Syndicate, the new first-person shooter from Starbreeze, is a pretty fantastic game. The shooting is responsive, the atmosphere is amazing (par for the course for Starbreeze, who brought us The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and The Darkness), and the co-op campaign is the most fun I’ve had playing a multiplayer shooter. Full stop. Seriously.
However, it just so happens that Syndicate is also kind of broken.
At the time of this writing, Syndicate on the Xbox 360 has frozen on me no fewer than five times since purchasing the game on Tuesday; three times in single-player and twice in the cooperative multiplayer.
It’s not just me, either. While playing with a full group of three other players, each of us experienced at least one lock-up over a two hour stretch. After digging around online, I found several forums with dozens of other players experiencing the same issue.
At first, I couldn’t find any word from Starbeeze regarding their plans for dealing with the issue. In fact, I couldn’t even find some sort of acknowledgement that the issue existed. After taking to Twitter and asking the developers what the deal was, I was given a generic response directing me to the EA support page for the game. An EA support page, that is, that shows only an error message.
When I mentioned that I would be writing this story, the team quickly responded; this time with a new link to a different EA help page. This time, the page didn’t return an error. This page had an announcement from Starbreeze saying that they were aware of the issue and were looking for a fix.
Since then, the page has been updated. The post now reads:
“If you are experiencing freezing during a multiplayer match, this may be due to a conflict between XBL Party Chat and the default in-game chat.
Try not to use Party Chat and instead use the default in-game chat. This should correct the freezing issue.”
I feel that it’s worth mentioning here that out of the five times that my copy of Syndicate has frozen, three of those freezes occurred during the single-player campaign when I was not in an Xbox Live Party.
The support page appears to have been created only after I contacted Starbreeze with my concerns. The post has no time-stamp but is dated February 23, the same day that I contacted the developer. Previously, I had seen no such post (and I did look) though it is entirely possible that I just overlooked it. You can check out the post yourself right here.
I can overlook Syndicate‘s lack of proper tutorials to explain the insanely deep character customization. I can overlook the lack of matchmaking options (you really should play with a group of friends anyway). However, when I can’t actually play the game properly for more than 20 minutes at a stretch, that’s a bigger problem.
This is especially frustrating since Syndicate‘s multiplayer is so heavily predicated on an experience-based upgrade system. If the game freezes in the middle of a match, all of the experience earned in that match is lost after rebooting the Xbox 360.
But what makes it so much worse is that Syndicate is such a great game. I really love Syndicate and I was completely ready to give it a great score in my review. Now I’m not so sure.
I’m still fairly new to this whole video game journalism business. I’m not entirely sure how I should score a game that I have so much fun playing but is so technically flawed. I feel that overall I’ve had a great time with Syndicate but I’m not sure how much a technical failing that seems to be under investigation factors into the quality of the product. I know that my piddly little review for a small website probably won’t have grand repercussions on the game’s sales figures, but to me this is about the truth; the truth of what I want to say and the truth of what I think I should say.
Right now, I’m not entirely sure what that truth is.
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