These three applications are recharged by killing enemies (USB 3.0 would have probably been more practical) but your recharging fourth function is the killer app. With the press of a button you're chucked into a slow-mo overlay where you deal more (and take less) damage, as well as having all enemies on the screen (including ones behind objects and walls) light up in a tell-tale hue. Bag multiple kills quickly and you'll trigger a Rampage, which ups your damage even further alongside giving you hefty score bonuses.
Such options are mixed with the game's bevy of spray-and-prey automatic weaponry to ensure that gunfights play out with an abundance of peppery bullets, and your typical arsenal of shotguns and assault rifles is rounded out by the odd bit of futuristic weaponry and the hyper-violent glee derived from an insane minigun that can shred enemies to ribbons.
This novel combination of guns and suicide-inducing brain applications should lift Syndicate above its peers, but after inventing these mechanics it's clear (much like with the game's plot and setting) Starbreeze doesn't really know what to do. You should feel like a cybernetic predator, but too many encounters play out with you shooting people (in the conventional manner) and occasionally causing some chap to blow his brains out. Almost all inventive use of your powers is reserved for cutscene and set-piece, which is a real shame, and the game too routinely wheels out miserable, repetitive and frustrating boss encounters. It's a missed opportunity.
Elsewhere there's a four-player co-op mode that pledges to re-imagine missions from the original Syndicate, but these nine missions on offer only seem to share geographical location, unless I've completely forgotten that the original Syndicate was a watered down version of Left 4 Dead.
It's a four-player co-op mode, then, and it's pretty much what you've come to expect from these modes. Events play out with only the loosest of contexts, and revolve around moving from point A to B, and then occasionally lugging an Important Object from point B to A while shooting a whole load of people. The actual co-op mechanic, as in what Starbreeze has done to ensure players stick together, is that you can immediately heal your extremely fragile colleagues at any time provided you have line of sight, which actually works quite well - you're simply not powerful enough to jog off on your own, but a pair of players can push into an area if the other duo is keeping their health bars stacked to the nines.
Co-op is good in the way that most co-op modes are good - it's a perfectly pleasant social experience with friends - and the game comes complete with the typical breadcrumb trail of persistent unlocks and upgrades, alongside the same technowizard mind tricks from the single-player campaign albeit with the slow-mo effect. It's a mode that functions rather than thrills.
There's a lot to like about Syndicate's mechanics and recoil-rich gunplay, and your cache of cybernetic powers elevates the game above most rote corridor shooters. But Syndicate doesn't know what it wants to be at its core, and its dry protagonist blasts through hyper-violent environments with no motivation or desire. Syndicate's callous world of corporate dominance feels more pressing than ever in 2012, but Starbreeze lacks the confidence to execute on this chilling vision of the future.
Version Tested: PlayStation 3