At first glance, Syndrome actually has quite a bit working against it. It’s an ‘old-school’ survival horror that’s set in space. So essentially, it’s a step back in terms of survival horror, and it draws on some pretty big clichés, most notably the whole ‘something terrible happening on a spacecraft’ shtick. So the big question is whether Syndrome manages to justify its decision to go old school and pay tribute to the classics, or whether it manages to come off as derivative.
To begin with, Syndrome seems to take after its spiritual forerunners quite a bit. A lot of this feels familiar, and it gives off some pretty serious System Shock 2 vibes. Syndrome opens with our brave hero waking up from cryostasis to discover that things got a little wild last night. Slowly, he learns that the party was of the dismemberment variety. As it is a survival horror title, your character is then given the task of trying to survive as well as possible. You’re expected to explore the ship, find survivors if possible, and get through in one piece.
In terms of pacing, the game manages to build the atmosphere quite well. Initially, things are a little murky, but as the narrative unfolds you start to learn more and more about what happened. While it’s not the prettiest game, they do a great job with the shadows, and they manage to keep the visuals feeling very atmospheric. The enemy design is pretty decent as well, and I liked the overall aesthetic of the game’s world.
As far as gameplay is concerned, the game leans more towards action than it does towards survival. Its decision to go ‘old-school’ means it goes back to the pre-Amnesia era where you actually had a weapon to defend yourself with. Mind you, the weapon isn’t the first resort, but having it does mean there’s something standing between you and the baddies. The game does ramp up the tension quite a bit, and you find yourself using your weapon as little as possible. However, it is there and it does give the game more of an FPS feel.
As an FPS, the title doesn’t function all that well. The combat can feel pretty awkward at times, and the enemy AI was somewhat clunky. This is forgivable, however, as the focus tends to shift more towards hiding and trying to stay on your toes. There are actually some really nicely designed sections where you can use the ship’s technology to get around, and you end up relying a lot on hacking and puzzle solving to stay in one piece.
Story-wise, the game didn’t wow me that much. Its decision to set things in space means it treads a lot of familiar tropes, and these tropes have frankly been done better in other games. While the story did have some clever twists, I didn’t really find myself engaging with it that much throughout my playthrough.
All in all, Syndrome isn’t a bad title per se, but it’s not an amazing survival horror title either. I’d say it holds its own and can be remembered as one of the better ones. With so many choices, the discerning gamer looking to be spooked may not like Syndrome as much. However, if you prefer the more classic survival horror gameplay and you like a bit more action, Syndrome does fill that niche nicely.
Syndrome was reviewed using a PC downloadable code of the game provided by Camel 101. The game is set to release in the near future on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The PC version was tested by Mazen Abdallah on a PC running Windows 7 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 8GB of RAM. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Some fairly intense action
• Lots of tension in the first few levels
• Great lighting and atmospheric effects
• Action is a bit clunky
• Space horror setting feels familiar