Syndicate Never Stood a Chance

The Wooster

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Jul 15, 2008
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Syndicate Never Stood a Chance


Starbreeze's CEO doesn't think the Syndicate reboot "could've ever lived up to some people's expectations."

The recent FPS reboot [http://www.amazon.com/Syndicate-Xbox-360/dp/B0050SY9WC] of Bullfrog's classic dystopian Real-time tactics series, Syndicate, hasn't gone down well with fans. Though there's still a thematic link - the games deal with corporate greed and its effect on free will - the most recent installment, handled by Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay developer, Starbreeze, couldn't be more distinct from its predecessors in terms of gameplay and aesthetics.

"Syndicate comes with a lot of expectations," Mikael Nermark told Joystiq [http://www.joystiq.com/2012/04/20/starbreeze-ceo-doesnt-think-syndicate-couldve-ever-lived-up-t/]. "Such a great brand, such a great franchise. I don't think we could've ever lived up to some people's expectations."

"I love the original!" he continued. "When I got into the industry way back, RTS and that kind of game were my kind of game," Nermark says. "But you always wanna add your touch to it, you wanna make it your game even though it's built on a great franchise. So I think that's hard. Overall, we're happy."

Syndicate sold 34,000 copies during its opening week, 2,000 less than Capcom's Asura's Wrath, that week's best-seller. The game itself is decent, if unremarkable; it currently stands at 75 out of 100 on Metacritic [http://www.metacritic.com/game/playstation-3/syndicate]. It suffers from an unfortunate visual similarity to Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which leads to numerous unflattering comparisons, but according to Nermark, Syndicate offers something "high production value, high budget productions" don't: "truly cooperative play."

"The co-op part is fantastic to me I think it's a lot of fun to play," he said. "I think it may be too hard. I'm one of those guys that wants it harder, harder, harder, right? So I think we made it maybe too hard, and we didn't really ... we should've thought about the player more. It's a game made for you to play with your friends, who you really know, 'cause it's truly a cooperative play, rather than just jump in and play alongside each other."

The four-player co-op is far and away the best part of Syndicate. Rather bizarrely, it looks and plays more like the classic Syndicate games of yore, especially compared to the relatively lackluster single-player campaign.

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BoogieManFL

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Duh. You can't live up to expectations when you are changing fundamental aspects of the game. I am sure if you polled all the people who loved the original, they would agree changing it to a first person shooter was a bad call. It went from being a unique isometric view squad combat game that required planning out your squad's weapons and what to research to a run of the mill shooter. Some innovations were made, sure. But they used the overall story and that's about it.


It's quite obvious why it didn't live up to expectations. Because it's not Syndicate. It uses the name, but it's not what it is.
 

RedEyesBlackGamer

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Who are these classic-franchises-turned-into-FPS games supposed to appeal to? Fans of the franchise are pissed at it being a shooter (and not exactly loyal to the storyline/setting), shooter fans already have established franchises that they play, and casual fans have no idea what the franchise is that the game is rebooting.
 

Fr]anc[is

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A generic soulless run of the mill FPS masquerading in the skin of a cult classic game from one of the companies EA chewed up and spit out didn't sell well? HERPA DERPA DOO whoda thunk it?
 

Scorpid

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Ah the Lucas excuse. (My average product couldn't of been good, because of those blasted fans with their expectations!) If you honestly think it could never have been seen as good by the fans of the original then why bother doing it?
if you wanted to work on a dystopian cyber punk adventure in a FPS environment why not just make an entire new franchise instead of butchering an old one? Syndicate didn't have a patent on the Cyber punk setting... That's a weak excuse. Foreshame Starbreeze, I like you guys.

PS: I love how the picture with the article tells absolutely nothing about the game except it has bloom effect and is a FPS.
 

Quellist

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I'd really like to force-electrocute this guy while yelling in a Darth Sidious voice 'Now you will pay the price for your lack of vision'

Seriously, how did he ever this turning a much loved RTS series into a generic FPS was ever going to work.

My main regret is wasting the talents of Richard Morgan on this boondoggle
 

BrotherRool

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RedEyesBlackGamer said:
Who are these classic-franchises-turned-into-FPS games supposed to appeal to? Fans of the franchise are pissed at it being a shooter (and not exactly loyal to the storyline/setting), shooter fans already have established franchises that they play, and casual fans have no idea what the franchise is that the game is rebooting.
The thing about Syndicate though, I bought the original expecting it to be some sort of RTS/Theme Park World hybrid and when I played it, well ... it was pretty much an isometric tactical shooter with upgrades (RPG elements to take the common parlance :D). I don't know if it's because the people complaining fell in love with the game when it was first made (which was a _long_ time ago) or what but of all the switches to FPS, Syndicate was the one that made the most sense (more sense than say, Fallout, which everyone has come to love).

I haven't played the game but maybe they didn't emphasise the tactical element enough. Syndicate was a kooky proto-Rainbow Six at heart

EDIT:
Quellist said:
I'd really like to force-electrocute this guy while yelling in a Darth Sidious voice 'Now you will pay the price for your lack of vision'

Seriously, how did he ever this turning a much loved RTS series into a generic FPS was ever going to work.

My main regret is wasting the talents of Richard Morgan on this boondoggle
I quoted you because it sounds like you've got a lot more old school experience of Syndicate than me and I was wondering how you'd react to what I said? I mean I could have been playing it wrong ( I found it a little hard to get into tbh) but the strategy guide I was looking at was saying there isn't often much need for more than one agent in any level even at the high ones, and most of the strategies involved either mind-controlling or sniping people to death. I know it doesn't have the reflex check of an FPS (although I was disappointed with how much you had to click and control during a firefight :( ) but it didn't seem to me to have much of the army management or grand strategies of an RTS either. Something like XCOM clearly is turn-based strategy at it's core enjoyment so the transition doesn't make much sense their, whereas Fallout was more about exploration and building which is why the genre didn't matter so much. But the enjoyment of Syndicate to me seemed to be in infiltration and carefully aggroing the right groups and choosing the right upgrades, which all would have worked well if they'd made a hypothetical better tactical shooter/rpg hybrid
 

Baresark

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The funny part is that expectations of this were rather low. Fans expectation was that they would make a huge waste of the game license. Really, if they had made it fun, I think a lot of people would have liked it. But they didn't. Their worthless take on hacking into opponents was just that, worthless. All they had to do was implement anything that didn't make it feel like a generic FPS (implement it well, that is) and they would have at least done alright with it. But no, they put no work into making it different. They placed all of their work into making it a generic FPS. They didn't have to make it the same kind of game, it would have been fine as an FPS within the Syndicate universe, but fail.
 

sunburst

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RedEyesBlackGamer said:
Who are these classic-franchises-turned-into-FPS games supposed to appeal to? Fans of the franchise are pissed at it being a shooter (and not exactly loyal to the storyline/setting), shooter fans already have established franchises that they play, and casual fans have no idea what the franchise is that the game is rebooting.
It's an unfortunate truth that belonging to a franchise makes any media sell better even among people with no knowledge of the series. Publishers take generic shooters and slap on whatever name they have lying around in hopes of boosting exposure and sales.

"I love the original!" he continued. "When I got into the industry way back, RTS and that kind of game were my kind of game," Nermark says. "But you always wanna add your touch to it, you wanna make it your game even though it's built on a great franchise. So I think that's hard. Overall, we're happy."
This made me laugh.

I wanted to add my own personal touch to Syndicate so I made it into an unoriginal FPS!

EDIT:
BrotherRool said:
The thing about Syndicate though, I bought the original expecting it to be some sort of RTS/Theme Park World hybrid and when I played it, well ... it was pretty much an isometric tactical shooter with upgrades (RPG elements to take the common parlance :D). I don't know if it's because the people complaining fell in love with the game when it was first made (which was a _long_ time ago) or what but of all the switches to FPS, Syndicate was the one that made the most sense (more sense than say, Fallout, which everyone has come to love).

I haven't played the game but maybe they didn't emphasise the tactical element enough. Syndicate was a kooky proto-Rainbow Six at heart
The camera does not define the gameplay. The Fallout games still work because they're not FPSs despite being first-person and using guns. Fallout fans love Fallout 3 and New Vegas because the survival and RPG elements they loved before are still the main focus.

The gameplay in the original Syndicate was all about tactics. The reboot features no tactics whatsoever; you just run around and shoot dudes. The reason a lot of people actually like the multiplayer is that it revives those tactical elements within a more modern gameplay style.
 

WanderingFool

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You know, having seen what Syndicate (the original) was about, I thought they missed out on a clever meta concept. Anyone remember Killswitch? The game where you dont play the main character, but a unkown guy who is controlling the main character through some puppet system. Wouldnt that have added something to this game from the older game?
 

Quellist

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Oct 7, 2010
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BrotherRool said:
RedEyesBlackGamer said:
Who are these classic-franchises-turned-into-FPS games supposed to appeal to? Fans of the franchise are pissed at it being a shooter (and not exactly loyal to the storyline/setting), shooter fans already have established franchises that they play, and casual fans have no idea what the franchise is that the game is rebooting.
The thing about Syndicate though, I bought the original expecting it to be some sort of RTS/Theme Park World hybrid and when I played it, well ... it was pretty much an isometric tactical shooter with upgrades (RPG elements to take the common parlance :D). I don't know if it's because the people complaining fell in love with the game when it was first made (which was a _long_ time ago) or what but of all the switches to FPS, Syndicate was the one that made the most sense (more sense than say, Fallout, which everyone has come to love).

I haven't played the game but maybe they didn't emphasise the tactical element enough. Syndicate was a kooky proto-Rainbow Six at heart

EDIT:
Quellist said:
I'd really like to force-electrocute this guy while yelling in a Darth Sidious voice 'Now you will pay the price for your lack of vision'

Seriously, how did he ever this turning a much loved RTS series into a generic FPS was ever going to work.

My main regret is wasting the talents of Richard Morgan on this boondoggle
I quoted you because it sounds like you've got a lot more old school experience of Syndicate than me and I was wondering how you'd react to what I said? I mean I could have been playing it wrong ( I found it a little hard to get into tbh) but the strategy guide I was looking at was saying there isn't often much need for more than one agent in any level even at the high ones, and most of the strategies involved either mind-controlling or sniping people to death. I know it doesn't have the reflex check of an FPS (although I was disappointed with how much you had to click and control during a firefight :( ) but it didn't seem to me to have much of the army management or grand strategies of an RTS either. Something like XCOM clearly is turn-based strategy at it's core enjoyment so the transition doesn't make much sense their, whereas Fallout was more about exploration and building which is why the genre didn't matter so much. But the enjoyment of Syndicate to me seemed to be in infiltration and carefully aggroing the right groups and choosing the right upgrades, which all would have worked well if they'd made a hypothetical better tactical shooter/rpg hybrid
Well back in the day it was to me the most awesome thing ever (even though i usually prefer TBS to RTS), and while its possible to finish the game just sniping and mind controlling what made it so good back in the day was you had so much freedom about completing your objective. It might not stand up so well next to modern RTS but what you have to understand is for its time it was pretty sweet and i think what i and many other fans were hoping for when we heard the word 'Reboot' was an RTS faithful to the spirit of the game with modern day production values and refinements. What we got was something a lot different.

I dont like FPS a lot anyway but seeing a cherished franchise reborn in such a way feels like a double blow. I think the way this game was made basically guaranteed it would piss off the original fanbase.

*Edit* I think part of your problem is the strategy guide. I remember playing that game without a strategy guide and formulating my own strategies. These days that seems to be out of fashion. Yes with a good strategy guide you can walk every mission but you lose the exploration of gameplay angle
 

Thaluikhain

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Eh?

Turning Warcraft from RTS to RPG seems to have worked, because people liked the world. I don't see why a Syndicate FPS is necessarily a bad thing.
 

teebeeohh

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thaluikhain said:
Eh?

Turning Warcraft from RTS to RPG seems to have worked, because people liked the world. I don't see why a Syndicate FPS is necessarily a bad thing.
completely different thing. warcraft was turned by the same studio and they put half a decade of development time into it. they didn't take a popular name and tried to make a quick buck of the popularity, they invested a lot of time and money into developing their own franchise in a way that could easily have failed.
it's also blizzard and back then they were basically god. then they were bought by activision
 

BrotherRool

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Quellist said:
[

Well back in the day it was to me the most awesome thing ever (even though i usually prefer TBS to RTS), and while its possible to finish the game just sniping and mind controlling what made it so good back in the day was you had so much freedom about completing your objective. It might not stand up so well next to modern RTS but what you have to understand is for its time it was pretty sweet and i think what i and many other fans were hoping for when we heard the word 'Reboot' was an RTS faithful to the spirit of the game with modern day production values and refinements. What we got was something a lot different.

I dont like FPS a lot anyway but seeing a cherished franchise reborn in such a way feels like a double blow. I think the way this game was made basically guaranteed it would piss off the original fanbase.

*Edit* I think part of your problem is the strategy guide. I remember playing that game without a strategy guide and formulating my own strategies. These days that seems to be out of fashion. Yes with a good strategy guide you can walk every mission but you lose the exploration of gameplay angle
Tbh the huge thing I couldn't deal with was a silly thing, I'm very defensive minded and when you couldn't stop time passing at any point, not even with the upgrades! it shifted me out of my comfort zone, I could see some of the reasons why people liked it. Although I wasn't yet looking at the strategy guide for actual guidance and more I was just trying to figure out how the controls worked and the dude had a summary at the front which I ended up flicking through.

I didn't really mean to be critical of it as it was per say, but I just feel that you could have kept was the core fun of the game and completely ditch the control scheme, which I don't know would have been so acceptable nowadays. I was thinking it should control like an FPS (although to be honest a third-person shooter would have made much more sense) but the level design and key gameplay shouldn't have been FPS level design. Instead you have a wide range of upgraded abilities that offer flexible approaches (Human Revolution sort of thing as opposed to Mind Hacking) and been put in, say a fully mapped out building, with an objective. I hope that would be exploratory and flexible and very different to the games you get nowadays without the hangbacks of old control systems. Would that have been okay?
 

BrotherRool

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sunburst said:
BrotherRool said:
The thing about Syndicate though, I bought the original expecting it to be some sort of RTS/Theme Park World hybrid and when I played it, well ... it was pretty much an isometric tactical shooter with upgrades (RPG elements to take the common parlance :D). I don't know if it's because the people complaining fell in love with the game when it was first made (which was a _long_ time ago) or what but of all the switches to FPS, Syndicate was the one that made the most sense (more sense than say, Fallout, which everyone has come to love).

I haven't played the game but maybe they didn't emphasise the tactical element enough. Syndicate was a kooky proto-Rainbow Six at heart
The camera does not define the gameplay. The Fallout games still work because they're not FPSs despite being first-person and using guns. Fallout fans love Fallout 3 and New Vegas because the survival and RPG elements they loved before are still the main focus.

The gameplay in the original Syndicate was all about tactics. The reboot features no tactics whatsoever; you just run around and shoot dudes. The reason a lot of people actually like the multiplayer is that it revives those tactical elements within a more modern gameplay style.
That's really what I was getting at. I think when people complain about it being turned into an FPS that's not really what they mean. I feel that syndicate would have worked really well in the form of some kind of shooter. The thing was, they were lazy about it and didn't do anything with it which was the real problem.

It's an important difference because Deus Ex:Human Revolution and Fallout came out against a backdrop of a lot of negative PR and other games (like XCOM) are receiving the same but changing genre isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's when they've changed genre without making a deliberate well-thought out design choice behind it