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Syndicate: First look at EA's slick, culturally meaningful rebirth

Starbreeze aims to resurrect a legend

The future. It's a tricky thing to represent, whether you're making a game, shooting a film or writing a book.

And the further you look into the future, the more scope there is for getting it horribly wrong. Pulpy sci-fi from the 50s had us all swallowing food pills and sleeping in pods from the 90s onwards, while Tomorrow's World predicted legions of servant robots.

This is an abridged version of PSM3's exclusive 10-page Syndicate cover feature. For more details, exclusive screenshots and opinion buy PSM3 online and have it delivered to your door

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Starbreeze, developers of The Chronicles of Riddick and The Darkness, are looking towards the year 2069 for the story-driven, FPS reimagining of PC classic Syndicate. 58 years ahead seems like an age, given the speed technology is progressing in the 21st century, but it's the feel of the world they've imagined that really gets us excited.

I'LL BE BACK

"I think Blade Runner and probably Terminator were big inspirations for the original [Syndicate]," says Jeff Gamon, executive producer at EA Partners, the publisher. "And that would actually still hold true, but since then there's been a plethora of films, from The Matrix through to things like Inception."

We can see the smart sci-fi theme running through the demo we're shown. Set on a giant floating city called La Ballena, high above Asia, everything is clean - as in Mass Effect - yet strangely sinister. Tiny holographic readouts cling to objects, drones buzz through the air and translucent screens flicker with images and info. It's a controlled world, built to control. Its only personality comes from its extreme sterility.

It's a perfect fit for Syndicate's main theme. In this universe the majority of the earth's population have what's called the Dart 6 chip inside their heads. It's a consumer chip that manages their lives, giving them access to incredible tech while storing data and personal information. Now, the big businesses - those Syndicates - who feed the Dart 6 chips with data and upgrades are locked in a battle for control of Earth's plugged-in population. It's a literal war for consumers - killing and all.

You play as an agent from the Eurocorp Syndicate, Miles Kilo. He's an enforcer, a Terminator-style hardcase with a special, military-grade version of the Dart 6 chip implanted in his head.

Zoom

Interestingly, the devs refer to Miles' chip as she rather than he or it. "Dart is constantly evolving," says Neil McEwan, creative director. "She's a kind of sentinel sidekick. You can't switch her off. She's always there in your head."

What does that mean for the game? At first glance, Syndicate is very much like Crysis 2. Meaty weapons, beautiful sci-fi environments, cunning enemies to kill. Shooting seems very familiar, very polished. Fans of the 1993 original may be hesitant about Starbreeze taking a squad-based, top-down strategy and converting it to a shooter (albeit one with four-player co-op), but its soul is very much intact. It's something the devs have been very careful with.

"The joy of Syndicate was the weaponry and the brutality of it, and we can take all those values and the world and the story, which again is all very evocative of the original, and reimagine those for gamers today," says Gamon, himself a former employee of original Syndicate dev Bullfrog.

HARD TIMES

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