Syndrome is one of those titles which should be held up as an example to others. It’s a guideline for future developers to follow, showing how emulating successes and good ideas can make a competent game, but not a great one. That’s really the key problem here, this is well made and reasonably well paced and programmed, but it does so little to stand out from its inspirations that the experience lacks impact. Within the first hour, you’re sure to find countless reminders of Alien Isolation, a good dozen concepts System Shock 2 set the standard for, and a substantial amount of Dead Space’s artistic direction has been replicated here. There’s rarely a moment where you’re not being reminded of those games in some way, and that hurts what could have been a genuinely great product.
The main aspect Syndrome has working in its favour is its surprising graphical quality and atmosphere. While there is the odd texture bump or issue, for an indie game this looks outstanding, and the story (while a little clichéd) does enough to keep your hooked from the start. You’re on a ghost ship, everyone is dead and there are monsters, with the hint of something bigger going on. This works in its favour for some time, and the best moments are where you’re stuck on your lonesome for the majority of certain levels, trying to piece together what happened. Equally, while you can fight back once the monsters do show up, the fact it’s an uphill battle means the fear factor is never lost. The maze-like environment of the game adds to this sense of terror, as you can never truly tell if you’re going to end up backed into a corner while exploring.
However, little things start to creep in which detract from the experience. While the graphics are decent, the sound design is abominably bad, and the jerky animation quality turns a number of threatening monsters into little more than glorified killer marionettes. Well, no, even that would be more effective than these. Worse still though, on multiple occasions the game simply stops making sense. Do something unrelated to fix one problem and suddenly a door elsewhere will unlock for no explained reason, and the narrative twist is so bad that even M Night Shyamalan would never attempt it.
Still, we have seen far, far worse than Syndrome on here, and the game is still fun when you’re in the right mood. If you’re after a great horror title for this October, you could do far, far worse than this. Watch a few trailers and gameplay videos if you’re interested, but don’t do out of your way to grab this one.
SYNDROME / DEVELOPER: CAMEL 101 / PUBLISHER: CAMEL 101, BIGMOON ENTERTAINMENT / PLATFORM: PC, PLAYSTATION 4, XBOX ONE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW