Starbreeze's game concerns and delights in equal measure.
You come to Syndicate with expectations. It's unavoidable. Your eyes can't help but flit over the screen, desperate to find nostalgia that's survived unscathed. Occasionally they succeed. The fabled Eurocorp corporation, that jagged and efficient-looking world map, the spotlight street lamps and the cold and business-like mission run-downs all trickle cold fire through your synapses.
After a fashion, however, bright eyes grow dim. You feel a slight heat in your head while your emotion chip boots up, your brain fuzzes over and consequently (thankfully) teardrops do not fall. You just kill, and kill again. During my hours with Syndicate's co-op mode I certainly felt Bullfrog twitches (once I saw a comrade's flapping coat and said out loud "Syndicate coat!") yet each time my mood was swiftly stabilised.
Co-op missions may be loosely based (very loosely) on the original game - but at no point does pressing RB let you see your surroundings in Rosetint Vision™ where everything's isometric, the explosions are the greatest thing 1993 has ever seen and, if you listen hard enough, you can hear your Mum shouting that your tea's ready.
The secret to enjoying EA's new take on Syndicate might be to put aside all your hopes and dreams and cherished memories regarding the original, and think of it instead as, well, a new Starbreeze game. That's not a perfect solution for everyone, perhaps, but it's also not without its pleasures. Starbreeze is a studio that's constantly poised on the edge of greatness. It brought a sturdiness and a peculiarly grim invention to both Riddick and The Darkness. I think the team can do good things with Syndicate, too.
That's how I felt after dipping into both single- and multiplayer campaigns a few weeks back, anyway. Starbreeze is deeply committed to the concept of clever nastiness - a trait that should ensure it has little trouble bringing the series' near-future landscape with its warring corporate leviathans to life. It's also used to merging nice, heavy gunplay with gadgets and gimmicks: Riddick's melee combat, say, or Jackie Estacado's cackling tentacles.
As Syndicate's main campaign starts up, dispatched on a clandestine corporate raid, your AI partner fills you in on the backstory and deals out queasy office euphemism like "soft assets" while he casually shoots two receptionists waiting patiently in the lobby you've just crashed into. It gets things off to a wonderfully unpleasant start and ensures you're on your toes straight away.