Last updateThu, 19 Sep 2013 6pm

Syndicate (2012) – Video Game Review


Almost two decades later – on the palindrome date, February 21st,2012 – the reboot of Bullfrog Production’s original PC-game called Syndicate has been released for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC by Starbreeze Studios. This re-mounting of the classic game about capitalism gone awry differs mainly from the 1993 version in terms of genre, having been changed from a tactical shooter game into a First Person Shooter (FPS). The setting of the game is a megalopolis imagined in the year 2069, in a post-national world wherein a massive global syndicate pervades over the human race. The technologies of the worldwide corporatocracy, Eurocorps, have become ubiquitous to the point that each civilized individual has a chip implanted within their heads, whose intents and purposes resemble that of an iPhone. However, should a private citizen run into a special agent, their entire consciousness and motor abilities are vulnerable to be overthrown through the act of “breaching” or, essentially, hacking into another’s brain. Throughout the course of the game, a player assumes the point of view of a single character named Miles Kilo. He is a prototype government agent whose mind has been outfitted with the DART6-chip that endows him with dark powers of telekinetic persuasion and coercion. In keeping with its cyber-punk genre association, Syndicate’s plotline brings Kilo to discover that the corporation employing him is not to be trusted. He becomes a renegade, using the superior powers afforded him by the militarized version of Eurocorps’ chip in an effort to topple their maligned system. 

Syndicate’s 2012 re-visioning professes to a total of six hours of gameplay for a single-player to see the narrative to its conclusion. Its online co-op mode allows for four players to work as a team toSyndicate_gameplay1 defeat boss battles and to unravel and perfect the layer of puzzles that link them together. The aforementioned mechanisms of manipulation are referred to as “apps,” which represent special abilities fueled by adrenaline accrued through outstanding elements of gameplay performance such as head shots, kill-chains and carefully-timed pacts executed in the co-op mode. Any of these achievements gains one the ability to tactfully manipulate another’s actions by pushing the other to commit suicide, turning foes against their teammates, slowing down time, being able to see enemies through walls, etc. 

As a reflection of the current state of our collective unconscious, the inherent symbolic content of the game is extremely telling. Dr. Carl Jung was the first major proponent of this concept of a collectively agreed-upon perception of reality that can commonly be referred to as our “contemporary mythology”. In this day and age, its presence is made manifest in forms of popular media such as the internet, cinema, television and video games. These mediums represent macro-scaled repositories of images and content that play out our essential unconscious psychological functions. Out of the many artistic endeavors that express the unconscious psychic life of mankind, video games uniquely allow for intervention and play with human archetypal forces. Since Jung’s foremost interest in addressing the unconscious was its state of being pooled amongst the totality of man, flowing through each individual, video games in their universal appeal give the possibility of being able to achieve a level of psychic reckoning with or catharsis of our inevitable fears regarding the future. And yet, the opposite may also prove to be true if this prophetic, creative by-product of our culturally evolutionary direction goes unnoticed.

Syndicate’s campaign is stylishly put-together. Its slick, glowing visual effects are accompanied by dramatic dubstep music, the gameplay offering advanced weapons and many other intriguing elements that add exciting dynamism to this imagined future overrun by a techno-corporate hegemony. However, the consensus remains that the narrative was played too safely and could definitely have been kicked up a few notches given its rich sci-fi premise and the cautionary implications the story evokes regarding our present reality. According to reviews, the game’s characterization relied too heavily on cyber-punk tropes. Even Jung would have to agree that slapdash myth-making risks the rendering void of the meaning of symbols, bringing us a step further away from wisdom and one closer to ignorance. Following a Jungian methodology, in order for them to retain their efficacy and relevance, perhaps the archetypes of capitalism at play in Syndicate should assert their ethos rather than pathos.




(Carl Jung) 


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