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Syndicate review: Play it in co-op - or don't play it at all

Starbreeze's resurrection proves quite a Blade Ruiner

We assume someone at Starbreeze played Deus Ex Human Revolution at some point during Syndicate's development. The two games are thematically similar: augmentation may look cool, but by modding our bodies we lose our humanity, they say.

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Both games offer guns and super-abilities, and both are set in worlds that dazzle with epic visions of techno futures. And, oh yeah: both have boss battles so utterly hateful they made us want to hurt things. Not the emotion games usually aim to evoke.

It surprises us that, particularly after the criticism of Deus Ex, no-one thought to cut or rework these awful, tedious battles. In fact, we're shocked the bosses in Syndicate plumb all-new levels of digital bastardry; casting an inescapable shadow over an otherwise playable shooter.

Each seems designed to cause the maximum strife via tactics such as regenerating health and armour, one-hit kills, and - our personal favourite - exploding, killing us and forcing a restart at the very moment they do die. To top it all, the last boss of the game does a great job of combining all of Syndicate's most atrocious designs into one giant, miserable encounter.

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Outside the bosses, however, there's fun. The premise is that you fight with regular weapons and augmented powers, with which you can remotely force enemies to commit suicide, backfire their weapon, or make them fight for you until death.

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Sadly, the array of abilities feels stingy - you'd think a man with the world's most advanced chip in his head would dream up a few more creative uses for it. Backfire is largely pointless as all it does is stun, while Suicide and Persuade end up with the same results as each other.

Using them becomes something you do to escape death, rather than as part of a deeper tactical approach to firefights. Reloading? Buy some time with a Backfire on the nearest bad guy. Similarly, Dart Vision - essentially a glorified bullet-time - lets you nip behind cover or take down a shield. There's nothing too complex about it.

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