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Syndicate

aka: BOB, Cyber Assault, Higher Functions
Moby ID: 281
DOS Specs
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Description official descriptions

In the future, the world is controlled by a handful of global corporations (syndicates). You are the Marketing director (hitman) for one of these companies. It is your job to take control away from the competitors. The job is not one of diplomacy, but one of brute force and physical control. Advance your way to the top of the corporation by successfully completing your missions and managing the money you make from your territories.

The gameplay is visually reminiscent of X-Com, with an angled top-down perspective, but it is real-time rather than turn-based. You have missions ranging from infiltrate and capture, to seek and destroy. In each of these, you direct a team of four agents as they move through the world shooting at anything that gets in their way.

You can upgrade and modify your agents, as well as equip them with tools you have researched or liberated from opposing syndicates. As you complete missions, you gain more funds to use for purchasing agents or researching upgrades and equipment.

Spellings

  • הסינדיקט - Hebrew spelling
  • シンジケート - Japanese spelling

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Screenshots

Promos

Credits (DOS version)

68 People · View all

Game Design
  • Bullfrog Productions Ltd.
Producer
Management
Assistant Producer
Programmer
Computer Intelligence
Graphics
Level Design
Sound
Music
Technical Support
Intro Sequence
Additional Support
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 79% (based on 43 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 216 ratings with 10 reviews)

A unique strategy game with plenty of carnage, although at a miniature scale. The Mac port was done in-house by Bullfrog and is rock-solid.

The Good
The best thing about Syndicate is Panic Mode. Control-click on the screen and the drug levels of your agents go to the roof, turning them into sharp shooters. They don't miss a single shot, no matter how many enemies they're facing, and they fire automatically.

To balance things out, agents from rival syndicates also have Panic Mode, which depending on who fires the first shot can be either a good thing for them (as your agents are turned into spaghetti sauce) or a bad thing (as they rush to be gunned down by your people).

It keeps getting better. Some enemies carry time bombs that explode after they die. It's not uncommon that during a big fight these bombs go off while other enemies are running over them, killing them and making them drop their bombs, repeating the cycle.

I don't know if the same happens to your agents if one of them is killed while carrying a bomb, because that have never happened to me, but if you have money to spare, you can make one of your guys blow himself up by pressing Command-D. This is a good strategy on assassination missions, but it works only if the agent has a chest mod installed.

To avoid making this review too long, I'll mention only two more things I love about Syndicate. One is that you can complete all levels with a single agent, which simplifies the game, although to beat the infamous Atlantic Accelerator you must exploit a glitch. The other thing is that you can speed the game up, which cuts short long waiting times when researching new technologies.

The Bad
Except for the introduction, the movies look like pixel puke. They have this ugly dithering all over the place. That probably makes Syndicate the only game in which the cut scenes are better on DOS than on the Mac!

There's not much variety either visually or aurally. You got only two tunes, one for "all clear" and the other for "enemy approaching." And all levels use the same texture collection. No matter where you are, it can be in Europe, Asia or South America; in a city, a fortress or a small town, everything and everyone look the same. They could have at least played a little bit with the color table.

Moving inside buildings can be tricky. You can guide your agents using the radar, but if you send them to kill a NPC, you have to hover the mouse until the cursor changes into a targeting reticle and then fire, but because NPCs are always moving, this is a matter of luck and frustration.

The Bottom Line
While other strategy games allow characters to go berserk in one way or another, Syndicate is the only one I know that incorporates this feature as a regular part of gameplay. For that thing alone, it's one of my favorites. True, all levels are variations of the same theme and all mission types can be beaten with the same strategy, but the game never gets boring.

Macintosh · by Tashtego (142) · 2009

It left a great taste in my mouth........ for almost 8 years.

The Good
In the summer of 1994, I was sworn to my nes. Then one time I went to my babysitter's and he had this new game, Syndicate. I was unaware of what that was, and when I watched it, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. As I watched the blood spray up after he hit some innocent civilian with the minigun and received no consequences, my mouth hung down for a while. Instantly I began saving up for this game, and it took me almost 2 months. When I finally had the money to purchase this game, I went to my local Electronics Boutique, which was then very small, and dumped all my one dollar bills and change onto the table, and the cashier smiled, but then when he checked his stock, he was all out. He felt sorry for me, and without even my asking, he ordered the game for me directly from the publisher. This, of course, was way before people working at electronics boutique became arrogant pricks, and 2 weeks later, I finally got the game which started my love for pc games. The graphics were slick, the game was actual fun, and I spent a good long time till I got it beat. I loved this game, and I wish people gave it due credit.

The Bad
The music sucked, and there was no ending.

The Bottom Line
Along with Half Life, it's games like this that make me remember why I have to work so hard to balance games and school.

DOS · by oh noz (4) · 2001

Bullfrog’s Masterpiece

The Good
I first spotted this game at Babbage’s about a month before it came out. A huge pile of empty game boxes surrounding a cardboard cyborg and a few posters with awesome screenshots. I had just started getting into cyberpunk science fiction so I knew this was going to be a must have. I saved up for a month and got there right when the store opened on the game’s release day. I even bought a sound blaster so that I didn’t have to use my PC speaker. A game that looked this good deserved the best. It took me over three hours of sound card IRQ wrangling and boot disk making to get Syndicate to run properly. Having only a 386 computer with 4 Megs of RAM meant that a lot of tweaking had to be done before I could play even the simplest of games. Then, just after midnight on the night of the worst ice storm that Texas had ever seen, the game’s opening movie started and my jaw dropped. I had never seen a pre-rendered movie for a game before. Sure, I had seen games start with splash screens and pictures but never anything this smooth and slick.

The game’s interface is very nice and immersive. As a matter of fact I have never seen another control system that makes you feel like you are IN the game as much as this one. Every action is controlled through a holographic computer aboard your luxurious corporate blimp high above the city. This gives a logical reason to why the action is presented from a third person view from above. Selecting your team, arming them, setting up research options, paying for hints from informants, and taxing the local populous are all done though this virtual computer and it really makes you feel like you are using a state-of-the-art OS from Blade Runner or Nueromancer.

The graphics still pack a punch today as they did almost ten years ago. While the scrolling can be a little jerky at times all of the animations are smooth and the color scheme fits the game’s theme nicely.

The level of interaction is pretty amazing. You can blow up cars or steal them; set fire to trash bins and mailboxes, torch trees leaving burnt stumps.

The sound effects are perfect. Environmental sounds such as an explosion’s rumble or an electronic door’s hum provide a lot of ambience. But how do the weapons sound? Uzis, lasers, rockets, and your Gatling gun (the best weapon in the game) all have a very full and deep sound.

You can choose to research weapons or agent upgrades between missions. You have to balance your budget to make sure you don’t spend too much on available equipment so that you can purchase future items as they become available. The research feature adds an entire new level of planning to tactics. Go into a territory without advanced enough combat armor or weak weapons and the enemy will smash you in seconds.

After you mow down enemy agents you can steal their weapons and equipment. If you steal a weapon more advanced than any that you are currently using it actually decreases the amount of time needed to research it. Nice feature! You can also hijack enemy agents using a weapon called the persuadatron and bring them back to your base to add to your talent pool of mercenaries. The persuadatron can even be used to seize control of civilians, police, and guards allowing you to form a large mob that will fight with you, picking up weapons as they go. Brilliant!

Upgrading your agents has a very noticeable effect on game play. Put some new cyber-legs into agent John and notice that he can outrun the rest of your team. Arms, eyes, and even brains can be augmented to the point that you can leave your agents to their own devices and they will “hold the fort” for a while.

The Bad
There are only two musical pieces in the game and they get repetitive very quickly. You can turn the music off but since it changes to reflect when an enemy is near it’s usually best to keep it on.

The A.I. is pretty dumb. Enemy agents will rush you taking the shortest path possible. They never flank, set up traps, or try to create choke points when engaging you. They will never retreat either, just continue to advance to certain doom wading through cannon fire and bombs. Guess those advanced brain augmentations aren’t that helpful.

The Bottom Line
Syndicate is practically perfect in every way. Even after ten years this game has never left my hard drive! A classic that I highly suggest you play.

DOS · by saladpuncher (22) · 2003

[ View all 10 player reviews ]

Trivia

1001 Video Games

Syndicate appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Civilians

In pre-release versions of the game, the cities apparently also featured (in addition to the normal civilians) Mothers with baby-carriages and Dogs. These extra innocents were removed from the game before its release.

German version

In the German version, the blood was removed.

Influences

The architecture in the game, aside from more obvious cyberpunk influences, is also inspired by Surrey Research Park, where Bullfrog offices were situated at the time.

Multiplayer

An article by Edge magazine, dated December 4, 2009, and titled "The Making Of: Syndicate" features interviews with several developers of Syndicate.

Among other things, it is revealed that the game was initially developed as a multiplayer game. The developers built and tested it as a network game first. Then, based on the experience they gained from their network games, they started to build single-player missions.

However, during the Quality Assurance process, it was decided that the multiplayer component had to be removed because, in Alex Trowers' words: "EA couldn’t get the network game working on their system, so we had to drop it".

The American Revolt add-on would however restore the multiplayer capability of the game.

Player characters

Syndicate's four character design was based on a similar concept which had been removed from an earlier Bullfrog title, Flood, during development. At one point in production Syndicate had as many as eight on-screen characters to lead, but the number was cut back to four as the majority of the development team felt that controlling so many on-screen characters was unwieldy.

Programming tutorial

Bullfrog did a special feature with UK games mag PC Format, at the time ('93) in which they wrote a C Programming tutorial based on some of the Syndicate code. The tutorial involved using the internal graphics libraries from Syndicate to animate and move agents on the screen. Although the C tutorial was largely useless it was a fairly interesting read for those interested in the way Bullfrog operated.

Awards

  • Amiga Joker
    • Issue 02/1994 – Best Strategical in 1993 (Readers' Vote)
  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) - #67 in the “150 Best Games of All Time” list
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 12/1999 - #75 in the "100 Most Important PC Games of the Nineties" ranking
  • Power Play
    • Issue 02/1994 – Best MS-DOS Game in 1993

Information also contributed by Agent 5, lulalurl, PCGamer77, phlux and Tibes80

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  • MobyGames ID: 281
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Brian Hirt.

Amiga added by Famine3h. Jaguar added by Kartanym. Windows added by Sciere. Amiga CD32 added by Kabushi. Macintosh, FM Towns, PC-98 added by Terok Nor. 3DO added by Indra was here.

Additional contributors: xroox, Chentzilla, Martin Smith, Crawly, Zeppin, Patrick Bregger, lilalurl, Rik Hideto, Victor Vance, FatherJack.

Game added September 19, 1999. Last modified March 31, 2024.