Courageous and even a little jaunty, it is the project that Camel 101 places us in front of with Syndrome, survival horror title coming out today on PC, PlayStation 4 ed Xbox One. As we also mentioned during the preview we wrote about the title immediately after Gamescom 2016, Syndrome will also support Oculus' virtual reality device. I do not deny that the experience lived in the title has awakened numerous déjà-vu in my mind, and you will soon understand the reasons. Ok, partly right in Cologne some references to Alien Isolation had been anticipated directly from the team, but they're not the only ones we've noticed. Are you ready to undergo a rude awakening? Let's take a closer look at what this game has in store for us.
The art of déjà-vu
Many of the games we know start with this cliché: awakening. Whether it's a real resurrection like in Dark Souls 3, whether it's from a deep sleep as in the various chapters of Zelda, or whether it's from a cryogenic sleep, such as the recent The Turing Test. Syndrome it belongs to the latter category. We will wake up in a cryogenic cabin where we have been asleep for an unspecified time, located inside a spaceship. The first thing we will notice is that there will be no one around us, we will be practically alone wandering in the rooms. After discovering, via an on-board computer, that the crew is mostly dead, we will be contacted by a girl, and soon after by another boy. Who should we trust? The crew, as we said, was almost entirely exterminated ... but the others? Paraphrasing our male guide, let's say they have "changed". Like any self-respecting horror, the settings will be littered with corpses, written on the walls, offices turned upside down (hey, wait, I've already seen this scene ... spaceship, blood, crew "changed" ...) and so on. In the first few bars it will be explained to us that the personnel of the spaceship began to go crazy following the discovery of a strange artifact (also here, some small déjà-vu). The continuation of the plot will obviously not be revealed to avoid any spoilers.
Lack of air
The title of the paragraph was not chosen at random. This recalls various aspects of the title, from settings created specifically to be claustrophobic, like small and dark rooms, air passages, but also very narrow lockers where we can hide if we are chased by some monsters. We now come to the first of the "technical choices" of the study that made us turn up our noses: stamina. In Syndrome, we will not be able to run freely between the rooms to escape our fate, or rather, not for long. Head to head is not always the best choice e in more than one case we will have to choose the escape route, especially until we have a firearm. This will not last long, however, because the stamina will drain much too quickly, and it will not be possible to start running again until this is at least half loaded again. Ok, the choice to give the game a feeling of tangible anxiety, but to tire our protagonist only after a few meters of shooting even if he were a sixty-year-old, it seems exaggerated. Melee strikes will also consume a small portion of stamina, but it will recharge faster, and it will not go down whirlwind as in the case of running.
Unfortunately, also with regard to the level of the game mechanics and the technical aspect, the title does not present itself in great shape. We have encountered numerous bugs, especially as regards the interpenetration: in the event that we decide, giving an example, to hit any wall or object in the room with our weapon, it will pass through it, without creating a noise or anything else. Other imperfections concern inventory management, despite minimalist, which is bugged in the sections of weapons and equipped items. Even the environments give their headaches: at times it will seem that your character is climbing a step in the air, in totally free areas; or in the first flight of stairs you encounter in the game, if you stop completely in the middle or at the top of it, you will slowly slide down. One of the flaws, however, that risks undermining even more the experience of many players, is the exaggerated backtracking necessary to proceed in the story. In fact, it will be common practice to go backwards through entire decks of the ship, only to return to the lift and move on to another one (you will already notice it on decks 4 and 5, try to believe). Could it be a way to increase its longevity? Understandable, up to a certain point. Other note: there are no checkpoints in the game, therefore whenever we die, the last save will be automatically loaded. This means that if we are not careful we will have to start over entire phases that we had concluded two objectives ago. It seems written like it's a negative, but in reality it is one of the most consistent characteristics and in line with the genre present in Syndrome.
Ugly, sinewy, and a little mechanical
The enemies we face will be, like a self-respecting survival, of various types, differing in appearance, size, speed, and obviously danger. Facing them at the beginning will not be a walk in the park, especially because during the first act we will only be able to rely on our melee weapon. Obviously when we also have firearms, we can use them to keep them at a distance and kill them before they reach us. Even with them, however, it will not be easy, since with the arrival of weapons, the number of abominations that can attack you at the same time will also increase. The mechanics of attack are very simple, and all in all (except for the interpenetrations mentioned above) do not have defects. In addition to having some mechanical body parts, these abominations will also have some awkward movements: some of them seem to skip as they walk, e more than scary, they almost make you smile. However, enemies are not the only threat we may encounter, since we will also have to be careful not to step on uncovered electrical cables, as well as not being hit by jets of steam from the walls... and I swear to you that they are almost more dangerous than the monsters! In any case, the ammunition and the treatments that we will find around are not very many, so we strongly advise you to manage them in the best possible way, as in a self-respecting Resident Evil.
A dark threat, with some light
Let's be clear: Syndrome certainly does not shine for the quality of the textures, or details of objects and enemies, but all in all it manages to convey that pinch of madness and anguish within the player. The settings can be repetitive both for the themes and for the objects used in making them, but after all this too is a stereotype of the classic "futuristic spaceship". The lighting will be poor in most of the environments, but the proposed plays of shadows are not up to the atmosphere created by the few lights scattered in the maps, obviously even at maximum quality. The worst part though, are the animations: in the event of death a small scene will see the monster on duty tear you apart (always maintaining the first person view) from the front… even if they attack you from behind; all seasoned with a white writing on a black background that will inform us of our game over. As already mentioned, too the menu was created in a very minimalist way, we don't even find a list of commands to learn how to use it. This also applies to the game controls: some of the keys, such as the quick cure one, I had to discover them by trial and error… And it was quite annoying. Finally, the sound sector it is at best anonymous, but all in all he does well in his role, as well as dubbing.