Syndicate Co-Op Updated Hands-On Preview – Co-Oping All Over The World
Written Wednesday, February 01, 2012 By Dan WebbView author's profile
The last time we went hands-on with Syndicate’s co-op, we weren’t exactly sold on it. In fact, I do believe I said, and I quote, “Although Syndicate’s co-op was a fun jaunt into a futuristic universe… we suspect that its strengths lie in its single-player” – sorry, I do love to quote myself. Let me be the first to admit though, I may have jumped the gun a little there. Having actually spent a considerable amount of time with it now, everything with the game’s co-op felt like it was starting to click into place, but that’s only after we’d got to grips with the depth of it and genuinely understood the breach mechanic – clue: it’s as important as putting fuel into a car. Until you start to use it as a fundamental gameplay feature, you’ll never fully utilise what Syndicate’s co-op is all about and instead be knee deep in just another shooter.
That was part and parcel of the problem last time we played it: give a gamer a controller with a game of the first-person variety and tell him to play through it without fully explaining the fundamentals, and chances are they’ll just shoot stuff. Last time that’s all we did, for the most part. The lack of direction in terms of assistance from Starbreeze and EA at our last hands-on actually did the game a disservice and that’s wholly down to us not fully appreciating the breach mechanic. It’s more than just a tool for healing squad mates and helping them up when they get downed; it’s a weapon… it’s the weapon. The longer you play, the more abilities you unlock and the harder the difficulty you play on, the more important breaching actually becomes and the more alluring the whole experience is.
As you work your way through the nine co-op missions - each of which seems to be a good 30-45 minutes long depending on how well you work as a team - you’ll slowly unlock more tokens and points that you can use to upgrade your chips, your weapons and research for more breach applications. Starting with just the traditional one – used to heal and revive fellow co-op buddies, disable live grenades, deactivate otherwise immune bosses’ shields or disable turrets and the like – the further you go in Syndicate and the more breaches you unlock, the more tools you have at your disposal. Within a few short hours we’d unlocked multiple breach slots and decided to equip two more breaches; one called E-Drain – which drains an opponent of a certain amount of HP – and another called Backfire – which knocks an enemy back onto his ass… particularly useful on the more boss-like characters. Unlike the standard breach power, these new abilities are regenerative, so once used it’s a matter of racking up points to make them available again. With these breach abilities though, the game not only ramps up a level, but it becomes infinitely more fun as you accumulate combos.
We went hands-on with three co-op levels during our time with the game, coming back to play them multiple times – mostly to rack up points and upgrade our character, and partly to kick our fellow journalists’ collective asses in the accumulative-points meta-game at the core of every map. It’s not the taking part that counts, it’s the winning, right? Each level had a hugely different task to perform and a vastly different feel to them. Western Europe, with its drab shipping crate-laden environments, had us fighting through a series of locations to recover a blueprint from an enemy operative. Colorado on the other hand had us fighting through neon-soaked labs, stealing tissue samples and defending our chopper from wave after wave of enemy combatants. And finally, Argentina, with its clinical corridors and vibrant botanical gardens, had us chasing down a couple of traitors to send them straight to hell. The aim of the game in each was rather similar: slowly edge your way through the level and dispatch any foes that cross your path along the way, while keeping an eye on the main objective. It’s simple stuff, but nevertheless, rather addictive and engaging gameplay.
With a plethora of weapons at your disposal – with players allowed to choose their primary and secondary weapon in the game launch screen too – breach skills galore and the DART Overlay – which allows you to track hostiles, lock on to them and curve bullets (this is, of course, on a meter) – you’ll never be short of tools of the trade to take advantage of. Foes come in various ranks on normal difficulty too – well, in the levels we faced off in, anyway. Firstly, there's your standard foot soldiers; secondly, the much stronger sergeants, who have more advanced weaponry too; and finally, boss characters who come equipped with super weapons – like a flamethrower, mini-gun, coil-rifle and more – and usually need breaching before you can deal damage on them. Try and take a boss down alone and you will get severely beaten to a pulp. Heed my words! Teamwork is paramount!
The thing that really struck us with Syndicate’s co-op mode was the replayability. That’s not just thanks to the depth of the character progression, which makes you want to keep on strengthening your online character, but the fact that each level offers a different experience depending on what difficulty you play on. They’re fun to play on their own on normal, but mastering the harder difficulties is a goal that’s fun to work towards – plus, achievement-worthy too.
We’re not just talking double health and double damage enemy opponents here either – although some of that may be true – but rather what’s thrown at you and when, which drastically changes on the same map on each difficulty. Playing the Western Europe map a third or fourth time through, but this time on expert, really conveyed that sense of replayability. Enemies were not only tougher, more aggressive and came with a whole subset of more powerful weapons, but sergeants came at you more often, new enemy types like camo-cloaked soldiers and soldiers who can block your breach ability started to litter the map and enemies even spawn in more tactical positions too, like on a roof with a rocket launcher. As a weak, low-level player it was a struggle, but it was an exhilarating experience and one we look forward to tackling with our overpowered super soldiers. The higher the difficulty, the more necessary teamwork is too.
In the space of four hours with the co-op, we went from mildly distracted by it to being completely smitten. Considering that it was sat alongside Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and Mass Effect 3, the title that we found ourselves returning to throughout the day was none other than Syndicate and its co-op mode. It’s fun, it’s deep, it’s addictive and thanks to nine pretty lengthy maps, each of which changes depending on the difficulty, it’s certainly looking set to take up a lot of our time this coming February. Seriously, try the demo now that it's available to download, play with a few friends, then come back and tell me it’s not fun. Well, only do so if it isn’t, of course… which I think won’t be many of you. Oh, and Syndicate looks pretty damn beautiful as well!
Syndicate is scheduled for a February 21st and February 24th release in North America and Europe respectively.