Script: Syndicate

Another Short Script has popped up on BeefJack. This time it's for Starbreeze's reboot of the 1993 isometric game Syndicate, which is ludicrously titled exactly the same. It's a cyberpunk game set in the future where corporations are immensely powerful and openly duke it out with each other by deploying agents with enhanced abilities, all in a bid for control. If that sounds anything like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it's because it totally is.

My official BeefJack review bemoans Syndicate's setting and storyline for being utterly rote and generic. I don't contrast it with Human Revolution directly (except where both games have equally aggravating boss fights), but Syndicate does offer a striking lack of nuance in both story and gameplay.

Story-wise, the worst offender is the character of Jack Denham, CEO of the syndicate the player is working for. Overlooking the fact that he's portrayed by go-to bad guy Brian Cox, Denham is so obviously evil, he doesn't even need to chew on that kitten. That's alright, because in a sense he is the character you played in the original Syndicate: an irredeemable scumbag who sends out agents to violently cripple rival syndicates. Placing the player in the boots of one such agent who (spoiler alert, but not really) ends up rebelling against him completely defeats the purpose.

Human Revolution's David Sarif is a much more subtle example of the profit-driven corporate executive. Syndicate's storyline actually takes the concept of countries waging wars with each other and simply replaces governments with corporations. The same applies to Human Revolution's jump from the original Deus Ex: Sarif Industries is the equivalent of UNATCO. Sarif sends out Adam Jensen as if he were a government spook, thereby taking on the role of Joseph Manderley (but with a robot arm). This raises some intriguing questions as to how far Sarif thinks he can carry his prerogative, because he is essentially a corporate executive who strays from the boundaries of his job into the realm of illegality.

Please take note of the Eurocorp logo on my jacket before I kill you.
Please take note of the Eurocorp logo on my jacket before I kill you.

Syndicate's Jack Denham lives in a world where all that is taken for granted. The agents he sends out carry the Eurocorp logo with pride, as if a giant 'Fuck you' to the rival syndicates they attack. While interesting in its own right, it strips Denham's role of all possible nuance and subtlety and reduces him to the standard moustache-twirling villian. David Sarif is a much more intriguing character, carrying himself like a petulant child whenever he's caught but always excusing his deeds with reasonable arguments.

As far as gameplay goes, Syndicate boils down to the action pillar from Human Revolution without the grace that the other three pillars (stealth, hacking, and social) offer. Like I say in my review, that's perfectly fine, since Syndicate is a decent shooter. It's just that it's only a decent shooter. The additional breaching abilities don't add to the gameplay experience and the storyline is too rote and in-your-face to be enough of a reason to keep going. By the end of the game, you're still doing the same thing you started it with.



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