Satellite Reign promises a return to the mean streets of Syndicate

Persuadatron Legacy.

You'll know when the future finally gets here. You'll know, because it will probably coincide with someone you love being killed by a door.

Take my hacker. I really adored that guy. He was so good with terminals. Too good, perhaps, and - ha ha! - too terminal. There we were a few days ago, staging a sneak assault on the villainous Ronin Corporation and he'd just tippy-tapped the firm's huge front gate open. He raced on through, and the rest of us were going to follow him. Gates in the future are fast, though, and this one slammed shut before the rest of us could use it. What a treat: three heavily-armed neck-breaking types, lingering uselessly in the street, while one slender hacker - the only one who could do anything about that gate - was stuck on the other side of a wall, getting leisurely shot to pieces by Ronin security guards. The future's harsh.

Satellite Reign isn't the future, of course. It's so much better than that. It's the future of the past - a spiritual successor to the Syndicate series, taking us back to yesterday's tomorrow, where the streets are always shiny with rain and latticed by neon, where police cruisers hover just above the ground, fishtailing woozily at the slightest provocation, and where the only thing you ever want to be caught wearing is a leather trenchcoat and wraparound shades. Trenchcoats and shades! It's handy to know up-front that Satellite Reign's channelling Syndicate because otherwise you'd have it pegged as an immersive Backstreet Boys sim.

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This went quite badly.

And, like the Backstreet Boys themselves, Satellite Reign's a class-based affair. That's the big wrinkle, in fact: not all of your corp-shredding hardnuts are created equal here. This is still a game about guiding a tight crew of agents around an isometric landscape and sticking it to anyone you don't like through stealth, violence, and general skulduggery, but this time, alongside that hacker of mine, there's also a support guy, a soldier and an assassin. The support guy heals everyone and can do a neat wireframe scan of the environment revealing cables and junction boxes for the hacker to get stuck into. The soldier can be levelled into a mean damage sponge - if you can imagine a sponge being mean. The assassin can cloak, use ziplines, and knock foes out of cover with his sniper rifle. As for that hacker, if he isn't been shot to death, he can eventually progress from meddling with ATMs and security cameras to rewiring the neuro implants of pedestrians, taking total control.

All of this means that you have options when you approach the limited suite of infiltration missions that Satellite Reign's Early Access build offers. The current release offers a single city district, but it's roomy and intricate and filled with dangerous places to explore. Besides Ronin, there are all sorts of buildings to storm. The first mission sees you busting your own heavy out of police custody. Later on you're sticking it to the banking sector. Some things never go out of fashion.

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There's no tutorial yet, but the game's pretty easy to understand. Be warned: the UI is filled with teeny weeny text.

My preferred approach is much as it was with Syndicate, inevitably: slow and steady until the first unforced error, and then a lightning switch to overwhelming force deployed with a risque clumsiness. Nastier weaponry needs to be captured and then researched, as far as I can tell, but the starting load-out can still whittle through enemy health bars in seconds. Even if you're moving your team around as one, popping in and out of cover as needed and turning all aggro on the nearest threats, you'll have more than enough options, what with energy-limited sprinting and secondary armaments, to emerge victorious from most early scrapes.

Satellite Reign's developers are making a lot of the simulated city, which could potentially bring a nice touch of emergent madness to your insane plans and frantic last stands. In the current build, though, there's still so much missing that it's hard to get organic chaos to erupt. Alongside features that have yet to be implemented, there's also slow-down, an iffy save system, and AI that can do some astonishingly stupid things in the middle of a gunfight. This is an early access game, of course, so you should absolutely expect this sort of stuff. Just be aware that if you buy in now, you really are going to be watching a game come together around you.

The really important bits are already there, though. With four goons at your disposal, it's hard not to take to these glittering midnight streets feeling like the single most dangerous element of this cold-hearted world. This was what Syndicate was always about, and it's exciting to see Satellite Reign get the basics in place before building outwards.

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About the author

Christian Donlan

Christian Donlan

Features Editor

Christian Donlan is a features editor for Eurogamer. He is the author of The Unmapped Mind, published as The Inward Empire in the US.

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