Trying Its Best To Set Itself Apart
by Kyle Hilliard on Jan 31, 2012 at 11:07 AM
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Rating: Mature
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

The demo for Syndicate recently became available for Xbox Live, and Game Informer sat down to play a few rounds online. The first thing you will notice is that there isn’t much to notice. It doesn’t do much to set itself apart from other shooters. Left trigger to pulls up the sights, right trigger fires, press in the left control stick to sprint, and the press the B button to duck below cover. It’s comfortable to a fault.

Where the game sets itself apart is the variety of ways you interact with your cooperative partners. Much of your interactions with the world and other players are mapped to the left bumper. You can perform breaches on powerful enemies, which chip away at their armor, activate a shield for your buddies, cause enemies' weapons to backfire, and heal partners when their health drops. The nice thing about these actions is that they can all be done within a reasonable distance – you don’t have to be standing next to enemies or partners to perform them. You can begin a breach action on a powerful enemy from a few yards away, and duck behind cover while the mechanic finishes up.

I healed my team members often from across the map, even while they were absorbing a heavy barrage of bullets. One of the only actions that requires close proximity is helping a partner get up by resetting their computer systems. When you are the one waiting for a partner to help you get back up, you can move around a little to get behind cover or move closer to a partner, and “bash” the A button to move a bit quicker. I was content with simply pressing the button repeatedly, but feel free to “bash” away as the game instructs.

Syndicate really hammers on the idea of working together, but you can still survive as a lone wolf. The only occasions I ran into that required teamwork were getting revived and moving onto the next area. Everyone has to be present to move through certain doors. Of course, this demo only offered one scenario and two different difficulties, so it’s likely that future levels and harder difficulties will deliver the "die alone, survive together" gameplay Syndicate is promising. As always, when you do work together you have a much more fulfilling and easier experience, but that sort of sentiment is true of all cooperative games.

The struggle that Syndicate seems likely to encounter is separating itself from other comparable cooperative experiences. The combat feels fluid and fun with obvious inspiration from Call of Duty (not a bad comparison for any first-person shooter), and working together is much more fun than hiding behind a crate and pulling off headshots while you ignore your crew. The ability to breach, shield, and heal (among other abilities not available in the demo) are the elements of the game that will make you play Syndicate over something else, and hopefully it’s enough to carry demo downloaders to retail.

You can also rip computer chips out of peoples' heads, which is pretty awesome.