Despite backing by the biggest publisher in the games industry, Syndicate’s had a pretty quiet release. The decision to revive a franchise that started in 1993—in a different genre—had more people scratching their heads or fearing travesty than anything else. Since I don’t belong to the first game’s fan-base, I was able to step into the world of Syndicate without any conflicting baggage. And damn was it enjoyable.
You’re an expensive mercenary fighting on behalf of (and against) newly empowered corporations. Nationalism has taken a backseat to privatized business, and you push that agenda along with a gun in hand and a chip in your brain. In fact, in the year 2069, anybody who isn’t a forgotten low-world dreg has such an implant—yours is just the most advanced.
Blah blah blah. So the game’s premise doesn’t break new ground, sure. But it’s still cool, right? That’s just it with the fiction (and plot) of Syndicate: It’s so in-line with ready-made cyberpunk themes that after ten minutes of play, I felt comfortable guessing at much of how its fictional world would unfold.
But I still wanted to see more of it. More of its night clubs, its flying cars, its chilling reminders that yes, in mankind’s future, dollars trump ethics. Syndicate’s single-player component excels in presenting you with unrecycled imaginings of tomorrow’s technology. In one instance, you’ll combat squads of jet-bikers, hacking their engines to have them suffer unfortunate short-circuits. In another, you’ll dash past a futuristic parking garage—all arrows and lights meant to guide drivers to openings in a building’s flank.
These are things you’ll see once and never again, and the result is a world that feels bigger than yourself. Supplemental fiction abounds in news broadcasts (the rich are getting richer), graffiti (the downtrodden will rise), and memos (wherein you learn that your trenchcoat has “magnetorheological fluids”; hard science fiction indeed).