VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Corporate Killers

Agent Merit with whom you are sometimes partnered in ‘Syndicate.’
Agent Merit with whom you are sometimes partnered in ‘Syndicate.’ ELECTRONIC ARTS

In 1993, the computer game “Syndicate” envisioned a grim future in which world-spanning corporations send heavily armed cyborg agents on raids against each other, with no regard for civilian life or casualties.

The 2012 version of “Syndicate” has a similar setup, but otherwise hardly resembles the original, which cast you as a company executive remotely ordering a team of four agents around on various missions, and using the profits from conquered territory to fund new projects.

This new “Syndicate” is a first-person shooter — and it’s a pretty good shooter. Just don’t go into it expecting any sort of classic revival if you’re a fan of the older game.

In this dystopian future, the majority of people carry a chip in their head that allows them instant access to the “dataverse.”

The majority of humanity’s 15 billion people is wired into a system run by a few very large companies that employ enhanced agents with amazing abilities to protect their interests and attack or steal from their competitors. Unchipped humans are ignored, neglected and downtrodden.

As Kilo, an agent of the massive and militant EuroCorp, you’re equipped with a new generation of chip that grants several deadly powers. You can see through walls and slow down your perception of time to gain a major edge in a firefight; you can cause the chips in enemies’ weapons to overload and explode, pushing them out of cover and stunning them for a crucial moment; and you can influence behavior, forcing typical foes to fight on your side, or to blow themselves up with their own grenades (more powerful opponents are immune to your mind-hacking).

Combining these powers with good marksmanship, close-combat skills and quickly regenerating health makes you a one-agent army, but your chip runs on adrenaline and it

Video Game Review

loses its charge quickly — you have to kill enemies for an adrenaline surge to recharge it and activate the powers it can give you. You’ll also earn points that can be used to purchase upgrades for your chip, like higher health, reduced recoil and better aim, or enhanced effects for your chip-based powers.

The weapons are satisfying, and several feature alternate fire modes — an assault rifle that fires grenades, a Gauss rifle that fires around corners, that sort of thing.

The game’s online mode offers a faint echo of the original “Syndicate,” with its four-player cooperative action. Like a high-tech “Left 4 Dead” without any zombies, this mode sends a team of agents on an objective-based mission in a large area teeming with computer-controlled enemies. Players must work together to complete their tasks, healing each other when they take too much damage and backing each other up in combat.

Playing effectively rewards you more quickly with points that will increase your rank over time, and gaining ranks allows you to increase your agent’s powers with upgrades.

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