When Bob Started a Syndicate

The other day I was reading through the very last issue of Ace Magazine when I came across an "In the Works" preview of a game called Bob. It was the temporary name given to a work-in-progress game by developers Bullfrog.

It meant nothing to me until I saw the screenshots.

That looks very familiar! It was the classic Bullfrog game, Syndicate!

Bob looked like a much more complex game than Syndicate turned out to be so I'm glad the game was tweaked and tuned before release. It's one of the few games I've actually finished, except for the American Revolt add-on. I never even managed to complete the first level in that! I haven't found much online that links the name Bob to Syndicate but this great RPS article does. That was published in 2008 and it's amusing to see the comments wishing for a remake of the game. We got them, they didn't make quite the same splash as the original.

Syndicate had the veneer of strategy. You could separate out your agents and send them off in different directions, but really, the most fun was to be had when all four were rocking gauss guns and causing all sorts of mayhem!

The very last level in Syndicate was really hard. You'd last all of about 10 seconds before succumbing to superior firepower until you figured out the right strategy to complete it. If you've already played it, or know you'll never do so, check out the video below:

Syndicate was followed by the American Revolt add-on. It comes packaged with the GOG release so you've no excuse not to try it, except that it's hard as nails. I don't feel bad saying that I had no idea how to complete the first level until I saw this ..

Syndicate Wars followed as a proper sequel some time later, but IMO it comes nowhere near being as immersive and addictive as the original Syndicate. I didn't like the graphics and it didn't sit right with me at all.

A modern remake of Syndicate came out in 2012, which I bought in 2014, but it only runs on Windows so I haven't played it much.

In 2015 a spiritual successor to the original Syndicate was released, Satellite Reign. It looks beautiful, and the screenshots have that Syndicate vibe but to play it is painful.

On a more positive note, there's also Free Synd, a GPLed implementation of the Syndicate game engine. The last release was in 2016 however.

The original 1993 version of Syndicate is available on GOG. I highly recommend it. Even if your computer isn't powerful it's bound to be better than even the most expensive home PC or Amiga of the time. GOG have packaged the game with Dosbox so it's a one click install and run. The game is cheap and well worth checking out if you're a gamer.

Hours of fun with Syndicate

Syndicate

  1. Have Macbook. Check.
  2. Have DOSBox. Check.
  3. Have external mouse. Check.
  4. Have Syndicate. Check.

Syndicate is a game I played a lot in the early nineties. I was never any good at games (some things never change!), but this is one of the few games I stuck with and managed to finish. The original game came out in 1993 for DOS and the Amiga. It was on the Amiga that I first came across it but the DOS version is easier to run these days. Luckily both versions are exactly the same.

What do you need? First of all, download the latest version of DOSBox. It’s available for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and many other operating systems.

Now look for the game itself. You can download Syndicate in many places so search for it using Google. Some would describe it as abandonware as the game can’t be bought any more but it’s a legal grey area. Bullfrog still own the copyright to the game so if you don’t own a copy downloading it is, strictly speaking, an act of piracy.

Unzip Syndicate in a convenient location and launch DOSBox. The familiar DOS prompt will open, on the Z: drive so mount the Syndicate directory using the command of the same name. If you’ve installed it in /games/Syndicate/ use the following:

mount c /games/Syndicate

Now change to drive C using

c:

You may need to edit synd.bat if it’s there (to set up your sound card) or just run main.exe as I did. The game will launch and probably run a little too quickly. Slow it down with CTRL-F11, and use ALT-Enter to enter fullscreen mode. CTRL-F12 will speed it up again, handy for researching new weapons and mods. 🙂

In fullscreen mode, you’ll swear you’re using an Amiga again! Enjoy what must be one of the best shoot ’em ups, ever!

There’s also an opensource version of Syndicate. It hasn’t been updated since 2007 though. Anyone with game coding experience want to lend a hand?

As a special bonus, here’s the Atlantic Accelerator. It’s the very last level in the original Syndicate. This guy makes it appear really easy but it’s not. This level takes quite a bit of time to master! Just read his video description for all that he went through.

Or better yet, check out this video of American Revolt. Wow, all those enemy syndicate guys descend on you like flies to a …