The classic cyberpunk action strategy game is returning.After months of rumours and speculation, Electronic Arts has finally confirmed that it's releasing an update to classic cyberpunk game, Syndicate. Due out early next year on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, the game puts players in control of Miles Kilo, a prototype agent employed by mega-company EuroCorp for a series of assassination missions against two other corporations, Cayman Global, and Aspari. Unlike the original title – an isometric-viewed real-time strategy adventure – the new game will be a first-person shooter.
The development team has changed too. While Syndicate and its sequel Syndicate Wars were developed by Peter Molyneux's now-defunct Guildford studio, Bullfrog, the new title is being handled by Starbreeze Studios, previously responsible for sci-fi action title Chronicles of Riddick and offbeat horror shooter, The Darkness.
Although the gamer's perspective has changed, it seems the setting will be familiar to those who reminisce about the earlier titles. The game takes place in a 2069ad where governments have collapsed, their role taken by sinister global corporations (wait, hasn't this already happened?). According to the press release a bio-chip technology known as DART 6 allows players to slow down time to take down enemies using a range of 'upgradable hacking mechanics'. Max Payne meets Deus Ex? Don't be so cynical.
Indeed, Syndicate was exploring elements such as bio-mechanical augmentation, computer hacking and cyber-terrorism back in 1993, seven years before the launch of Deus Ex.
And for those scared stiff by the translation from RTS to FPS, EA has sought to provide some assurance. "It's been an amazing opportunity for us to use our expertise in the first person shooter and action genres to bring back, and reignite, the signature action/espionage gameplay of Syndicate," said Mikael Nermark, CEO of Starbreeze Studios. Jeff Gamon, EA Partners Executive Producer, chipped in with, "Fans of the franchise will recognize many weapons and environments in the game, but in a whole new way. The game also provides a separate and deep 4-player co-op mode featuring missions from the original cult classic, which adds another layer of depth to the overall experience."
Lovers of classic sci-fi games have been rather spoiled recently. Deus Ex: Human Revolution has proved a worth successor to the much-loved PC series, while 2K Marin's first-person take on the legendary Xcom titles also looks interesting.
The biggest challenge will to replicate Bullfrog's brilliant story-telling and its keen eye for cyberpunk details. The original titles were also fascinating for their amorality – players were neither rewarded nor penalised for gunning down civilians or destroying vast areas of real estate, reflecting the wider themes of urban nihilism and social breakdown. Fans certainly won't be appeased by a vaguely near-future shoot-'em-up with some hackneyed hacking mini-games tossed in for cyber-credentials.