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Syndrome Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . While it's not especially original and some of the cliches feel outdated, Syndrome does an excellent job reminding me of what I liked about survival horror. There are some genuinely effective scares to be found on this abandoned ship, and the first few hours are downright unnerving. If you're pining for a survival horror game on Resident Evil's 20th anniversary, then Syndrome is about the closest you'll get in 2016. Rating: 71%
Syndrome
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Syndrome Syndrome Syndrome Syndrome
  • Review Score:

  • B
Twenty years after Resident Evil scared an entire generation of 32-bit gamers, the survival horror genre is in dire straits. While we still see a lot survival games in 2016, most of them have completely ditched the horror theme. And the same can be said about today's horror games, which have opted for pure terror over combat and survival. Even Capcom's flagship zombie series has swung wildly from a third-person action game, first-person shooter and gimmicky VR experience.

If you're one of those people who wants to get back to a time when conserving your ammo actually meant something, then Syndrome may be the survival horror game you're looking for. It's not interested in being the next P.T. or Amnesia; it just wants to trap you in a haunted house filled with monsters lurking in the shadows.


In this case, the haunted house is an abandoned starship. You play Trent Galen, a member of the crew who prematurely wakes up from his cryosleep to discover most of his colleagues have been brutally murdered. Actually, he's not entirely sure what happened to them. All Trent knows is that there are bodies strewn about and blood all over the walls. Something terrible happened on this ship; that much is clear.

It won't take long before our confused hero realizes that he's not alone. First he's contacted by Neomi, a strong woman desperate to reunite with Trent. This sounds like a good plan until a mysterious man named Jimmy warns the groggy astronaut that Neomi is killing everybody she finds. Trent is stuck in the middle, unsure who to trust as he attempts to survive this doomed starship.

This is the kind of survival horror game where you're constantly in search for useful items and keycards. Syndrome is, for better or worse, a series of fetch quests. In order to turn on power in one part of the ship, you'll need to find the code to enter the room. But in order to do that, you'll need to find the guy with the code, who is locked behind a door that needs to be powered. And even if you do managed to get that door open and find the code, you'll still need to turn on a bunch of generators when you get back. Trent's busywork never seems to end.

Much like Resident Evil and the survival horror games it inspired, ammo and supplies are a rare commodity. Despite picking up guns and melee weapons, you can't play Syndrome like a first-person shooter. This is more about avoiding enemies than getting into firefights. The weapons are there for those times when you can't escape any other way, but conserving ammo is always in the back of your head.

Syndrome (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

From the moment Trent wakes up to the very end, I found myself constantly surprised by how effective the horror elements are. Syndrome knows how to set a mood, giving us a setting that is almost entirely drenched in shadows. So much of the game revolves around walking down creepy corridors with flickering lights. And just to add punctuation, the sound design is incredibly eerie. There's something deeply unnerving about the industrial sounds and the howls of the nearby enemies.

Unfortunately, some of the terror evaporates when the villains come out of the shadows and we get a good look at what Trent is dealing with. Without spoiling anything, I'll say that the villains run the gamut from genuinely gruesome to kind of goofy. They also tend to be predictable, both in good and bad ways. Those early hours when you're both literally and figuratively in the dark are by far the scariest moments in Syndrome.

But even in those early hours, there are still a few things holding the game back. For one thing, the voice acting isn't as effective as the atmosphere. Trent has a very wimpy sound, something that seems at odds with his actions in the game. Neomi and Jimmy are better, but none of the voice acting sounds especially natural. There are times when it sounds like the actors are doing their best with bad writing, while other times the voices sound miscast.

It doesn't help that the game suffers from some frustrating performance issues. From the beginning all the way to the end, I found Syndrome's animation to hitch up on a regular basis. It never got in the way of the gameplay, but was certainly noticeable and took me out of the experience more than once. The game also has some issues with game pad support. I had to restart Syndrome over from scratch when I realized my Xbox One controller couldn't activate certain switches.

Syndrome (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Beyond the performance issues, my biggest complaint is that we've seen a lot of this before. From the setting to the plot twists to the two voices in your ear, all of these elements feel like they were plucked out of other games. This is a well-executed survival horror game that is in serious need of some original ideas.

It also works to remind you why some of the genre's cliches have fallen out of fashion. The amount of fetch quests and backtracking started to weigh down my enjoyment as the hours went on, and I wish the limited save points were in better locations. Thankfully, Syndrome's compelling mystery and genuinely frightening atmosphere are enough to overcome some of the more archaic tropes.

While it's not especially original and some of the cliches feel outdated, Syndrome does an excellent job reminding me of what I liked about survival horror. There are some genuinely effective scares to be found on this abandoned ship, and the first few hours are downright unnerving. If you're pining for a survival horror game on Resident Evil's 20th anniversary, then Syndrome is about the closest you'll get in 2016.
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