Syndicate Wars
Review by Al Giovetti
Price: $55-$65.
Genre: futuristic real-time, top down (isometric) perspective combat game
Release: October 23, 1996
Developer: Bullfrog
Level Designer: Sean Masterson
Lead Artist: Mike Man
Project Leader: Mike Diskett
Music and Sound: Russell Shaw
Game Engine: Ian Shaw
Producer: Peter Molyneaux
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Phone: (800) 245-4525
Requirements: System Requirements: REQUIRED: Intel486 DX2 66Mhz+ or 100% compatible PC system, MS-DOS 6.X or higher or Windows 95, 8 MB RAM, 55 MB free hard drive space, 2x CD-ROM drive or faster, MSCDEX version 2.23 or higher, VESA compliant SVGA video card, Microsoft-compatible mouse and driver for DOS. SOUND CARDS: Sound Blaster SB, SB 16/SB AWE 32 or 100% compatible, Ensoniq Soundscape. RECOMMENDED: Intel Pentium 75Mhz or faster, 16 MB RAM, 95MB hard drive space, 4x CD-ROM, Sound Blaster 16 AWE 32, 2MB PCI SVGA video card. MULTIPLAYER: Intel Pentium 75, 16 MB RAM, 95 MB free hard drive space, 4x CD-ROM, IPX-compatible network and 14.4Kps modem. Windows 95 may require a fully configured MS-DOS Mode.

History: Peter Molyneaux has been around since he programmed a game called Populous Before there was Total Mayhem, Gender Wars, and Crusader, there was Syndicate, a fast moving, high-resolution, isometric perspective, real-time squad level combat game released in 1993 (Back in the gaming dark ages, when men were men and games were, well lets not talk about it. - Ed.). Going beyond these later game masterpieces, the Syndicate characters act, in true god game fashion, with a mind of their own. They engage troops who arrive in their vicinity with extreme prejudice, and their courage is without restraint, requiring you to intervene to save their lives. Now these little hyperactive operatives are coming back.

Company line: The story continues where the original left off. The dust from the corporate wars has settled and there's an uneasy peace at hand. A secret Syndicate group discovers an alien technology from which they harness unearthly powers. The splinter group attempts to overthrow the powerful Syndicates and take over the world. Thus the battle of the hearts and brains of everyone on earth starts again. The player can control either side---the Eurocorp Syndicate or the opposing Church of the New Epoch. It will take all your skills in strategy and assassination to take and retain control of the situation---no matter which side you're on.

The plot sickens: The syndicate operatives acted on behalf of funded and armed warring mega-corporations. In 231 NC, just one decade after the world take over by several large corporations, who have maintained the peace through a long and uneasy truce. A virus, named Harbinger, was released into the computer system causing 50 years of world wide chaos and global collapse, which became known as First Downtime.

Simultaneously according to certain apocryphal sources who shall forever remain nameless in the annals of the Church, a discovery in Iceland sends the world into another global conflict adding chaos to chaos. (Where is Maxwell Smart when you need him? - Ed.) Those who discovered the alien and mysterious, strange and wonderful, bold and beautiful (err sorry, I got carried away - Ed.) Icelandic artifact of epic proportions find at their disposal an arsenal of exotic and alien weaponry, (or was that common and countrified weaponry? - Ed.).

After consuming the country fried steak, the discoverers form the Church of the New Epoch, attempt to use their cache of weaponry to subdue the remaining mega-corporations and take over the world. The player can get religion and join the church, where the newly found religious artifacts give battle a new meaning to the corporate world, or they have the option of making free enterprise the one true god and starting their own private inquisition into the heresy of these upstart renegade religious fanatics, later combining with an American revolt as yet unverified by spurious sources.

This is all further complicated by internal conflict within the largest mega-conglomerate, Eurocorp, who independently form, the Global Initiative Arm (GIA - not to be confused with GUI! - Ed.). The GUI try to stabilize and solidify their position with Crisis Contingency Action Teams (CCATs?) . But these elements now found themselves embroiled in a religious war. (Now that we have chronicled all the divergent theories no one knows what is going on. - Ed.)

Getting started: You jump start the game from the world map where you hook up your jumper cables to the country or territory you want to pick from the spinning world map, or was that map flat, just like the last time your car battery died playing this game. In mission information for the forgetful is provided by a convenient email system. (Which is not really an email system, but the simulation of an email system, kind like a game within a game. - Ed.)

Weaponry: All your favorite friends from the prior Syndicate return, like the handy mini-gun, and my personal favorite the persuadertron cum indoctrinator. I really loved going around indoctrinating every non player character in the game, making them player characters. At the end of the mission I had every character on the map following my group around. We would take rides together and all kinds of group activities, reminding me of the activities my family used to go on long ago. Sigh!

You can make all new weapon friends in Syndicate Wars, like the electronic virus ion mine which kills electronics in vehicles, the graviton gun molecular disrupter that scatters your molecules like marbles, the homicidal Cerberus identify friend or foe (IFF) drone who really takes care of your friends and enemies for that matter, and others for a total of 25 weapons, including the 15 new ones, to play with. Just don't ask him why they call him Cereberus!

Origin says, "You can arm yourself with up to 25 weapons including nuclear grenades, razor wire, insanity gas, time travel weapons and more. Best of all, you can use those weapons in a fully destructible 3-D world. Blow up entire buildings in each of the more than 30 cities included in Syndicate Wars."

Game engine: The famous Magic Carpet returns to grace your computer room as the engine that could and does drive the game. Contrary to rumor, popular belief, and some of the articles you may or may not have been reading this is a true three dimensional game engine with full 6 directional freedom of movement. There is a fully rotatable three dimensional map in the game engine.

Game play: Vehicles and robots now fly in Wars and Robots attack unsuspecting allied operatives. You get to kill people both innocent and guilty with no discrimination, save in capture or protect missions, and in spectacular ways such as burning in conflagrations, explosions that scatter body parts, rapid fire projectiles and missiles. In Syndicate Wars, there are new ways to track your enemies. There's a unique 360-degree rotating view, creating a true 3-D world.

Selection of agent is by number key. Two or more agents group by mouse click. Mouse click determines the destination of selected groups. Syndicate Wars does not use ammunition, but drains energy from the energy packs that the little guys carry. Also new, Syndicate Wars eliminates the drug addiction of agents who now swear they have been clean for years. One power up gives both temporary intelligence and speed increases. You still can have your guys go crazy and kill everyone by double button clicks to activate the Psycho mode.

Artificial intelligence: Many of the operatives have to navigate complex town mazes and carry on entire battles without the intervention of the god-like game player, who may be out making a cup of coffee or a bag of pop corn or visa versa, so the bull frogs got out the bull and jumped to the task of making these little guys a lot smarter. No more getting stuck on buildings, the little guys navigate better. They also fight better, and according to some Bullfrog officials, they party better. So gird up your loins and get ready for a real fight. And don't forget humans, the most deviant, in addition to being devious, adversaries.

Missions: Over 60 missions play differently depending on whether you are of the true free enterprise faith or a New Epoch reformist. Combat is real-time, highly-lethal and continuous non-stop action from mission start to finish.

Graphics: High-resolution, texture-mapped, three-dimensional (3D) polygons overlayed with two-dimensional, sprite-based characters. The game map rotates 360 degrees and zooms in and out with the keyboard for clarity and to afford views of characters blocked by buildings. Rotation while fighting in 3D is quite a stretch, but it can and should be mastered. . The game uses real-time light-sourcing and shadow effects allowing for the realistic use of search lights, fires and explosions. The resolution is 640 x 480 pixels

Walking through buildings in the previous game was always like fighting blind. In Syndicate Wars Bullfrog was going to implement transparent walls on buildings which would have allowed you to follow your character and others while indoors. In development it was determined that the transparent walls were confusing, so they were removed. Real-time lighting provides shadows and lamps that give off light, which disappears when the lamp is destroyed.

Multiplayer: The up to eight human player game allows players to play over network or internet either cooperatively or competitively from either the New Epoch and/or Syndicate side. Null modem and phone modem support for two players is also included.

Systems: Syndicate Wars is a DOS-based game that is compatible with WindowsR 95. The PlayStation(tm) and Sega Saturn(tm) versions are planned for the spring of 1997

Journalists: Kevin seems to feel the game is less than the original because there is nothing new here. You do not need to change a winning formula to have an excellent product. I found Syndicate Wars as much fun as the original game and enjoyed playing it.

Cheat: Type POOSLICE in the login box at the game start and an electronic tone will tell you the game is in cheat mode. You can now delete POOSLICE and login with any name you choose. During the game you can now use the following cheats.

Within the research screen typing a zero (0) will make more weapons or modifications available for research without getting the object from the environment. Typing U will perform a days research. It is not really smart to type U because you will loose scientists and may be unable to research at all. In the game itself (while on a mission), type Alt-C to complete the level, Alt-T to teleport (be careful of teleporting to water or between holes in the game structure in inaccessible areas). Clearly the most useful command is Shift Q which resurects your agents with full health and all modifications.

You can play any of the 108 missions by typing the following command play.bat type main /w /mXXX, where XXX is a number from 1 to 108. Please note that the disc contains missions that you cannot play in the regular game, but can be accessed only with this command.


  • Syndicate Wars Clue Book

    Steve Bauman, the syndicates are back: With Syndicate Wars, Bullfrog returns to the scene of a successful crime, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, pg. 26-28.
    Glenn Broderick, Computer Player, volume 3, number 5, October, 1996, pg. 60.
    Kevin J. McCann, Computer and Net Player, volume 3, number 9, February, 1997, pg. 83, 80%.
    Rob Smith, PC Games, volume 3, number 12, December, 1996, pg. 164 - 165, 92%.