With the upcoming release of EA games latest game reboot Syndicate, perhaps there’s no better time to take a retrospective look back at the original 1993 game.
Syndicate was first released in 1993 by Bullfrog game studios who were also responsible for great games like Theme Park and Theme Hospital which while I’m thinking about it, were great games and definitely need an HD remake! Anyway, Syndicate first saw a release on the Commodore Amiga and PC (using MS-DOS) but was subsequently ported across a wide variety of platforms, however it wasn’t without it’s share of controversy when it released with some gaming magazines and newspapers saying that the violence and use of a drug to control the agents in the game would influence the children of the day into taking drugs and turning to a life of crime themselves, so in that respect it was a little like GTA is these days. Needless to say that those thoughts were completely unfounded and as far as I’m aware, children didn’t start taking drugs and turning to a life of crime as a result of playing the game. I know I certainly didn’t!
Syndicateput you, the player into the shoes of the corporation in a not too distant future cyberpunk style world, and had you controlling 4 cyborg agents sent on missions including assassination, infiltration, theft and persuasion. The persuasion missions were always my favourite as it meant I got to use the fabulously named persuadatron which was basically a gun which would ‘persuade’ people of importance to come with you so you could capture them and use them for the corporations own evil deeds! The object of the game was to establish world dominance one territory at a time whilst battling with rival syndicates. The game view was from a fixed isometric viewpoint which allowed you to see most of the level you were on and where your enemies were, making it easier to come up with the right tactics to use to enable you to take out the enemy cyborgs.
As you progressed through the game you had to tax citizens of territories that you had already taken over so you could get money to manage, research and develop weapons and armour so you could be sure you had the best tools available to carry out your evil deeds and carry on drugging your cyborgs but you had to be careful not to tax your citizens too much, otherwise they would revolt against you and start trying to take you down. All of these additions added some depth and some great tactical elements to the game.
So the original Syndicate game had everything you would want from a game, a lengthy campaign mode combining a shooting game with a city building type game and giving you great depth with the R & D and the tactical side of the game.
Of course inevitably Syndicate didn’t just stop with one game, it did of course spawn an expansion pack called Syndicate: American Revolt. American revolt took place in the 22nd century after the events of Syndicate, where the entire world is controlled by a mega corporation called Eurocorp who have become mega powerful thanks to the invention of ‘The CHIP’ which is a cybernetic mind control implant capable of altering the perceptions of people and basically the object of the game was take control of Eurocorp’s cyborgs and battle against the revolting citizens who have become tired of the dystopia around them and are hoping to bring down the very corporation which put them there…Eurocorp! This later saw a release together with the original Syndicate game and was called Syndicate Plus.
There was also a sequel called Syndicate Wars which saw a release on the Sony PlayStation (it was also developed for the Sega Saturn console but never saw a release on the console). Syndicate Wars was produced by Peter Molyneux (yes that Peter Molyneux) and took place after the events of Syndicate: American Revolt where Eurocorp has achieved it’s goal and now has worldwide dominance, however not all is good in the world of Eurocorp as a virus known as the Harbinger has broken out causing damage to the mind control microchips implanted in citizens brains thus threatening the very existence of Eurocorp. Citizens whose implants were damaged by the virus (known as unguided citizens) were rising up and trying to bring down Eurocorp by building an army. In early missions, the unguided were merely an annoyance and appeared as random antagonistic elements but after only a few missions they quickly formed a deadly militia who were more than capable of bringing down the 4 cyborgs you the player were in control of! So this really forced you to think more tactically right from the offset. And the game wasn’t afraid to let you fail (something modern games seem to not like doing as they hold your hand through the game) for if you found yourself surrounded by a lot of enemies it was a bit like bringing a knife to a gunfight, in other words, pointless and you were going to die! But it was that very danger that kept you going and made you want to keep pushing forward to complete the mission.
Syndicate Wars also preserved the isometric viewpoint while playing but Bullfrog added some new controls and camera view’s enabling you to pitch and rotate the screen so you could now see even more of the game world opening up even more tactical options. You were also able to get into vehicles in Syndicate Wars and drive or fly (yes they had flying cars like the Jetson’s!) to a location of your choice allowing you to quickly get somewhere close to your objective while avoiding unnecessary fights. Aside from the addition of a few controls and flying cars the missions in Syndicate Wars remained largely unchanged, in fact the mission’s were still had the same basic objectives – assassination, infiltration, theft and persuasion but it was the level map designs which really changed with the layout and architectural differences between each city often being fairly significant and often having many unique parks and buildings.
So the original Syndicate games were games which seemed to almost shape a generation, in fact when I was at school, it seemed that almost everyone was playing it or at least had played it and it should be one of those games which goes down in history as one of the best games ever made and one that everyone should play.
Will EA’s re-imagining be as good as the famous original games? Well judging by the demo it’s difficult to tell as it was only a multiplayer demo, but the fundamentals of a great game are certainly there, however, fans of the original game will be in for a bit of a shock as the famous isometric viewpoint of the original games has been replaced by the all too familiar first person view and they have turned the game into a first person shooter, which although the game still relies on 4 characters working together to get through the level, having to wait for your team mates to revive you will no doubt mean that if you are playing with random people, unless your extremely lucky, the chances are you’ll be waiting an eternity for a team mate to reboot your chip implant so you can carry on.
I for one am looking forward to the release of Syndicate and the decision that EA will not have an online pass for their new game only compels me to get the game even more. However, I have a love for retro games so I would also love to see the original Syndicate or at the very least Syndicate Wars have a full HD remake made available through the Xbox LIVE Marketplace or at least available via Steam.
Syndicate is releasing on February 24th (UK) and will be available for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.