Syndicate, despite a few minor flaws, is a unique and thoroughly enjoyable action strategy game. The highly addictive gameplay is Syndicate's main selling point. Levels have pre-set goals but the way you go about achieving them is entirely up to you. Blast your way into an assassination target's lair with superior firepower or try to take him out from a distant rooftop with one long-range sniper shot.
The range of research choices adds quite a bit in terms of variety to the beginning of the game. For example, you can research heavy weapons early-on or conduct research to upgrade the Persuadetron's capabilities. Both are equally effective but require vastly different strategies. The varied world maps give you a great deal of strategic flexibility. You can interact with just about anything you find. Take rides in cars or trains, climb up to rooftops or go through hidden tunnels -- you can even blow up those pesky cars in the game should you so desire. You'll keep coming back to try different things or to beat levels using different strategies.
Even though your characters are about the size of pinheads, they're still well drawn. They move around with very smooth animation sequences and you can see quite a lot of detail in the sprites. That high level of detail is also present in other characters as well as in game maps. The world is so lush with detail and coloring you'll find it worthwhile to pan around before each mission -- not only to see where things are but just to take it all in.
The game fields some impressive sound effects but, unfortunately, complements that with a set of average background music tracks. Each weapon in the game has its own distinct firing sound and, for the most part, they're fairly realistic. The explosion sounds are particularly well done. Whenever you blow up a car or anything else, you get a deep resonating boom that's full of energy. But, again, the background music is totally forgettable.
There are some problems within the game. First, the economic and research model is real-time. If you sit around doing nothing on the map screen, your cash reserves will slowly increase and your research will slowly progress. This has the effect of potentially disrupting the difficulty balance in the first ten or so missions. The casual player will jump right into the missions, stopping at the map screen just long enough to re-equip and set new research if available. More cunning players, though, will just let the computer sit and accumulate cash for hours, periodically returning to set new research goals. By doing this long enough, you can actually start the first level with all upgrades and weapons available. Should you opt for the latter strategy, as a result of the levels being totally pre-scripted, you'll be leading your maximum strength characters with mini-guns and lasers against a bunch of thugs with nothing but pistols. It's not nearly as much of a problem in the later levels because the other syndicates will also be fielding super soldiers with maximum capability.
There's also a potential problem with the game's difficulty. The world of Syndicate is unrelentingly harsh. Cars will run you down if you happen to be in the way and trains maintain their schedule even at the cost of smearing you and crowds of people all over the track if you don't board on time. After you develop the full range of weapons in the game, most firefights tend to be immediately fatal. For hardcore gamers this difficulty is actually a bonus, as it'll keep them playing the game for a long time. At the same time, however, the difficulty level will scare off novice gamers. If you embrace a good challenge, though, you should give Syndicate a try.
Graphics: The graphics are quite small but very rich with color and detail.
Sound: Sound effects are fairly realistic. The explosion effect is particularly impressive.
Enjoyment: If you can cope with the difficulty, the game offers a lot of strategic nuances.
Replay Value: You can go back and try the same missions using different strategies.
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Syndicate Wars, Syndicate Plus, UFO: Enemy Unknown Collector's Edition, StarCraft, Syndicate, Theme Park, Theme Hospital, X-COM: Terror from the Deep Collector's Edition
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