RISC World

Syndicate Plus

Dafyd McFlanders provides a complete review of Bullfrogs classic

When I were a wee laddie, my friend Katy had a game called Syndicate on her PC. I still remember going over her house, after a music lesson at our local music centre, and seeing the game on her PC. Or something like that - needless to say, the game seemed to be quite popular within that household; and it grabbed my attention from the first moment I saw it. I didnt play it, but it impressed me.

Now, courtesy of R-Comp Interactive, we have an Acorn version of Syndicate and also the add-on missions from the American Revolution. The American Revolution levels are the harder ones, so its best to start with the Syndicate standard game.

The plot, as stated last month, places you at the head of one of the three world-dominating companies producing the CHIP. The CHIP is a futuristic replacement for mind-altering drugs, which can manipulate the users brain in any way they wish.

For instance, while theyre walking through the acid-rain squalor that is earth now, they may actually be seeing the trees and bunny rabbits of what was then. The CHIP is proving so popular, that millions are buying it - even whole countries. So who controls the CHIP controls the countries and the governments with it.

The game places you as a young executive in a small European Syndicate where youre looking to make your mark. You observe from a control platform, high above the city streets, as your agents, controlled by CHIP technology, spread the shadow of your terror. Equipped with the latest in hi-tech weaponry your finger rests on the pulse, and at the control, of their every reaction.

The CHIPs inserted in your cyborgs control their Intelligence, Perception and Intelligence levels, with which you can set the degree of their operational performance. (So what do you do if one of them has visions of running their own syndicate?!?)

The levels are set in a representation of Earth in the next century; with veritable canyons of concrete and steel; mazes of streets and sewers which our cities have become. The population will just carry on doing their things, just be warned that if you kill a good civilian the local law enforcement agencies are swift to react. Unless you equip the cyborgs with a special pass to make them think theyre working with the local law enforcement. Then youre free to continue the slaughter, unabated.

Wandering around, as the last remaining soldier, can be a touch unnerving...

Your task is quite simple - expansion. As the head of the Syndicate, you need to take control of other territories before they try to take over yours. Its not going to be easy, but nobody said life at the top would be.

After installation, Syndicate plays an introductory movie setting the scene. Its well worth watching this for the first time, at least, as it gives some useful background information. Its actually quite nice to watch, too!

Before I had a chance to play the game in any detail, I likened it more to a strategy game than anything else. Now Ive had a chance to have a play, I must say I was wrong. Whilst there are elements of strategy, Syndicate is more akin to Cannon Fodder in that you control your cyborg entirely using the mouse, and use the mouse to commence the slaughter.

There's a huge emphasis on exploration - Syndicate has a number of scenarios you can explore as you get better at playing the game.

The most significant difference between Syndicate and Cannon Fodder is the extra amount of scenery. In Cannon Fodder you had the occasional hut and trees and so on - with Syndicate you have a complete futuristic city. Navigation of the cyborg is occasionally more trouble than its worth - that said, if the CHIP is controlling their minds it could explain their temperament.

I have to say that Ive enjoyed Syndicate+. At present, Im getting to grips with the game itself and thoroughly enjoying every moment of it. In the not too distant future, Im optimistic that well have a GamesWorld devoted to strategies in Syndicate and the American Revolt. We will, at least, after Ive had a chance to play the game to death and conquered every syndicate.

But if you're not very good, you'll see this debriefing screen often... indeed, as often as I ...

Another aspect of RCis conversion which appeals to me is the inclusion of various cheats to allow quick access - and success - in parts of the game. Nice one RCi! Other than that, Syndicate is a game which will appeal to those who like pointing, clicking and shooting. It is a strategy game, but with major elements of arcade gaming. I love it, and will continue to play as and when time permits! Keep em coming, RCi!

I've chosen to include this as it dawned on me we've not featured it in RISC World at all - sorry for that, RCi. Other gaming items in this issue include a review of the new GEK CD-ROM from APDL/ProAction. We'll have more next time including, we hope, a review of Desktop Repton 3 - a brand new version of Repton which will run entirely in the RISC OS desktop.

Product details

Product: Syndicate Plus
Supplier: R-Comp Interactive
Price: £29 inc VAT and postage
Address: 22 Robert Moffat, High Legh, Knutsford WA16 6PS
Tel: 01925 755043
Fax: 01925 757377

Dafyd McFlanders