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The GoodI 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 BadThere 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.