has wet dreams about his game projects and shares them with the world, then he heads to his studio in the morning and has a nervous breakdown when he’s confronted by the reality. I bet you that by the turn of the millennium he’ll be a broken man, in a padded cell. He can’t keep going like this, no one can dodge reality forever!

  35. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Yeah well that’s because the PC’s shit. It’s not built or designed for games. I mean it doesn’t have a blitter chip or anything, so how can you expect there to be any decent games on the PC if it can’t even make sprites properly?

    If you want to play games, go to Rumbelows and pick up an Amiga or ST. Syndicate’s much better on those machines, as are the rest of the games in general: Menace, Blood Money, Xenon 2, Captain Blood, Damocles etc etc etc.

  36. geldonyetich says:

    Syndicate is a rather interesting game where people are all fitted with microchips so the corporate interests can have slavish mind control over them. Absolutely surreal! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for my RFID implantation appointment.

  37. RedFred says:

    Was I the only one who always got stuck in the subway area? I could never get out but always seemed to get in fine.

    Syndicate gave me the creeps.

  38. MadMatty says:

    haha good to know-i stopped being excited about bullfrog/lionhead since Black & White (couldnt get the creature to even feed itself) … had a grand time with Syndicate and Populous and Magic Carpet even. Syndicate Wars was good fun too

  39. Skabooga says:

    I’m not sure they took the right approach with this game. 3rd person isometric? I think the theme would be better suited by a first person approach, in the vein of Wolfenstein 3D.