So, the game that gamers have been waiting all year for has finally been announced, but is it what they were expecting? We think not - the 'reboot' of Syndicate has gone all first-person shooter, and we talked to Executive Producer Jeff Gamon to find out why:
Strategy Informer:Well I imagine the first thing on everyone's mind is - what took you so long?
Jeff Gamon: That's a good question, actually - we've certainly been trying to get it made for ages, so a lot of the people who were instrumental in getting this project off the ground have been at EA UK for a long time, myself included.
There's always been a core of people there who've been trying to find a way to make this happen, and some of us ended up in EA Partners, and we had this opportunity to work with Starbreeze, who have a history of taking IP and doing more than just converting it to a videogame space. They capture the spirit and the essence of that IP and make a really high-quality and credible game. So they were the ideal partners for us, and we had these people over at EA Partners going "Syndicate! Syndicate!" and the planets aligned and here we are.
Strategy Informer:So I take it Starbreeze were 'chosen' as opposed to them putting themselves forward for this project?
Jeff Gamon: Well, there's no which-way as to how this partnership was formed. EA Partners and Starbreeze came together, and we have this opportunity to work together so let's see what we can do.
Strategy Informer:Obviously when the first trailer was released and people saw the new game was going to be a first-person shooter as opposed to the top-down, more strategic games of old, the internet was a bit divided - what was the thinking behind going in this new direction?
Jeff Gamon: Well we certainly didn't set out to upset any of the original fanbase, I myself am one of those, but at the same time we never set out to 'remake' Syndicate, this whole endeavour was about bringing Syndicate back to a new audience. I mean it's been nearly twenty years - 1993 is when the first one came out - audiences, platforms and what we can do with technology has changed a lot.
We always set out to bring back Syndicate with all the things that made the original so classic, like the brutal world, cyber-punk, brutal weaponry... you know chip in your head. What did we want to be? Well the agents on the ground made sense and so the first-person shooter seemed to fit this.
Strategy Informer:So, are you basically saying that modern audiences only respond to first-person shooters? Do you not think an update of the original game just with modern tech would have done well?
Jeff Gamon: I'm not saying it's wrong no, in terms of being an agent, that's where we wanted to take it but we didn't want to remake the original, we wanted to do something different within that world, but one that would still be familiar. It's exciting in the industry today to have so many platform choices, with gaming spreading out. The scope of bringing back Syndicate as a franchise is huge, with a lot of options.
Strategy Informer:You mentioned the agents and the technology as what you would consider staples of the franchise, are there any other elements that you think are integral to the Syndicate IP?
Jeff Gamon: I think the brutal side of corporate governance gone wrong was something we definitely wanted to bring back. It's part of what made the original so cool, and I think today this story of corporate governance usurping the democratically elected governments of the world seems highly credible. It can make you uncomfortable and get under your skin, and I think the story of Syndicate is more relevant today than it was twenty years ago.
Strategy Informer:Also Part of the original game was the more management elements where you ran the corporation. I mean you got given money that you were then taxed on - are we going to get taxed in this game?
Jeff Gamon: No, there's a degree of character of development in the game - as you go through ripping tech out of people you can upgrade your agent, but it doesn't have the same amount of depth as the original RTS. The co-op mode though has more depth in that respect, there's more in terms of upgrades and research potential - you actually have research currency, you get blueprints and you then have to earn the currency to research them by doing more co-op missions.
Strategy Informer:This theme of corporation vs. corporation sounds like it could have been a good basis for a competitive multiplayer mode -any thoughts there on that?
Jeff Gamon: It's certainly something we considered and something we toyed with for a while, but in terms of the strength of Syndicate as an IP - four agents raiding an enemy installation, co-op seemed to be a more rich offering than just more PvP.
Strategy Informer:Can you say a little bit more about these Hack abilities that seem to be a key part of the gameplay?
Jeff Gamon: Overall there's about twenty of these 'breach' applications that you can unlock in both single-player and the co-op campaign, and these are all upgradeable in terms of level, how many people you can affect at once, range, etc... And then you also have the ability to augment your own 'chip', and that enhances your basic abilities. With 18 weapons as well you get about 90 different upgrades, so there's quite a large scope there. In single player it's more part of the narrative, when you get to play with this stuff, but in co-op it's much more open.
Strategy Informer:Obviously you'll have some of the original fanbase jumping on board this new project, but I imagine you'll want to attract new audiences as well. What would you say to someone who's never heard of Syndicate before?
Jeff Gamon: It's a core first-person shooter, but it's more than just that. We're trying to add something new to the genre and make it a rich and deep experience, and just broaden the genre.
Strategy Informer:As part of EA, you've undoubtedly seen games like Crysis 2 and Bulletstorm, which were solid games but ones that maybe didn't sell as well as people hoped they would - do you worry that the same could happen here?
Jeff Gamon: Well, we're going to do our best that's for sure! It's always slightly unpredictable, our aim is to make the highest quality product possible, but it's just a tough market right now.
Strategy Informer:There was a little story going around before the official announcement on how Peter Molyneux would have loved to give you guys advice on a new syndicate game. Jokes aside, there would have been other people from the old Bullfrog studio who would have worked on this game just as much as, if not more than Molyneux - have you talked to any of those guys?
Jeff Gamon: We have yeah - one of the guys who was very much at the core of things we're still in pretty good contact with, and he's played the game and is very positive about it.
So, not a lot of surprises there but we hope that's answered some of your questions. The new Syndicate game may not be what some of you were hoping for, but hey, it IS a new Syndicate game so who knows? It might actually be good. Don't forget to check out our hands-on preview.