Syndicate Wars

Set in a grim future where evil corporations have usurped control from world governments, Syndicate Wars appeals to the dark side of gamers. It puts you in control of a team of cybernetic henchmen who blast, burn, and shoot their way through futuristic cities to crush your rivals, terrorize the general populace, and achieve a new world order.

11_1The story picks up just after the EuroCorp syndicate from the original game has achieved a stranglehold on the world’s economy. As you enter the game, rival corporations are virtually nonexistent, and minor uprisings amid the world’s population seem to be the only threat to a long and prosperous reign of terror for EuroCorp. But a new adversary — The Church of the New Epoch — threatens to throw a monkey wrench into EuroCorp’s totalitarian designs by destroying the Utopia chip (a computer implant that keeps citizens in line) and overthrowing regional syndicate forces.

While this new theme makes for a more dynamic plot, there’s some real benefit to gameplay as well. In an interesting twist on the original game’s bad-guy formula, you’ll be able to play out the game as either the EuroCorp syndicate or The Church of the New Epoch in two separate campaigns with different weapons, objectives, and motives. And with the game’s built-in multi-player options, you’ll be able to challenge human rivals via modem or local-area network.

Whether you choose to play as the evil corporate empire or the radical Church, you will find a lot to like. For starters, Bullfrog has shifted from the fixed isometric perspective and clean, Super VGA bit-mapped cities and units of the original, opting instead for a fully polygonal 3D world where the player is free to zoom in, rotate, and tilt the environment to get the best view on the action. Though the low-res graphics are iffy, they improve substantially when you crank up the resolution to the optional 640×480 Super VGA mode.

Still, as initially uninspiring as these new graphics are, the gameplay’s the thing, and despite grumbles over the new look, this new environment proves to be more interactive and fluid than the original’s, with dynamic lighting and environmental effects, fully interactive structures (you can blow up entire buildings, and everything you shoot shows damage), and sprawling mission areas that require real strategy to navigate.

9_1The original game’s simple, mouse-driven interface returns with few changes (it didn’t really need any) aside from the new keyboard commands that control the zoom, tilt, and rotation of the environment. Once you’ve warmed to the concept of rotating the environment and zooming in and out of the action, Syndicate Wars delivers a bone-crunching, lead-slinging good time. With an array of new weapons that includes nuclear grenades and high-explosive charges, you’ll be treated to screen-filling explosions, collapsing buildings and chaos in the streets as your agents run amok.

And while the new gadgets are a treat (see sidebar), fans of the original game will be happy to hear that their old favorites have made the transition to this new environment as well. The awe-inspiring flamers, mini-guns, and long range-rifles still demand the lion’s share of respect on this high-tech battlefield.

If there is a gripe to be made about Syndicate Wars (other than the chunky graphics, of course) it’s the lack of any real mission variety. Throughout the game, you’ll perform essentially the same three missions: kill everything; capture someone; or kill everything and capture someone. While the difficulty is stepped up to a frantic pace early on, the limited nature of the missions makes an otherwise thrilling experience a bit repetitive. But in the end, Syndicate Wars is an entertaining game, delivering a mix of explosive action and cyberpunk thrills.

System Requirements: 486DX2/66, 8MB RAM, MS-DOS

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