Note: This is the first of our reviews where we will not be giving a score. We are following the trend of many sites where we think a score is simply no longer meaningful. We’d prefer for you to read the reviews and see what we think rather than assign some arbitrary number for you to compare against other arbitrary numbers.
Last week we attended the Fright Night at Thorpe Park. I hadn’t been through a scare maze for many years so was unbelievably jittery while we were queuing to be taken through a series of rooms and scared silly. When we finally got in it turned out all these people can really do to an adult is make you jump. I knew the actors were just actors, I knew the weapons were fake, I knew the blood was just make-up, so while they could easily make us jump by leaping at us out of the dark, this was no more frightening than the childhood bully trying to make you flinch. Once you realise that the whole premise becomes hollow as your fear leaves you and you start to see how cheap the props are and how bad the acting is. All of this reminds me very much of Syndrome, a horror game that is entirely capable of making you jump, but nothing more than that.
Starting off with some story exposition about waking up on ‘totally-not-the-Nostromo’, which just so happens to be a large ship that looks like the Nostromo, Syndrome drops you right into a clichéd space horror. You awake from cryosleep and everyone’s dead, except for a few groups who you’re not sure if you can trust. Syndrome is content to leave it there though, quickly introducing you to your objectives which attempt to outdo each other in how much of a cliché can they become. Find keycards? Check. Find a door code in a diary? Check. Crawl through a vent to get around a malfunctioning door? Check. That’s all within the first few minutes.
Unfortunately Syndrome doesn’t really progress from there. Of course there’s some monsters in the way of weird zombie things but they all look the same and will react to your trusty wrench smacking them, but not getting shot until they die completely. Later on you face some slightly more intimidating enemies but beyond being faster and tougher, they act the exact same way and somehow manage to sound less frightening.
All of this would be forgiven if it built up a frightening atmosphere like Amnesia or Outlast, but it simply doesn’t. The ship you’re exploring looks like it was created in the Half Life engine and just smattered with some dynamic lights. Most of the decorations don’t make sense, like awkwardly placed boxes everywhere, there’s no moments of intense fear or calm, it’s just constant grey corridors and rooms with occasional enemies to murder or run away from. The fact it’s a indie game could answer for some of this, but then the developer is charging £18.99 for what feels like a horror mod and for that kind of money you could easily buy much better games in the same genre.
Overall it’s impossible to recommend Syndrome. If you’ve played Alien: Isolation, the Dead Space Trilogy, or System Shock, it’s going to feel like a massive letdown and far too familiar. If you haven’t played them, buy those instead, they’re all much better.