Syndicate logo Amiga Computing Gamer Gold

Yes folks, time to indicate your intention to vindicate yourself with Syndicate. What a load of Bullfrog...

Yesssss! It has arrived! Raise the flag, crack open the champers, stick a plum under a viper and rejoice, for Syndicate has finally tumbled gently through the letterbox. I had begun to think it might just never appear, fading away into the mists of time as one of those games that was supposed to happen but did not. But no. I need not have fretted, because all along it was being nurtured and developed, and at last it has crept onto the shelves of computer game emporiums from here to sunny Slough.

But before we embark upon a fascinating excursion into the dark, dank depths of Peter Molyneux's imagination, let me take you on a reflective stroll down memory lane.

Aeons upon aeons ago, when the world was young and Paul Daniels had hair, Bullfrog released a product unto the masses with the cunning title of Populous. It was a revolutionary concept because it filled a niche in the market and gave birth to the "God game" genre. It was also a damn fine piece of software to boot.
Consequently, Bullfrog established quite a reputation for themselves, and deservedly so because since then every release has been heralded as a classic. Syndicate looks to follow suit.

It is set in the future. But it is not a happy, flowery type of future. You won't find communities, rallying together in a soap-opera type way here, by Jove. I mean, let us face it, you could not make a very good computer game out of someone going around being nice to people, cutting their lawns, washing their cars and buying them nice presents, could you? Of course not, and the blokes at Bullfrog know that. So instead, they have opted for a slightly different picture of what awaits us in the near future.

You know how some people think the future will be really crap? Whoever wrote Blade Runner obviously did, painting a picture of a society in which everyone is out for themselves and people like Marcus Tandy are seen as ideal role models (oh, how I miss those frequent forays into the events in Los barcos...).
Well, that is the image of the future that Bullfrog has, and that is the future in which Syndicate is set. Apparently, the world is controlled by vast multinational corporations. The other major development is the invention of the CHIP by some boffin. Inserted in the neck, the CHIP is the ultimate drug, cutting the users off from the real world. I suppose today's equivalent is simply getting "out of your tree" and listening to The Orb (or so Simon assures me). Anyway, this development enabled the syndicates to move in and basically control the people through suggestion via the CHIP.

The syndicates are now warring with one another, using cyborgs to do the dirty work. As a young chappie working for one such syndicate, you control a group of cyborgs, and you have got to carry out a number of missions set in the massive urban sprawls of the future.

However, before you dart into the bathroom to top yourself with a razor blade, let me tell you that Syndicate is a very absorbing and interesting game. In fact, I might go so far as to say it could become a classic.

The brilliantly atmospheric movie-like intro sequence does a marvellous job of setting the scene. You really feel as though you have been catapulted into the dreary streets of tomorrow, especially since at regular intervals between the missions you are shown more groovy animations.

The ultimate goal is to take over the world, but obviously you are not going to achieve this all in one go. You must be systematic and take things one step at a time. First things first, you can customise your Syndicate by selecting a logo design and colour, and by naming it too. Then you will be presented with a map screen, and starting from your one lone sector you can move into adjacent sectors and conquer them by completing a mission.

The gameplay consists of using the mouse to shift your lads around, and opening fire at regular intervals by way of pressing the right mouse button. The interface is simple enough to understand. In a few short minutes you will be cavorting around the cities of tomorrow opening fire on many an innocent passer-by.

You can select one of the four agents you control simply by clicking on one of the four numbered boxes in the top-left-hand corner of the screen. You can also choose to move all the agents together by clicking on an icon depicting four little stick men.

Each agent can carry eight items, be they guns, scanners, or other special devices. When you have selected an agent you can then select the item you want to use. If you select a gun and then use up all the ammunition in the heat of battle, the computer will cleverly switch to a weapon with ammo in it, allowing you to get on with the task in hand, namely that of wasting people.

Some of the missions involve you traipsing around searching out scientists and "persuading" them to join your cause with the help of a Persuadertron gun. Others involve you being accosted by copious numbers of enemy operatives, and your task is simply to explain to them the folly of their ways, with the aid of an Uzi sub-machine gun. If at all possible you should try and avoid robbing helpless civilians of their lives.

If you spot any cars, you can either pump them full of lead or leap into them. You can have great fun cruising around the town, opening fire on anybody and everybody who just happens to be nearby.

On some missions you can also hitch a ride on trains, whch are fortunately far more punctual than BR ones and won't be cancelled due to leaves (or dead bodies) on the line.

The graphics throughout are varied and somewhat tasty, being of the variety that will make you leap up and down in glee whenever you come across a new type of building or feature. Sound also helps conjure up the image of a sad, grey future, and the gun effects are certainly beefy enough.

The way in which everyone else goes about their business until you do something against them adds considerably to the gameplay, because you feel you really are just a small part of a major city.

Between missions you can invest in research into new weapons. You can also choose different cyborgs for the missions from your stocks. Weapons and equipment can be bought and taxes on provinces you rule can be adjusted to increase the amount of cash in your reserves.

There is bags of depth, with so many provinces to take over. Each mission is subtly different to the previous one, so you won't get bored quickly.

This is one of the best games released for ages, and it deserves a lot of success. Another classic from the boys at Bullfrog who, it seems, can do no wrong.

Syndicate logo

Bullfrog's new cyber strategy game is VFM - Violent, Fun and Morally unsound, intrigued? You will be...

Syndicate, sindi-kat, n Abbr. synd. An association of people or companies organised to promote a common interest. The new game from Bullfrog, makers of Populous 2, is sinister. If you have ever seen films like Ridley Scott's Blade Runner or Gerorge Lucas' THX 1138, you will know what I mean - futuristic science-fiction which is eerily life-like, and eminently plausible.

Syndicate is a strategy game, where the 'common interest' is to complete takeover of the world. Of course, this ahs been the subject of films and games since the year dot, bur rarely has it been as effective as with this game. What is different here, though, is you are not the megalomaniac seeking ultimate power. Instead you are an agent who works for the big cheese, the syndicate, trying to do a job and get up the employment ladder. Morals are out of the window - you have to do what you are told, no matter how weird or immoral the orders are.

You are in charge of a number of cyborg agents, who are programmed to follow your orders via remote control. Your monitor progress using the display screen, which is also used to give you orders and progress reports. The cyborgs are either sex, but all basic models have a similar strength and resilience.

You are given a certain amount of money to equip your 'borgs through the first mission. After this, raising further dosh is all up to you. There are lots of ways to raise money, including raising the taxes for the people in the territories which are controlled by your syndicate, and capturing enemies and their weapons so that your syndicate can use them in their research. They pay well for any enemy materials you bring back.

The manual blurb is worth a mention: "After winning a mission you have earned the right to levy outrageous rates of tax on the helpless citizens... If you are as popular as the Sheriff of Nottingham as a result, who cares! He did not have armed psychotic cyborgs for back-up".

Mission possible
The first mission is easy. You buy a pistol, and maybe a shotgun or a medikit for each of your four active cyborgs. It is not worth investing in extra body parts yet, because the mission is really easy and you have not got much money.
It is, however, a good idea to plough funds into researching new equipment. In the alter missions you will need powerful weapons and well-equipped cyborgs, so it is best to research into advanced technology early on.

You can actively research in two main areas: Modifications and Equipment. The Mods are things like more powerful legs, and a strengthened chest cage to protect your 'borg - see Cyborg Technology. The equipment is split into three: Automatic, Heavy and Miscellaneous. Investing in Automatic will bring in weapons such as an Uzi sub-machine gun; heavy will yield weaponry like the Gauss gun; while Miscellaneous will produce useful items such as an auto-mapper or an access card. See 'A Call To Arms' on the next page.

Once you have set the research going, and kitted out your crew, mission one begins. This involves going to a city, and killing two enemy agents. They do not put up much of a struggle, and you soon hear a robot telling you "Mission completed".

Syndicate will tell then display a world map showing the amount of territory which your syndicate controls. The next ara available for a takeover bid will flash, so clicking on it will accept that mission. Later you will find there is more than one route available, so if you get stuck in a level you can always try a different route.
By now your research should show results. The Equip screen will have a larger list of available equipment - for a price - and you can select these for your 'borgs. Now may be the time to add more money to the research plan, but how much is up to you.

Heavy policing
The 50 missions vary in size and complexity, but rarely can you complete a mission first time. Fortunately you can save your position at the end of a mission, so if you screw up you can always try again.
In most areas you will find a police presence, who do not really bother you until you draw your gun. If you shoot your gun, then both policemen and enemy agents will rally round and try to shoot your cyborgs. If you manage to take any of them out, they will die and leave you their weapon. Sometimes it is an advanced weapon like a Gauss gun or a laser, and if you keep it until you finish the mission you will be paid for it. Your syndicate will then be able to create the weapon. Using this method you could obtain a Gauss gun on mission seven, whereas using research would take much longer. Neat touches like this abound - it is very like real-life, in that everything you do in a mission will have a knock-on effect in the rest of the game.

All engrossing
Syndicate is a very involved game, mixing strategy and arcade elements for a truly fun game to play, and one which will keep you coming back for more. Unfortunately for A500/600 owners, the game does run rather slowly on these machines - it is still playable, tbough. Still, if there was ever an excuse to upgrade your machine... Although there have been power-struggle games before, Syndicate approaches the genre from a new direction, and playing it is a refreshing experience (as well as a damn good tension release). Also, Bullfrog have other missions in the pipeline, along with a multi-player version where up to eight people can play against each other, each using a separate Amiga.

Although Syndicate is incredible fun and massively addictive, I would have trouble recommending it to kids. There are some disturbing overtones to the game, which occasionally go beyond simple sci-fi.
Head Bullfrog Peter Molyneux commented: "I did not originally set out to create a violent game, but having said that I did not want to pull any punches. Obviously it is violent... but there is nothing I would like to see more than ratings in computer games". Well, if Syndicate had a certificate, it would be 18. Having said that, I have told you that it is violent, so if you are easily 'persuaded' steer clear. You have been warned.


Suffering because your cyborgs are just a bit too nerdy? Try buying one of the range of add-ons that Syndicate offers you to modify your agents.

Enables your 'borg to carry heavy items with no loss of speed.

Moves the cyborg more quickly around the mission zone.

Metallic chest plate to help survive direct hits. Also contains explosive charge for self-destruction.

Improves overall physical strength and stamina of cyborg.

Helps fire more accurately, and react to hazards more quickly.

Make your agent more aware of his surroundings, and quickens decision-making under pressure.


Syndicate, being a game based around a violent futuristic world, naturally places a range of powerful weapons at your disposal. Let us take a look at them...

The weakest of all the weapons, but available for no cost. Medium range, useful as a back-up weapon.

Pump action shotgun with a large spread of shells. Useful at close range.

Quick-firing weapon with a medium range. Fires many shells and costs very little to reload.

Highly accurate, with a very long range. Single shot, useful for assassinations.

Produces a stream of napalm-like ignited jelly which sticks to target and burns. Highly sinister.

Heavy motor-driven machine gun with a fairly long range. Most devastating when fired in short, accurate bursts.

Small high-powered laser with a long range and high accuracy. Useful for sniping and disabling vehicles.

Portable long-range rocket launcher, with three rockets. Useful for destroying tanks and massacring crowds of people.

High explosives, complete with timer and detonator. Leaves structures intact but erases people and vehicles.

The single most important weapon of all. A very short range of weapon which fires a chemical at a target, and brainwashes the target to your way of thinking. The target then follows you zombie-style for the rest of the mission.
If you 'persuade' 16 civilians you may also 'persuade' a police officer. Persuade 32 civilians and you can go grab an enemy agent to add to your cryogenic stock of cyborgs. You are paid at the end of each mission for all the 'persuaded' civilians who survive.

Syndicate logo

Immer wieder gibt es Spiele, auf die Joker-Redakteure mit besonders wie beraushängender Zunge warten - das jeweils neueste Werk der "Populanten" von Bullfrog gehört schon traditionell dazu...

Jetzt konnten wir die Zunge wieder ein- und das neue Söldner-Strategical der englischen Kultprogrammierer endlich abfahren: Am Screen entfalltet sich eine futuristische, von sieben Mega-Konkurrenzen beherrschte Welt. Auf Anhieb erinnert der in 50 Territorien zerstücktelte Globus dabei an "Risiko", geht es doch auch hier darum, den sechs digigesteuerten Gegnern Land für Land zu entreißen, um das eigene, in Europa startende Syndikat zum vollständigen Sieg zu führen.

Die Firma von Welt vergrößert ihre Einflußsphäre vornehm durch gezielte (An)Schläge in einem der Nachbarstaaten, wobei der Spieler manchmal unter mehreren Mission wählen darf - etwa wichtige Personen entführen bzw. liquidieren oder gleich ganze Städte von feindlichen Agenten säubern. War das Unternehmen erfolgreich, gleidert sich das betreffende Land dem Imperium an, und die Steuern dürfen drastisch erhöht werden.

Doch Vorsicht, wer die Schraube allzu heftig anzieht, muß mit Rebellionen rechnen! Rechnen muß man hier übrigens auch mit einem durchaus actionhaltigen Gameplay:

Für jede anstehende Aufgabe werden aus einem achtköpfigen Pool bis zu vier Schlagetots gleichzeitig ausgerüstet. Waffen aller Art, falsche Ausweise oder elektronische Körperimplantate kosten allerdings eine Stange, auch in die Entwicklung neuer Gerätschaften sollte man seine Steuereinnahmen investieren.

Ist die Mannschaft reisefertig, wird sie in die Iso-Grafik geschickt, um sich in Echtzeit mit durch die Straßenschluchten schleichenden Attentätern und anderen Unliebsamkeiten auseinanderzusetzen. Animierte Reklametafeln, Fußgänger en gros, benutzbare Autos und Eisenbahnen sowie viele weitere taktische Finessen beleben unterdessen die 3D-Landschaften und den Spielablauf gleichermaßen.

Meist ist unser Killertrupp jedoch per pedes unterwegs; zur Tat schreitet man wahlweise getrennt oder als Gruppe. Marsch- und Ballerziele sowie alle sonstigen Optionen (z.B. Adrenalinspritzen fürs Tempo oder ein kleiner Intelligenzschub, der die Burschen teilweise selbstständig handeln läßt) hat die Maus jederzeit bestens im Griff.

Rein optisch stört eigentlich nur das ruckelige Scrolling, die Details dagegen haben es in sich: Da kann man stilecht aus dem Wagen heraus schießen, und wer nicht aufpaßt, hat ruckzuck einen harmlosen Passanten auf dem Kühler und/oder die Polizei am Hals! Allerlei nette Sound-FX, eine schön düstere Titelmelodie und die für spätere Upgrades geplante Netzwerktauglichkeit vervollständigen schließlich den positiven Gesamteindruck.

Es macht also durchaus Laune, mit Uzi und Flammenwerfer auf die Pirsch zu gehen, aber der letzte Kick, der aus guter Soft unsterbliche Klassiker macht, fehlt irgendwie. Vielleicht liegt es am doch etwas biederen Mix aus "Risiko", Finanzstrategie und Wuselmännchen-Action... (jn)

Strategy. A nightmare future. Excessive gunfire. It is all here in...

Syndicate logo

Usually we skip over the plot line of a game because it is tedious and, frankly, irrelevant. But let us break with the tradition this time, because the background to Syndicate is absolutely fascinating.

It is the future. World government is in the hands of three hugely powerful multinational corporations, one in America, another in Europe and the third in the Far East. The European corporation develops a device known as the CHIP, which is inserted in the neck and stimulates the brain, offering the user an enhanced perception of the world far better than any drug. It also offers the corporation the chance to manipulate the public through auto-suggestion, and it soon becomes apparent that control of the CHIP means control of the people.

This scramble for monopoly over CHIP technology leads to war between the corporations, which in turn leaves them open to infiltration. This is where the Syndicates come in - crime syndicates who have been pirating CHIP technology and bribing and murdering their way into the upper echelons of the multinationals. Soon, the Syndicates have taken control of the corporations and the world is locked in bitter power struggles over territories. And the Syndicates exert their influence via teams of custom-built cyborgs, armed to the teeth with state-of-the-art weaponry.

Wow. Now if that does not make you want to start playing this game, then you may as well stop reading this right now and skip straight to Yo! Joe! or something. As it happens, this plot has its roots in a well defined genre - 'cyberpunk'. Now, despite the fact that Neuromance (William Gibson's seminal novel which first brought the cyberpunk vision of the future to the public) was first published almost 10 years ago, there is still a significant number of people willing to witter on about the movement as some kind of 'new wave'. In fact, cyberpunk is very much an '80s 'thing', and it sresurgence actually a sign of an impending '80s revivial. The seventies will soon be outré, and Abba will be replaced in the nation's hearts by Neuromancers and New Romantics. Mark my words.

On the other hand, the cyberpunk vision (a world were technology is available to everyone, where serious crime is committed on computer networks, which form 'virtual realities', and where big business multinationals have increasing power and influence in the world) is looking more accurate every day. In the AP office, it is frighteningly close - using software known as 'Broadcast' and 'Electronic Mail', we regularly 'Jack-in' to the CyberMatrix, spinning through the Virtual Data stream to experience the Neon Lattices of Logic burning across the TV-blue skies. And asking our friends what they are doing for lunch. Yes.

Yeah, right - Syndicate. it is a strategy game in which you are an up-and-coming executive looking to extend the influence of your Syndicate, and ultimately dominate the world. You set up your own organisation, with your own logo and trendy name - mine is a gothy (in fact, very cyberpunky) girl, and I have called it The Raven. It is excellent.

You cahart your progress through the game using the world map, which shows the world divided up into territories, with each territory coloured to indicate which Syndicate holds power there. Paint the whole map your colour and you are the supreme ruler of the world. To gain control of a territory you have to accomplish a mission, and mission objectives vary from kidnapping scientists and pressuring them to work for your Syndicate to simply walking through the territory mowing down opposition agents. After you have been given the mission briefing, it is time to tool up.

This is where you enter the strategy part of the game. You are given a team of cyborgs, from which you can choose a maximum of four to tackle a mission. You buy the weapions and equipment that each cyborg needs for the task in hand - at the start you only get a choice of pistols and shotguns, but by allocating funds into research and development you acquire the technology for really destructive hardware like machine guns, lasers and high-powered flamethrowers. These won't be available until later missions, but by putting more into research you can speed up the development process significantly.

You can also use your budget to upgrade the modifications of the cyborgs themselves. By giving them higher version legs, arms and chests, for example, you can improve their mobility, defence against attack and carrying abilities. Keep putting money into modifications and you can build up a supremely powerful team of professional killers.

(Hmm. I would just like to interrupt this review for a second. Although Syndicate is excellent, I can appreciate that reading about it is not as fun as actually playing it. I am fully prepared to admit that it is slightly tedious in fact. I would like to inspire your confidence at this point by pointing out the best bit of the entire game is yet to be described, in what I hope will be some of the finest prose concerning computer games yet to be committed to paper. In the meantime, here is a joke: Q: What is green and lets you do things? A: Permit the Frog. Right, on with the review).

And now starts what is probably the most violent and amoral slaughter-fest you have ever had the pleasure to be involved in. The action takes place on an isometric 3D play area rendered in amazing detail. Including Blader Runner-esque advertising billboards, monorail services, road vehicles and a whole city's worth of citizens. The control system is nice and easy to get used to, simply requiring you to click where you want your team (or individual characters) to go, while using the right-mouse button to unleash hot leaden death. If you were sensible when tooling up you will have equipped one of your characters with a scanner, which provides information as to where your mission target is to be found, the presence of enemy agents, police and so forth.

I had great fun reducing the train to a flaming ruin

Apart from your primary target (which may or may not be an assassination), it is a good idea to pick off as many enemy agents as you can. These look very similar to you - big overcoats to conceal the personal arsenal, and, weirdly, what look like red berets or something. Anyway, they are easy to spot, but you are often caught unawares when a group of them spring from nowhere and start to fire on your team. Oh, and do not worry about pedestrians that get in the way - just mow them to pieces, too, you won't be penalised. No-one cares.

Your only other worry is the police. They are not permitted to open fire on you unless you pull out your weapons, so to avoid trouble, it is generally a good idea to put your weapons back in your overcoats when you have polished off some rival Syndicate trash. But then again, the police are easy to kill so why not use them for target practice and teach the inhabitants of the place that you are a force to be reckoned with? (Don't try this at home, kids. - Ed).

This is one of the great plus points of the game - your options are always completely open. Every building can be entered (and indeed occasionally house enemy scum), you can shoot and destroy cars, drive any vehicle you come across, get in trains - it is totally interactive. I had great fun reducing the monorail train to a flaming ruin once it had ceased being of any use to me. The missions can take place over very large play areas too, which means there is loads to explore and discover.

If you successfully complete a mission you are returned to the map screen, where the newly acquired territory will be rendered in your colour. You can now set new tax rates for the territory to any figure you like - obviously the higher the rate, the larger your budget for later missions, but set it too high and you will find that the citizens become dissatisfied with your regime and rebel. This leaves the territory open to enemy infiltration, and requires you to return to the areas to mop 'em up - which can be irritating, but also strangely cathartic, I find.

It is impossible to describe how much fun this all is. The blend of strategy and action is perfect, and the highly charged atmosphere is evident throughout, from the lovingly realised future metropolitan hell to the frighteningly realistic gun shot sound effects. I feel I should point out, however, that it is a highly amoral game - life is wasted with alarming frequency, and there are no good guys as such, just one set of ruthless criminals against another.

As always at AMIGA POWER, though, there are a couple of niggles. Technically, the scrolling is a little on the slow and jerky side on a standard Amiga. This is a slightly unfair criticism, because this amount of detail is bound to create some problems, but I feel it is only right to point it out. 1200 owners have nothing to worry about on this score. The only other thing is that controlling vehicles is slightly irritating. Some cities require you to enter and exit them by car, but, due to the one-way system, trying to get out often results in a ridiculous trip around the entire road network. Familiarity improves the situation.

Syndicate is top-grade entertainment of the highest order. Bullfrog already have an outstanding reputation in the Amiga software department, and there is no doubt at all in my mind that this can only raise their name to even dizzier heights.
An instant classic.

Syndicate logo CU Amiga Super Star

The streets are awash with the blood of mangled corpses. No, it is not a typical night on the town for the CU crew. It is, in fact, the latest ultra-violent game from Bullfrog.

Since Bullfrog burst on the scene with Populous, they have gone from strength to strength building a reputation as one of the finest development houses this country has seen. With their latest game, Syndicate, they appear set to surpass all their previous achievements.
Syndicate has been in development for over three years now, and almost everyone at Bullfrog has had a hand in it at some time> The result is one of the most violent and original games the Amiga has ever seen.

it is set almost 100 years in the future when the world is run by giant corporations. These syndicates forgo the traditional backstabbing and under-the-counter deals of present day business. When they have a problem they reach for the button marked 'the lads' and send them in to blast the opposition into submission.

As a young exec in a small, rapidly failing syndicate, it is your job to turn business around through a series of kidnappings and assassinations. Naturally you do not want to get your hands dirty, so you pay a visit to the vaults to thaw out some of your cryogenically frozen operatives. These are everyday people who were snatched off the streets by other agents then sent to the company labs to be 'altered'.

This process involves erasing their memory, inserting computer chips into their spinal column and replacing various limbs and organs with synthetic parts. These agents are so hard they make the Terminator look like Bambi. Completely devoid of feeling they will shoot anything you tell them too, and when they get nervous they will open up at anyone who gets too close for comfort. Bullet wounds are just ignored, it takes a rocket launcher to bring one of these guys down.

From your position in a blimp high above the play area you control one to four agents per mission. The control system is very easy to get to grips with - you simply click on an agent's icon, then at the part of the town you want him to go to.

Alternatively, using the right mouse button instructs him to shoot in that direction. They can also make use of public transport such as trains, or simply steal a car. Nobody wants to argue with a group of six-footers wearing trench coats and bearing big guns.

Clicking between the agent icons lets you control all of them at once. This is very handy when you have got a lot of city to traverse in order to reach your target. Unfortunately, those agents carrying heavy weapons, or without artificial legs, tend to lag behind so you have to slow the others down and wait for them to catch up.

Special drugs can be administered to the agents during the course of a mission. There are three kinds which alter his IPA (Intelligence, Perception and Adrenaline) levels. Intelligence dictates how an agent will react to certain situations. If it is boosted he will back off when the odds seem too great, or advance if he has enough ammo. Perception allows him to spot dangerous situations earlier as well as shoot with more accuracy. Adrenaline is the fun one. When this is boosted, and the others re not, the agent goes pretty much crazy ape. His reaction times are greatly increased and he will just blow the hell out of anything on two legs.

Although you have to use the IPA-boosting drugs on the later missions you cannot go too overboard. Use the drugs too many times and the agents will become addicts and not be able to perform without them. Strung out agent are not very effective, but luckily any dibilating effects are only temporary.

If a battle is going badly there are two options open to you. Clicking both mouse buttons at once boosts all the IPA levels to maximum and instructs your agent to draw his biggest gun. Now you either run or fight. As a last resort hitting Ctrl-D triggers the self-destruct mechanism. This utterly destroys the agent along with everything else on the screen, so it is only worth using if you are extremely desperate.

The one group of people who really have it tough are the police. Sworn to uphold the law, they won't go near your agents unless they draw a weapon, at which point the police are obliged to shoot. Unfortunately for them they only have puny shotguns which are not much good against heavily armoured cyborgs brandishing mini-guns. In this kind of situation the police can be either utterly ignored, or make good targets when you want to try out the latest weapon the R&D have come up with.

What you have to keep an eye on is ammunition. For some reason your agents will always forget to pack spare clips and there is nothing more embarrassing than running out of bullets in the middle of a street battle. The only thing they can do is bring three or four back up weapons with them. If these come up empty they either have to run for it or grab a gun from the body of a downed agent.

Not every mission involves buckets of gore and insane amounts of violence. Occasionally you are called upon to 'persuade' enemy scientists to join your syndicate. Obviously this is not a case of asking them nicely, but neither is it a matter of systematically breaking their fingers until they agree to do so. Instead you have a device called a persuadatron. This gadget administers a small dose of chemicals to anyone in close proximity, nullifying their will to resist. After that you have just got to lead them to a collection point without encountering enemy agents.

The persuadatron is also necessary if you want to boost your army of agents. Your company's funding for the cyborg program has all but dried up and the only way you are going to get any more is by persuading enemy agents to join your team. This is not as easy as it sounds, though. First you have to recruit 32 civilians, then 16 police officers before you get your hands on an enemy cyborg. It is wise to get going on this as soon as possible because you only start with eight agents. In my case it was soon reduced to four after my crack squad leapt boldly from their hijacked police car, shot it to pieces and died in the ensuing explosion.

Money is your biggest enemy. Equipping agents with new parts and weapons costs a fortune, as does research into new technology. The best tactic is to search enemy agents after a battle and steal their equipment - the extra cash you will save can be put towards patching up your men.

One of the most important departments in your syndicate is the R&D rooms. Here is where your scientists beaver away trying to create new mega weapons for your agents. They classify weapons as automatic (which includes shot guns and Uzis), heavy (which feature mini-guns and flamethrowers) and assault (rocket launchers and such like).

Developing weapons costs time as well as money. The more money you plough into a project the quicker the R&D bods will invent it for you. The only way to speed up the process further is by capturing enemy weapons. These are instantly submitted for analysis and then duplicated for your team. A technological advantage is not essential in the earlier missions, as you are only up against shotgunwielding police and body guards. Before long though you are sent out to eliminate enemy agents.

They also have the advantage of replacement body parts and the backing of well-funded R&D departments. Like your men, they are easily identified by the long trench coats they wear, and the fact that they start shooting the second your guys come into range.

There are a total of 50 missions, with each one set in a different part of the world. When you successfully complete one, all the territory belonging to the company that you stitched up, becomes yours. Along with the real estate comes 50,000,000 or so people. Naturally you get to tax the pants off of them in order to finance your dodgy deals. If you really get carried away and push the standard tax rate above 55 percent the people start revolting. When that happens, a rival syndicate can move in and claim that territory, so it pays to give the people the odd break now and then. The ultimate aim is to eliminate all the other syndicates and rule the world from the comfort of your office - something Dan has been trying for years.

Different syndicates have different tactics. Of these the IIA are the hardest. Formed from the old CIA, they only employ the biggest, most brutal agents, give them weapons to match their temperaments and then send them out with a pat on the back and a direct order to enjoy themselves. As such they will carve a swathe of destruction through civilians in an attempt to get at your men. At the other end of the scale is the Tasmanian Liberation Consortium. They spend most of their time drunk on fizzy lager taking potshots at what they hope are your agents.

This is not a game for nice guys. When a fire starts, it is tough luck for anyone caught in the cross fire. Civilians are brutally gunned down, or burned and nobody really minds - apart from the civilians, that is. In some missions it is impossible to get to your target without wasting a few bystanders, but you are supposed to be playing a right bastard in the game, so who cares?

While the graphics are small, they are certainly detailed. Blade Runner-style TV screens adorn the building, pumping out commercials for soft drinks. The graphics used to depict the individual citizens of the game are small, but very ell detailed, especially when they are shot. Pump a civilian full of lead and he or she will fly backwards, landing in a bloody heap.
Blow up a police car and the occupant will leap out, on fire and screaming. While these graphics add immensely to the game's overall look and feel, it is not exactly suitable for younger players.

This is the game I have been waiting for for years. No holds barred, full-out mega-death violence. No morals, no prisoners, just grab the biggest sod-off gun you can find and total a town. The only thing this game could be compared to is a real-time version of Laser Squad, but then that is in the loosest sense of the word.

I only have one real criticism. When you walk into a building you cannot see what is going on. The only way to keep track of the action is to use the scanner and move the cursor around the general area as it changes shape when it is over another person.
This makes for some extremely frustrating moments, especially when you are attempting to kidnap someone without actually being able to see where they are standing. A much better system would have been for the roof of the building you are in to disappear - it might not be easy to program, but I suspect that I won't be the only one with this particular whinge.

Apart from that this is one of the best games I have played in years. The sheer size, violence and the huge among of action makes for totally addictive gameplay. Put all other purchases to hold, this is an essential buy.


When a new syndicate agent is press-ganged he or she is chosen for the simple fact that they are naturally hard. All the muscles in the world, though, do not mean diddly-squat when they go up against the agents of a rival syndicate. To prepare them for whatever they may encounter you can pay for them to have cybernetic add-ons. Robotic limbs, eyes, organs and even a brain can replace their organic counterparts and imbue your agent with super-human abilities.
Naturally, buying such parts puts a serious strain on your budget, so it is best to create two agents with different abilities and chop and change between them, rather than create a squad of Terminators who cost a fortune to build.
Replacing an agent's chest gives him increased protection from bullet wounds, while a synthetic heart increases stamina. New limbs increase strength and speed while a quick brain transplant will give you an agent capable of getting himself out of trouble as quickly as you get him into it.


The game may seem extremely over the top to some people, but that fact is big guns sell. Where would Arnold Schwarzenegger be if he never had the chance to utter the words 'Uzi Nine Millimetre'? Gun culture has also taken the comic world by storm. Back in the eighties we had DR and Quinch and The Punisher shoes guns' sizes where only exceeded by their body counts.
Surprisingly, with the millions of dollars raked in by the movies, there has not actually been a good game based on the gun cult anti-heroes. The Terminator has had his reputation systematically slaughtered on multiple formats, while Van Damme had his name attached to the dubious Universal Soldier game, which had nothing to do with the film and fortunately never actually never made it to the Amiga. One reason for the low-key computer appearances of such characters is that companies are a trifle reluctant to reproduce their more horrific aspects in games. With Syndicate featuring what is probably the highest civilian and police body count of any action game ever, it could trigger a precedent that leads to a better representation of today's movie heroes in computer games.
Finally, there is Judge Dredd, probably the single most violent character in the history of fiction. With a film on its way and probably a whole series of games, let us hope that the producers have the bottle to recreate the skull-cracking violence that is his trademark on our computer screens.

Syndicate Syndicate

Syndicate logo CD32 Amiga Computing Platinum Award

Andy Maddock takes a look at some more mouth-watering essential prospects, this time delving his hand into the lucky dip of arcade adventures.

Syndicate is about being a young executive for a European Syndicate in a world where corruption and crime is business, a world where only the pure enduring of residents can subsist. Custom built cyborgs are being used as marketing ploys to sell the CHIP - a powerful implant which can be inserted into the necks of anthropomorphic beings to alter their minds, to see things others will never see. Better than any drug.

Inevitably, pirating of the CHIP was imminent and therefore, resulted in bribery and murder - much of a norm when the syndicates began to take over the entire globe. These custom-built cyborgs were automated to hunt down combatants and traitors, transmitting the idea of desolation and spreading predominance around the world.

The object of the game is to dispatch your syndicate agents into neighbouring countries, draining them of rival syndicates. On completing the missions you can manipulate that particular state - raising taxes and so on. Only by procuring complete control will your coalition triumph.

You begin the mission with several agents, but only four on screen at any one time - you can enlist stronger members for more perplexing missions. Your first mission objective is to assassinate one of the main colonels who has apparently been stealing resources from your weapons division.

Syndicate is, and will always be, one of the finest games to include such high quality graphic detail mixed with intriguing gameplay and adventure. The graphics themselves are superb, with excellent introduction sequences, leaving you with a overall view of a completely new virtual world.
Games of this calibre should never be overlooked - Syndicate will give you weeks of absolute gaming bliss. A true essential.


Syndicate CD32 logo CD32

Steve McGill attempts to take over the world with the spinning disc version of this classic, adrenalin-pumping cyber strategy game...

Everyone in the world knows about Syndicate, the violent 'futuristic' backdrop for internecine corporate wars fought over a global battleground between sinister cyborg agents of said corporations. If you unashamedly invest in artistic licence, it is easy to relate to the ethos, but not implementation, of the CD32 conversion of Syndicate.

Future Publishing has been insorbed into the body of MEGA GLOBAL CORPORATION Pearson, and is currently providing muscle in Pearson's struggle to establish a worldwide multi-media empire, with a corporate logo in every country in the world.

As an agent of this mega global multimedia corporate empire, my mission brief was simple. Find out why the CD32 version of Syndicate, with its integrated Akiko Planar to Chunky chip, does not make use of the hi-res graphics of the PC version - a technically feasible and not overly difficult task.

The first port of call was Bullfrog - a well known company which, while profitable in itself, has a strong brand image exploitable over several media rather than exclusively on computer games. Unsurprisingly, it has been snapped up by Electronic Arts, another corporation with global aspirations.

I spoke to Mike Diskett, head of conversions at Bullfrog. According to Mike, the 2Mb limitation of the CD32 means that if they had wanted to include the PC graphics, much of the game code and detail of Syndicate would have had to be lost. Fair enough, but when pushed further, Mike admitted that the conversion had been farmed to an outside firm.

One phonecall to Mindscape later, and I was speaking to Clive Fort, an ex-Commodore employee. He took the offensive and grilled me on the new control system using the CD32 controller that had been added to the game. I had to admit that, while commendable in itself, it was much clumsier than using a mouse - one nice touch tough is a targeting system known as Acquire and Fire which automatically targets the nearest quarry to your cyborgs. "Fair comment," said Clive, "We are proud of the system".

Buy Syndicate on budget instead. It will cost you half the price.

Rock steady
Steadfastly and tenaciously, I stuck to the task in hand. Clive said that to convert the PC graphics to the CD32 would: "Be like trying to fill a pint pot from a quart jug, plus some". When interrogated further Clive finally broke down and admitted that it was more a commercial consideration based on the time needed for conversion.

So there it is, Syndicate could quite legitimately be considered 'shovelware'. But if you are a CD32 only owner, it is still a brilliant game well worth buying - despite some annoying mechanics such as the lack of a view inside buildings, or fiddly vehicle control.

If you own an Amiga too, buy Syndicate on budget instead. It will cost you less than half the price of the CD32 version, and it is exactly the same to look and to play.


This month also sees the re-release of Syndicate on floppy systems (as mentioned left). Owners of SX-1's would be better served purchasing this at the extremely affordable price of £14.99.
Other than the CD32 controller option, there is no difference between either game. Take note.

Syndicate CD32 logo CD32

Mit diesem Söldner-Strategical von Bullfrog hat Mindscape eines der erfolgreichsten Spiele der letzten Jahre Für das CD32 umgesetzt - un so der CommoKonsole ein Highlight spendiert, das hier quasi allein auf weiter Flur steht!

Vor über zwei Jahren tauchte das Syndikat erstmals auf Amiga-Disk auf und ist seither aus den Lesercharts praktisch nicht mehr wegzudenken. Ein echter Klassiker also, dessen Echtzeit-Gameplay in Iso-3D noch keinerlie Staub angesetzt hat: Jetzt erstrahlen die düsteren Futuro-Metropolen der Genialen Ochsenfrösche ("Populous") auch in bzw. Auf Silber und warten auf Spieler, die eine nahezu perfekte Mischung aus Strategie und Aktion zu schätzen wissen.

In diesem "Bladerunner"-Szenario mimt man den Manager eines der insgesamt sieben Syndikate, die im nächsten Jahrhundert die Welt beherrschen - eine Welt, wo den Menschen mittels eingebauter Chips Sonnenschein vorgegaukelt wird, während in Wahrzeit ätzender Nieselregen fällt. Von seinem Luftschiff aus hat man Zugriff auf bis zu vier Agenten, die in über 50 internationalen Missionen die verschiedensten Gebiete der Konkurrenz erobern sollen, um ihrer Firma die ersehnten Steuerinnahmen zuzuführen.

In besetzten Regionen bietet sich auch der Einsatz des "Überzeugers" an, läßt sich mit dem praktischen Gerät doch jedermann eine Gehirnwäsche verpassen; etwas zwecks verhökerung von willenlosem Frischfleisch oder um einen eigenen Vorrat anzulegen, falls das dezimierte Söldnerteam einmal aufzustocken wäre.

Zu Beginn und freilich erst mal kleinere Brötchen zu backen, da das marodierende Kleeblatt zunächst nur über Pistolen verfügt. Doch bald schon bereichern getötete Feinde oder Eigenentwicklungen des Waffenarsenal um Gewehre, Uzis, Laser oder gar Massenvernichtungsmittel wie Gauß-werfer und Zeitbomben.

Da jedoch spätestens in der letzten Mission (dem Kampf um Atlantis) auch die konkurrierenden Syndikate auf solche Feuerkraft zurückgreifen können, sollte man seine Kämpen frühzeitig "modifizieren": Ein besseres Hirn, schnellere Beine und ein kräftigeres Herz können ja nie schaden. Aber auch Schutzschilde und Erste-Hile-Kästen im Vorrat erweisen sich als nützlich, den mit dem Tod eines Agenten sind auch alle in ihn getätigten Investitionen über dem Jordan.

Die vielfältigen Handlungsmöglichkeiten passen prima zu den abwechslungsreichen Aufgaben, schon weil die CPU ihre Mannen gut im Grif hat und man trotz aller Umsicht immer wieder mit Überraschungsangriffen des Feindes konfrontiert wird. Um dabei auszuschließen, da" der Spieler mit der Übersicht automatisch auch einen Agenten verliert, kann er die Truppe in einen Panik-Modus schalten, wodurch sie eigenständig zur jeweils besten Waffe greift und auf alles ballert, was sich bewegt - ein teurer Spaß, denn Munition für gute Waffen kostet auch gutes Geld.

Außerdem kann es dann bei Eskort-Missionen passieren, daß der Schützling dem Kugelhagel zum Opfer fällt, was natürlich kein gutes Licht auf die Führungsqualitäten des verantwortlichen Managers wirft!

Andere Aufträge umfassen Säuberungsaktionen innerhalb einer Stadt oder das gezielte Meucheln unliebsamer Personen (z.B. Wissenschaftler, die auspacken, oder Ehefrauen, die einpacken wollen), weshalb man im Verlauf des Spiels richtige Überlebensstrategien entwickeln muß. Zu Beginn darf also noch relativ wild drauflosgeballert werden, doch irgendwann muß man den Einsatz von für die eigene Truppe gefährlichen Knallkörpern gegen die vermeintliche Übermacht des Gegners abwägen, etwa wenn er Scharfschützen mit Präzisionsgewehren aufbietet. Da sind dann auch mal Hinterhalte anzulegen, Flammenwerfer zu bedienen, Sprints zu absolvieren oder neue Wege zu finden...

Trotzdem, jede noch so schwere Aufgabe ist mit der richtigen Taktik zu meistern, worin ein großer Teil des Reizes dieses Spiel liegt. Ein nicht minder großer liegt in seiner liebevollen Ausgestaltung: die hiesigen Betonschluchten verfügen meist über mehrere Ebenen, die förmlich vor Leben brodeln. Da nimmt man die inzwischen etwas antiquiert wirkend Iso-Grafik gerne in Kauf, zumal die flüssigen Animationen auch bei noch so viel Action am Screen nicht in die Knie gehen.

Das gilt neben dem CD32 auch für einen AGA-Amiga mit CD-ROM: tatsächlich könnte die Action auf Rechnern mit Turbokarte sogar einen Tick zu schnell werden. Mit Maus spielt es sich übrigens hier wie dort immer noch am besten, selbst wenn die Steuerung durchaus akzeptabel auf das Joypad umgesetzt wurde.

CD-Musik sucht man indessen vergebens, doch lassen der feine Titeltrack und die guten FX im Spiel dieses Manko nicht allzu schlimm erscheinen. Schon weil die Schiller-Version natürlich ohne die nervigen Ladezeiten und Diskwechsel der Ur-Fassung auskommt. Geschleudert wurde jedoch bei der Save-Option: Während man am CD32 wegen des geringen RAM-Speichers nicht alle 10 Spielstände nutzen kann, sind die am 1200er zwar komplett vertreten, werden aber im Hauptverzeichnis der Harddisk abgelegt, was je nach Konfiguration Ärger verursachen mag.

Auch daß eine deutsche Version fehlt (englische Anleitung, wahlweise englische, französische oder italienische Screentexte), schmerzt ein wenig, aber dafür hat Mindscape ja noch kostenlos das seinerzeit von uns mit 76 Prozent bewertete Plattform-Hähnchen "Alfred Chicken" beigepackt. Kurzum, auch auf CD ist das alte, neue Syndicate wieder eine Sünde wert! (mm)

Syndicate CD32 logo CD32

Mindscape £35 Amiga version: AP28 91%

Although it's not good in real life, there's a lot to be said for amorality in fiction. Ryan O'Neal in The Driver for instance, or Hiro Protagonist in Neil Stevenson's book Snow Crash - since they're neither heroes or villains, they both stand a good chance of being blown away at any moment and no one caring. I like amorality, which is why all the main characters in my college movies ended up riddled with bullets and face-down in ice puddles.

Accepting this, it'll be no surprise that when it first came out, I was a slave to Syndicate. The great thing about Syndicate is that it's arrogant and really doesn't care about love, life and the pursuit of happiness. Its greatest achievement is that it takes the 'sinister world ruled by battling corporations' to the logical extreme.

If you're prepared to send heavily armed cyborgs into an enemy-owned town to give the mayor a lesson in the true use of power (by killing his wife) then you're not going to be bothered about the safety of the police or civilians are you? If you feel like it, you can round up the entire population and gruesomely murder them with flamethrowers, and the would would keep on turning. In real life too.

Compared to the sanitised, cute console versions from Sega and Nintendo (where the police are robots making it politically correct to shoot them), the CD32's problems are minor. It's pretty much a straight port from the Amiga, with allowances being made for the lack of a keyboard in a set of 'laboriously click on each letter to make words' type menus, and if you use all the memory, you can save three games, which is okay.

Syndicate's a mouse-based game, and although they've tried their hardest to adapt it for the CD32 controller, a joypad's no match for the fluid control of a mouse. To be fair, they've used all the buttons, using the shoulder buttons to speed up the cursor, and the yellow button for the 'Acquire and fire' feature which locks the cursor onto the nearest baddie and saves you the embarrassment of missing him with every shot.

Even this software masterpiece shows a few cracks as I play it for the zillionth time. Bad guys hiding on the far side of buildings are a pain, and not being able to see inside buildings is a drag too, but the cars, monorails, walkways, crossfire victims and rockets more than make up for it. It's essential stuff.

Syndicate CD32 logo CD32 CU Amiga Super Star

Price: £34.99 Publisher: Mindscape 0144 246333

It is about time too. Syndicate has been available on standard Amigas for nearly two years now; so long that we had actually forgotten that there was no CD32 version. However, Bullfrog's omission came as a welcome break from routine here in the office, because sometimes, when a game is re-released, it creates more interest than some of the new games we have in. And so we had to lock it away, just in case it went missing before it could be reviewed.

For CD32 owners who have not seen this classic on other machines, let me give you a brief run through of what it is all about. Basically, you are in charge of a group of assassins who operate on behalf of a 'company' or syndicate, a post apocalyptic semi-criminal business giant that seeks to run the world with the aid of advertising and coercion.

There are up to four members in your team of cyborgs, and you can equip them with a variety of weapons, a scanner and numerous other miscellaneous tiems like ID Cards. The missions are all about either assassination or kidnapping, or both, and it does not really matter who gets in your way, as long as you achieve corporate objectives.

You enter each mission via a world map which shows the domination of your corporation, a mission briefing screen and an equipping screen. The equipping screen allows you to buy weapons and other devices, research new technology and modify your cyborgs with fast and stronger limbs, armour plated chest-pieces, et cetera.

The mission screen itself is divided in two. On the right hand side is the playing screen which takes up about 70% of the total area. In it you see an isometric section of the city or village you are in and your agents, who are trench-coated and very suspicious looking. To the right there is a scanner map, four boxes, each containing the stats on your troops and a weapon/icon bar where you choose what to use and fire.

The interface is point and click, and Bullfrog have intelligently included a mouse routine for port two. You will still need your joypad plugged in to port one though, to evacuate once you have completed a mission. Thing is though, if you do not have a mouse and do not want one you will never get the most out of Syndicate - it is pretty difficult to play and enjoy just with the joypad.

Although the graphics are a tad grainy and glitchy through either TV or monitor *you really need an RGB output to make them acceptable), it is still clear what is going on once you have figured out what everyone looks like. Despite this, it is still one of my fave games, combining strategy with shoot em up action. Great.

Syndicate logoAmerican RevoltAmiga Format Gold

The Americans are revolting. Can you bring order from the chaos in these fiendishly tricky Syndicate missions?

It is almost a year since Syndicate first nuked its way on to the Amiga scene. Its brutal gameplay fused cyberpunk with the god game - the end result a game so violent that Saddam Hussein would have disapproved.
And now it is back, only more so. Bullfrog have released American Revolt for all those die-hards who refuse to die hard. This data disk con tinues the story of the syndicates as they grapple to retain power of the Americas.

In order to play American Revolt you have really got to be able to finish the original game because the datadisk's missions are at least three times as hard as the originals, so if you are new to Syndicate you will be as much use as a one legged man in a penalty shoot-out.
No offence, but unless you have played the original to death, you will just get very frustrated with American Revolt very quickly.

In all there are 25 new missions on the disk. They range from the difficult (The Rockies) to the downright impossible (The South American countries). Even with fully-equipped agents with a complete set of Version 3.0 modicifations you are still going to die jolly quickly.

Mission bleedin' difficult
The secret to completing these missions lies in using each agent's drug intake carefully. If you got through the first game by simply yamping around in group mode killing everyone in sigh, then you are not going to do very well at this game.

Quite often you are going to have to split up your agents, sending two to take out the enemy while the other two get on with the missions itself. The actual missions range from the usual combat sweeps where you destroy everyone in sight, to the escort-type where you have got to keep someone alive. The escort missions are the trickiest, because it is very easy for the enemy to pick off your detector, which means you have got to keep your agents in the line of fire at all times.

By way of illustrating just how hard these missions are, here is what happens in Columbia. You are sent in to eradicate a double agent. The city is split into two sections and the agent won't reveal himself until you have dealt with all enemy agents.

There are about 20 agents in the southern sector and each one is just as well equipped as you. Having depleted all your firepower and picked up a few extra weapons, you locate a vehicle with which to make the journey into the north. When you spot the vehicle's guard, you head north, and encounter the 50 other agents who are protecting your target. Then you die. Swiftly.

If you though you would be helped by new technology which would give you the edge over the other syndicates, then you would be wrong.

Protect and survive
There are not any new weapons available in the game (unlike the PC version), these are purely new missions. Bullfrog designed them in response to the number of people who complained that the original was too easy. Alex Trowers (who designed the levels) also wanted to stop people from wandering around in group mode.

This is definitely not a game you will finish the first weekend you have it and even the Syndicate programmers have trouble completing some of the levels.

While playing these missions it became obvious to me that the Amiga Format readership should be protected. So, if you are really sold on the mission disk and the cheque is already in the post, please follow these nuggets of advice:
* Have the telephone number of a good therapist handy.
* Give loved ones plenty of notice before you start playing, so that they can evacuate.
* Encase your TV in foam, just in case it should suffer some sort of heavy blow.
* Remove all sharp objects from the room you are in.
* Use an industrial strength mouse.
* Do not get interviewed by a researcher from a TV programme about video games.
* Do not phone us when your whole life falls to pieces. You have been warned.