You wake up aboard a ship drifting through space. Everything is dark and everyone is dead. You hear strange noises coming from the darkness and a voice guides you across the halls, your only hope for survival. No, it’s not System Shock, it’s Syndrome!
Genre(s): Survival Horror
Release Date: Oct 2016
Played: Single player campaign.
Purchase At: Steam
Source: Review Copy provided by Publisher
I played Syndrome at Rezzed earlier this year and even did a preview piece on it months ago. I remember its atmosphere got to me so strongly, the developers had to reassure me that nothing was going to happen anytime soon, as I went straight into “survival horror” mode: crouching, sticking to the shadows and moving a silently as possible.
As I continued to play Syndrome beyond the preview segment, for this full review, I still felt that atmosphere, one of oppressive dread, something that you expect to see in all horror games but don’t get every time. The clever placing of light sources makes the shadows deeper and plays tricks with your eyes and your expectations.
But soon Syndrome lost me and never got me back, and it did so by proving itself a generic Sci-Fi horror title, following the same story and overall beats as others have in the past. As I ripped the hand off a corpse, I knew that a monster would come after me before the obligatory roar and sudden tense music played. When on Deck 4 I completed the objective, I knew I had to hightail it to the elevator. The NPC didn’t need to waste his time telling me of the onslaught of enemies coming my way.
Syndrome, while being a perfectly competent horror game, fails in doing anything original. If you’ve played any of the System Shock games, or Dead Space or even seen Event Horizon, you’ll know where the plot is going, what the characters are about and you’ll see the major twists coming a mile away. Hell, you’ll know what the monsters are and where they came from as well!
There is truly nothing unique about Syndrome from a storytelling perspective, as Camel101 is happy in retreading familiar ground. There is a single “surprising twist” in the game. It’s about the character’s identity and it’s a surprise because of how incoherent and incredibly inconsequential it is to the overall plot. At no point will you care about the protagonist, so any revelations about him are pointless, as is the fate of anyone on this infested ship.
Visually speaking, Syndrom’s environments are amazing. The UI is rather clunky, particularly the ugly inventory screen and the widely unhelpful map. Items in the inventory seem to have different levels of modeling quality compared to the rest of the game.
You can say the same of character models. It’s obvious that Camel101 used its entire resources in making the environments as good as they are but with little thought, time or money for anything else.
Another issue is the incredibly small floating text. Many times, I completed objectives and couldn’t tell because I missed the tiny text saying “Mission Complete.”
Voice acting in Syndrome is quite nice with a believable cast. The soundtrack is good but the predictability of its use robs it of any emotional impact it could’ve had.
In terms of gameplay, Syndrome’s greatest strength lies in the freedom it gives you in dealing with threats. You can hide and move around in the shadows, trying to make as little noise a possible to not draw attention to yourself, or you could go all out and kill everything in your path.
Fighting monsters in Syndrome takes practice, especially since many of them skip their combat animations when you hit them, so often you’ll take damage while the creature stands still, and it’s because while your damage interrupted its animation, it doesn’t make them flinch or cancel the attack.
It’s frankly annoying, getting worse with the more powerful enemies, and one of the reasons I often just ignored enemies until I picked up the bigger guns, though even those have their caveats. Even the most powerful guns sometimes feel like wet noodles, the enemies ignoring them completely. There is a sever lack of balance in the game’s weaponry, almost as though the developers never intended you to fight them head-on.
Syndrome has the making of a very good horror game, if only it had attempted something new and not a simple retread of common Sci-Fi Horror tropes. Its lack of originality and predictability kill the immersion and scare-factor.
3/5 – Alright