Format reviewed: Xbox 360
Other formats available: PS3, PC
Developer: Starbreeze
Publisher: EA
Price: £39.99
Website: www.ea.com/syndicate
Rating: 18

As any gamer will tell you the future is going to be bleak. In years to come we will have a dystopia as the years overtake us. And if you believe the Syndicate we will all be linked in.

One of the most common ideas in any science fiction is that of the all powerful corporation. This notion has replaced the dictatorship as the favourite dystopian backdrop. Corporations can be greedy you see, unlike countries, they want, want, want and don't let anyone get in their way. It is this idea, that the world is ruled by the companies that people work for, rather than the countries that they live in, that is at the heart of Syndicate.

On top of this everyone has a computer chip in their heads and every thing also has a chip in it so that everything can talk to everything; basically a scaremonger's internet of things. This means that all computers, as we know them, are obsolete because people can connect directly with the things that they use without having to type or tap. This is a neat idea with your usual sci-fi twists over the top.

Being a sci-fi story things aren't going to plan and you play a character called Kilo who not only has a chip in his head, but also has the power to do things to the chips in other things and other people.

When we got the game we were a little surprised that it has an 18 certificate. This is quite unusual for a game such as this, that is until you play it.

It turns out that one of the first things you can do with your powers is to make other people do some pretty horrible things. The first one is to commit suicide.

When you are being attacked, if you have built up enough adrenalin (by being accurate in your shooting and so on) you can then make your attackers kill themselves; not a pleasant thing to do we must say.

You do this by selecting the suicide option using the d-pad and then when a suitable target is in range you hold down the left shoulder button until the meter fills up and you then hear a sort of electronic feedback sound, a shriek of pain and they then explode. Now you see why it has an 18 certificate.

In addition to this rather useful ability you can also cause what the game calls Backfire. This is a handy trick when you're having to deal with people behind cover. Backfire is more subtle and causes your foes to, sort of, short circuit, stop what they are doing and it makes them vulnerable for a few seconds.

This means you then have a better chance of picking them off or flushing them out of cover. The third power is as dark as the suicide one. Persuade gets you right inside their heads and makes them switch sides and fight for you. This means that they will shoot their colleagues, until there are none left at which point they shoot themselves. They can be stopped if they are overpowered by their remaining colleagues though.

In addition to these skills you can also hack other things. At points in the game there are fixed guns, you can make these fire on their own troops, some baddies have some sort of electronic armour that you need to hack before you can take them down and you can hack elevators, doors and so on.

Throughout the game you also have the ability to access a sort of Batsense by pressing the right shoulder. This enables you to see through some walls, see where baddies are hiding behind walls and things you can shoot that blow up.

It is also a little like bullet time as time slows down a little. However, like bullet time it's not infinite and once you've used it up you have to wait for it to build up again.

All these features, and the fact that Syndicate looks pretty good all the way through do put a gloss over what is a pretty run-of-the-mill sci-fi shooter. There are a few instances where the scenery looks a little flat, wires running across a wall rather than having any real definition to them.

This is us being very picky though, overall Syndicate is a lot fun. That said there are a few really annoying boss battles that just smack of the usual game annoyances and we would love to get rid of them for good. The AI though is excellent. You really need to be careful that you don't get outflanked and caught in a pincer movement.

Review by Tuckski for BCS

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