Name: Syndicate Wars
Developer: Bullfrog Productions
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Year Completed: 1996

Description: A futuristic realtime strategy game where you control four cyborg agents in a city environment, attempting to complete mission objectives and make a lot of cash.

Notables: Syndicate Wars was notable for being the sequel to Syndicate, a sleeper hit for the PC and Amiga computers, also developed by Bullfrog. It utilized a novel 3D engine that allowed rotation through 360 degrees so that the player couldn't lose track of the agents.

Opinion: A good game that could have been great if not for a lot of wasted potential. The backstory is wonderful - it's the far future. Megacorporations have taken over the world and fight for dominance. The average Joe has a chip in the back of his neck that causes him to see, hear and feel what his controlling Megacorp wants him to. War is obsolete, terrorism and covert operations have taken its place. In the midst of this rise the Nine, who have been exposed to an alien artifact and are now much more intelligent than anyone else, and claim to also be able to provide spiritual guidance. They start deactivating the control chips and the megacorps retaliate.

Unfortunately, the game's plotline isn't nearly as exciting as what I just wrote. It also stretches over 50 missions(!), so anyone who actually got to the end of the game without cheating deserves a medal.

When you get into the actual gameplay, you'll be amazed at how well the environment of a futuristic city has been modelled. Hovercars run around the streets and park in parking lots. People leave their homes and take the monorail or drive hovercars to work. Everything has a grimy, gritty look and feel (why should the megacorps bother to clean anything up? The chips cause people to think they are living in a paradise.) Real-time lighting and huge buildings cap things off.

And it can be quite fun to herd your four nearly indestructible agents around these city environments. Almost everything is destroyable, from the hovercars citizens use to the towering apartment buildings they live in.

However, frustration soon sets in. You must make money in order to continue researching new weapons and upgrading your agents, but you are paid a pittance for successful missions. Then how do you make money? Why, you use your agents to rob banks, of course. This is mentioned nowhere in the game's documentation. And then you've still got a 50-mission campaign to complete, with some missions being throw-your-computer-out-the-window difficult. So Syndicate Wars ends up being a great engine with merely a good game built on it.

Notes: A PlayStation version of this game was also created. While the graphics didn't suffer terribly, the frame rate wasn't very good and the control (originally on a mouse) became very difficult to use. The opening movie was upgraded, however :)

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