Deus Ex: Human Revolution is almost here and if you frequent the site, you're probably ready for us to shut up about it. Well I mentioned it once this week so I've met my quota. The real reason I'm posting this week is in regards to another game I hold dearly in my heart. A game very similar to Deus Ex.
Syndicate was my first experience with a real time strategy. Well, according to Wikipedia it's an isometric real time tactical game. God video game genre's sound so fucking stupid and literal. Anyways, the game revolved around military corporations running the world and fighting for global dominaiton. You controlled a CEO of one of these military syndicates, using biologically augmented soldiers in trench coats to perform assassinations and political "persuasion" to increase your influence over the world until you finally conquered it entirely. Sound familiar?
Syndicate is one of those elitist classics. It's not a household name like Mario, Mortal Kombat, or Halo but is highly regarded as one of the greatest games ever made by grumpy old gaming grandpas. I guess it pioneered point and click strategy gaming (probably a separate genre from point and click combat gaming) and it was produced by gaming demigod Peter Molyneux, which gives it instant vintage street cred. I imagine an original Amiga copy of the game is to retro PC-gamers what an original vinyl of The Smiths debut album would be to hipsters*. I'm not sure how much of what I just typed is true, but I'll say I loved the game without a pretentious sense of entitlement.
What I liked about the game so much was its minimal story and its forced evil outlook. You don't play a hero by any means nor do you have the option to. You are in charge of a giant corporation bent on monopolizing the world for profit. There are no peaceful acquisitions of territory or diplomatic negotiations. Civilian casualties are unavoidable and unpunished. You pick a country, you assassinate it's leader or steal it's advantageous technology and then enforce taxes on it after conquering it. You then use these taxes to research new guns and augmentations for your super soldiers. Oh yeah, and those super soldiers aren't human anymore, they're brainwashed people you kidnap and surgically enhance without their consent.
This may sound like it was sending a terrible message but I actually view it as the opposite. I'm probably over analyzing it, but it paints a picture of how ruthless and terrible a world would be run by privatized corporations rather than governments. It also lets you view yourself as a leader, based on how you tax your territories. I, for instance, would always jack up the taxes on weaker countries to increase profits knowing that if they'd revolt, I could easily crush them.
All of these are themes and elements I see in the Deus Ex story and that's what gets me so excited for it. I'm also excited at the hints that Syndicate may be remade soon by EA and I'm hoping it's unveiled within the year. All of these developments made me reminisce about playing the old Syndicate and I decided I'd try and find it again. Which leads me to the whole point of this Rant.
I found this awesome DOS emulator web page that lets you play many classic PC games right in your browser. It's called freegameempire.com and includes old games like Syndicate, Ultima, Tie Fighter and others. Sadly none of the Monkey Island games are there (yet) but they're updating constantly. Their browser app is NOT compatible with Mac (yet) but on PC, you simply need to download a quick installer and you're ready to go.
This is actually a really dangerous find for me because I don't need anymore easy access distractions. Besides my love of Syndicate it also features my other classic kryptonite, point and click adventures (again with the fucking genres). Don't be surprised if I devolve and start reviewing games from 1989.
But seriously, if you haven't played Syndicate, go to the website and check it out.
*I don't know who The Smiths are. I had to Google it.