Have You Played… Syndicate?

Not pictured: your own legs. But they're down there!

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

No, not that one. The other one. Yes, the FPS. EA trying to resurrect Bullfrog’s top-down tactical series as an FPS was obviously going to rile up the people it was supposed to excite, but ignore the name. It’s a pleasant spot of face-shooting in a sumptuous cyberpunk world of gleaming clean lines and filthy neon. I don’t remember much of the campaign, but writing this has me wanting to dive back into the co-op.

Syndicate’s campaign is something about Johnny Trenchcoat being betrayed by his megacorp and then smashing the system and all that. He shoots men with big guns, uses cyberwizardry to mess with enemies and change the environment, and it’s an enjoyable enough ride for a modern FPS campaign, pleasantly forgettable. More importantly, it lets you figure out what kind of cool cyborg you’d like to be in co-op.

The co-op mode is a sadly small set of missions on megacorp antics like raiding facilities, stealing tech, assassinating agents, and ripping chips out of heads. You shoot lots of men. It’s classless but encourages class-like behaviour. It’s pretty fun. It’s made for four but I played with only one chum, so we felt like a pair of super cool cyborg murderers as we gunned down swarms of mooks with our big fancy guns but would rightly struggle against folks as high-tech as ourselves.

And my, what cyborgs we were! In its persistent progression you choose which abilities, buffs, and weapon upgrades to focus on – none of that fixed track nonsense. I, obviously, pumped everything into making my shotgun also be a sniper grenade launcher, my sniper rifle also a battle rifle, and my huge chunky revolver even nastier. Playing as a small shrieky lady with a kickin’ mohawk, I felt like a pret-ty cool cyborg murderer all right.

Keep an eye on Syndicate over the holiday sales, as the co-op is worth a few pounds if you have pals to play with. It’s a shame Syndicate flopped, as I’d like more. Oh! Also! You can look down and see your legs and you can do a cool slide move – two features I always appreciate in an FPS.


  1. Meat Circus says:

    Nope. And neither did anyone else, and that’s good. Because it put a brutal end to publishers trying to reanimate the corpses of beloved game franchises by ejaculating money from their braindead FPS-cocks.

    • Horg says:

      Dungeon. Keeper. Mobile. 2014.

      Never forget. Never forgive.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      That’s a heady mix of fiction and unnecessary levels of disgust

    • Da5e says:

      I played it. It was all right. 73%

    • LionsPhil says:

      I want to live in your universe.

      • Ross Angus says:

        I’d settle for the gritty reboot of the Meat Circus universe.

    • jonahcutter says:

      I prefer this kind of “re-imagining” than the one taken by the likes of Thief 4 or Hitman Absolution. Those games changed (cheapened, imo) the tone and gameplay of the originals, while trying to pretend they didn’t.

      I hated Hitman Absolution, because it got so much wrong about the original games of which I’m a huge fan. I don’t care a whit though that someone made Hitman Go. It’s a fundamentally different game that uses Hitman trappings. As a rabid Hitman fanboy, I’m fine with that. It didn’t screw up my beloved Contracts/Blood Money gameplay like Absolution did.

      This Syndicate doesn’t give us a watered down or “streamlined” version of the original games. Something that weakens what made the originals great, while trying to make it more palatable for what the devs think the masses want. And all while getting core defining traits like tone, atmosphere and structure wrong. No. Whatever the latest Syndicate’s merits as an fps, it’s not ham-fistedly screwing up the originals’ squad-based, rts gameplay.

      It’s a completely different game type. It’s an fps set in the Syndicate universe. And it doesn’t pretend otherwise.

      • piedpiper says:

        The problem with this game is not that it sucks as Syndicate. It sucks as a FPS.

      • manio22 says:

        I agree. To add on your list : Sacred 3.

    • Radiant says:

      Thankfully it’s not often I put my money where my mouth is.

      • Radiant says:

        …money on my mi… seriously we can go ANYWHERE with this dude.

  2. scannerbarkly says:

    I tried Syndicate when it first came out and despite feel a degree of amour for the handgun in the game (chunky goodness) I just couldn’t get passed the main issue I had…it wasn’t my Syndicate. The one that myself and Bullfrog had reached a consensus on in my early teenage years. This was something else and as such I could never give it a fair trial.

    May just try and take another crack at it now that Satellite Reign is a thing that exists on my hard drive though.

  3. SooSiaal says:

    Bit of a poor choice to pick this one after featuring the real syndicate 2 days ago :P
    And no I havent, mainly because of the things said above

    • rabbit says:

      … I imagine the original having been featured two days ago had a lot to do with why this was featured now.

  4. skyturnedred says:

    I had more fun with Syndicate than most other shooters in recent years. It’s good fun, I feel bad for people who dismiss it only because of the name.

    Also, it has Michael Wincott which is always awesome in my book. Love that voice.

  5. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    I was always pretty interested to try this out for cheap (for the environment art if nothing else), but I’ve still no reason to install Origin. Would get it if it was on GOG or Humble (or even Steam) for a few quid, but otherwise doubtful.

  6. Cross says:

    My biggest beef with this game is the horrid controls. I’ve no nostalgia for Syndicate, because i’m not that old (HA!), but the mouse controls are just straight up wonky, which is a bit of a rotten turnip in the FPS soup.

    • galaxion says:

      This is my problem with the game, the controls. It doesn’t allow for binding the side mouse buttons (one of which I use for ADS and my memory muscle won’t allow otherwise.) I can’t toggle ADS or crouch either.

      The FOV is very low and when changed via .ini files it messes the game so bad by introducing a strange post-process effect.

      I really wished these were fixed and I could actually play the game – it didn’t seem so bad a FPS game.

  7. jonahcutter says:

    It suffers primarily from being called “Syndicate” and not being a squad-based, tactical rts as the name suggests it would be. And the hideously saturated bloom is overwhelming at times.

    Other than that, it’s a pretty good fps. It has some interesting mechanics and weapons, and does the nihilistic cyberpunk atmosphere pretty well.

  8. Nova says:

    And I thought you were getting desperate with the “Have you played” series before.

  9. jonfitt says:

    I was thinking about giving this a go for a few pounds after reading about Satellite Reign and thinking about ye olde cyberpunk.
    But I had a look and it’s an Origin exclusive on PC, so won’t be in the Steam sale and so…

    • jonfitt says:

      Hmm. It’s on sale now for $10, but it has been $4 before on Amazon. $4 is more like it.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      So you prefer one completely arbitrary DRM platform over another completely arbitrary DRM platform?

      • Distec says:

        Well, putting up with one DRM platform is measurably better than two or more.

  10. Emeraude says:

    This one popped back into my head during the Hatred debacle.

    The civilian killing wasn’t exactly gloves off either in this game. That was some pure, slow, deliberate violence porn.

    • icemann says:

      It’s Syndicate, what else did you expect?

      • Emeraude says:

        More creativity, at least ?

        It’s not so much the act of killing as the way it is staged in this game – I seem to remember some countries (Australia?) having an issue with the game’s age limit rating, so I’m not the only one who thought so.

  11. voorsk says:

    I tried it mainly because it was developed by the guys who made the Riddick games, and they were pretty good. Plus, the money they got from it went into coding ‘Brothers’, which was a good game.

    Not a patch on the real deal, obviously, but I wonder if Satellite Reign would exist without it?

    • Eight Rooks says:

      Same studio, but the guys who actually made Riddick and The Darkness had left at that point, IIRC. They went off to form Machine Games, and develop the much better received Wolfenstein: the New Order.

  12. Yor Fizzlebeef says:

    If ever there was a need for a reboot to be a GTA clone, this would have been it. Such wasted potential :(

    • Emeraude says:

      My first thought was “isn’t it basically what the original Syndicate was ?” before realizing GTA-clone to my mind still implies pre-GTA3.

      • Harlander says:

        Bearing in mind that Richard Morgan wrote the story for nu-Syndicate, I think a GTA >3-esque approach would work pretty well for a videogame of Market Forces

  13. Sardonic says:

    Tried to, but was blinded by the dramatic overuse of bloom.

  14. piedpiper says:

    I finished it and it’s a piece of uninspired garbage.

    • rabbit says:

      … he says, ignoring the fact that the majority of the praise was relating to the co-op.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        To be fair, it takes a truly, unspeakably bad game to be no fun co-op.

  15. Shaun Green says:

    Given that I paid 99p for Legendary (primarily to laugh and sneer at it, because I am a frankly awful human being), I think I could stretch to a couple of quid for this Syndicate.

  16. Ansob says:

    The single player was a pile of dogshit, but the co-op campaign was legitimately great. The biggest shame remains that they wasted time working on the SP instead of making more co-op levels, and never used the SP assets for co-op.

    Sadly, for anyone picking it up now, the co-op basically requires a party of four to be playable. :(

  17. rcolin says:

    Played it, loved it, bought copies for all my friends so we could get through all the co-op missions… at least until their motion sickness kicked in, whereupon I learned that it is, in fact, possible to get through all the co-op missions with only two agents. In the case of the robot escort missions this requires a lot of luck. I would have preferred to play as the cheerfully amoral Merit rather than the “railroaded into opposing the Syndicates” Kilo, though, which would have been a nice callback to the outright playing the bad guy of the original games,. The co-op missions do actually cast you as the cheerfully amoral up-and-coming Wulf Western syndicate.

    One thing that did ring false was the mustache-twirling “corporate” dialog – having been in actual corporations it would have been more amusing to make it the sort of buzzword- and acronym- laden “communication” that takes place in these organizations. Uber-meets-Dilbert-with-miniguns, if you will.

  18. Basil says:

    I enjoyed it – and more importantly the co-op was so good the missus enjoyed it. And THAT my friends is no mean feat. Should just have had another name but some people can’t blinker past it.

    • Emeraude says:

      Well, to be fair, the people waiting for an actual new Syndicate name are going to be outraged, the people that aren’t and would be part of the target audience are receiving conflicting messages filtered through a noise-wall of outrage.

      Hard to build an audience in that context. And marketing has no one to blame but itself.

  19. gabrielonuris says:

    It is actually a pretty solid shooter, I think most people hate it just because of the name. Unfortunately I never played the coop, heard it was awesome back at when it was released; when I bought this game on Origin, it was on a sale and no one was playing it anymore, but I would gladly reinstall it if anybody here wants to give it another go!

  20. Jakkar says:

    Tried to play it as a straight FPS without considering any link to the namesake originals.

    Realised that, on its own merits and given a fair chance, it was boring as all hell.

  21. kwyjibo says:

    Syndicate 2012 Dubstep edition is fucking atrocious.

    It was the first and last Starbreeze game I’ve played. I’d heard good things about Starbreeze, and Syndicate’s future-shooty theme seemed to be a good complement to Deus Ex: HR’s future-stealthy one.

    The designers seemed to think that forcing the player to press the use key (to hack enemy armour) during boring firefights would make it not boring.

    Other bits are just incompetent, at one point you’re given a chaingun as a reward for completing a difficult section. It might be cliched to reward players with a chaingun massacre, but it’s a welcome break nonetheless. But because there’s some ridiculous cover system, as soon as you step near a wall, you automatically holster the chaingun and stop firing. As you descend a narrow stairway and enemies spawn in, you keep on holstering the gun and getting killed. Instead of concentrating on mowing down enemies, I actually had to concentrate on standing in the middle of the stairway, how did this pass testing?

    I finally stopped playing when I came up against a helicopter boss. You’re fighting it while on top of a moving train. It sounds exciting, but it isn’t. There’s absolutely no tactical considerations, you don’t have to move or be clever with your aim or use specific weapons. It’s just a bullet sponge, and it’s a bullet sponge which can’t effectively harm you. It’s also a bullet sponge that you have to click “use” on to hack its armour. It’s at this point I thought, I could just play Half-Life 2 again – every single encounter with Half-Life 2’s helicopters (both human and alien) were more interesting encounters than this bullshit.

  22. kwyjibo says:

    The best thing about the game was the protagonist’s name, “Miles Kilo” and his partner, “Millimetres Tonne”.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      The campaign is so unmemorable I had even forgotten that amazing name. Miles Kilo!

      • Darth Gangrel says:

        Damn, that name is so bad it’s on an adventure game protagonist level. Although, the game that I immediately think about when I hear the name Miles Kilo is Outlast with the “unforgettable” Miles Upshur.

        • Kaeoschassis says:

          And when I hear “Outlast” I think “Outcast” with the amazing Cutter Slade.

    • LionsPhil says:

      His parents were massive fans of both Sonic the Hedgehog, OK.

  23. soopytwist says:

    I immediately quit and uninstalled the game when I saw the awful bloom effect. Remains unplayed today, in the box of shame.

  24. TomxJ says:

    I have not really played the original Syndicate. But i do like looking at my own legs. I think I may enjoy this.

  25. Darth Gangrel says:

    It’s seems like fun, yay, but I have too many other games waiting to be played, darn! It’s Swedish made and I know one of the persons who worked on it, yay, but it requires EA’s Origin to run, darn!

  26. mika76 says:

    I absolutely love this game. Was pleasantly surprised when I bought it on a whim.

    • MrThingy says:

      But… but… the internet says you’re WRONG… :(

      • Emeraude says:

        I don’t think anyone (at least I hope so) said no one was allowed to like the game. We all have our guilty pleasures. Or more charitably I guess, our games that push just the right buttons and as such work in spite of other flaws.

        Nothing wrong with that.

        • AyeBraine says:

          I don’t feel guilty about taking pleasure from playing Syndicate, and I don’t think I should (although there was a very moderate amount of pleasure).

          It’s a nasty phrase, “guilty pleasure”, though, if you think about that. I’m thinking back to 19th century writers and critics, they sometimes used pulp and trashy contemporary books as examples in their critique. They could bash these for bad taste, or mock them, or even note their peculiar appeal and admit that they enjoyed them. But, I mean, I don’t think I ever got a feeling they felt guilty or ashamed for being acquainted with these books, reading them to keep track, and even enjoying them on occasion. I guess it’s something of a new thing, with “conspicuous consumption” and all that.

          • Emeraude says:

            I don’t like the term guilty pleasure, I don’t feel guilty for one, but I don’t have a better term for those games I can enjoy, but I find are genuinely not worth recommending to others, games I think are below average really, or in some cases I guess far too idiosyncratic to be enjoyed outside of its very niche audience.

            I mean, I’m a big fan of Kawazu’s body of work, I got all the ends on Unlimited Saga and genuinely enjoyed playing it, but I still think the game is a mess and I’d never recommend it to someone else unless I was fairly certain he’s part of the niche audience.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            “Niche games”, then.
            In all serious though I can see where you’re coming from and it’s a toughie. Often it’s not just that they were made for a very limited audience (sometimes it’s the exact opposite, even), but just that they’re bad games. Uninspired, buggy, outright unfinished, whatever. And yet we all have at least one game like that which we don’t just humour our way through, but actually get a lot of enjoyment out of. I myself have a bunch.
            I actually don’t think I’ve ever refrained from recommending a game like that, though. Then again, I can’t remember anybody ever listening to even one of my recommendations sooooo…

  27. SparksV says:

    I was really excited for the FPS, but was so so dissapointed. Mainly because of the story (it lacked any sense) and some minor gameplay mechanics (because seeing enemies through walls and shooting them through walls takes all the fun out of it, especially when it’s given to you in the first freaking level). I’d love to try co-op, but have no pals with the game. I love the aesthetics and the gameplay (mostly) was really solid and interesting, but I ended up playing it like any other shooter unless the game forced me to play differently. Shame.

  28. MadMinstrel says:

    I have in fact played it. It was mind-numbingly boring and the story was dumb like few others. If I hadn’t been in hospital with nothing else to do at the time, I’d never have finished it.

  29. somnolentsurfer says:

    I’ve just realised that what I really want is glam Syndicate where all the agents dress like Inanna from The Wicked and the Divine: link to pbs.twimg.com

  30. lordfrikk says:

    It was an alright game, if you get it cheap you have can some fun with it.

  31. malkav11 says:

    I have never played a genuinely bad Starbreeze game (or bad post-Starbreeze game, come to that, since Machine Games, who made the splendid Wolfenstein: The New Order, are ex-Starbreeze), and I have played all of them as far as I know. Even Enclave, while pretty rough, still offers modest fantasy hack-n-slash enjoyment and is aesthetically fantastic for its era. Syndicate is not an exception. Forget that EA decided to brand it with the name and a vague facsimile of the setting of the classic strategy game, and judge it on its own merits, and it is…well, it’s pretty average, really, but with a great sense of style and aesthetics, and they got Richard Morgan, of all people, to do the writing, which…well, he’s not a games writer. But it was still pretty decent, and could have been so much worse.

  32. vash47 says:

    This game is absolute shit. Is this a serious post?

  33. InfamousPotato says:

    It was disappointing to see that there was only one other article sharing the “I CAN SEE MY LEGS” tag. I’d like to see more legs in games.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      Alright let’s see here…. FEAR, Thief: Deadly Shadows, the new Thief that people pretend doesn’t exist. Mount and Blade: Warband if you switch to first person. Dark Messiah, of course.

      I think I’m out. Anyone?

  34. tonicer says:

    This game is one of the many reasons why people say videogameconsoles are ruining gaming. Everything about this game is just terrible. The only reason people bought it is it’s name.

    • malkav11 says:

      On the contrary. The name is one of the biggest reasons people -didn’t- buy it.