Syndrome review (PSVR)

Previously available only through Steam, horror survival shooter Syndrome is now available for consoles as well. It also includes a VR mode on Playstation, which was the focus of our review.

Syndrome was originally met with lukewarm review scores – with most reviewers pointing out that they were unimpressed with the story and gameplay but enjoyed the tense sci-fi horror atmosphere. My VR-minded side only really heard the latter part of that when the game was announced as supporting Playstation VR for its PS4 release, since a sci-fi horror survival/shooter game sounds like a perfect type of game for VR – at least for me personally.

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I was a tad disappointed to find out that the main game isn’t actually playable in VR, and that there is only a decided survival mode for enthusiasts to enjoy. In this mode, there is nothing resembling any kind of story and you don’t have clear objective either – instead, enemies spawn at random intervals and you collect key cards to help you unlock other parts of the ship, which in turn allows you to run into new enemy types. It’s a mode that seemingly has no end (or I wasn’t good enough to get to it), and the lack of clear objectives doesn’t help in wanting to keep pushing forward.

VR technology actually feels underutilized in Syndrome, which is a shame when you consider that the game’s environments are so well suited to navigation in VR mode. Corridors are dimly lit, feel claustrophobic, and dangers can jump out at you at any second. This sensation is strengthened by the fact that you’ll hear audio cues as random intervals as well – it’s scary and foreboding, a lot like how the alien would stalk you in Alien: Isolation (which unfortunately never got a VR update).

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It’s too bad Syndrome isn’t nearly as good as Alien: Isolation, especially when you play Syndrome in VR mode. It feels like a tacked on mode rather than an integral part of the game or something that was designed from the ground up for VR. Move support isn’t included, although this would have been difficult to implement considering your ability to move around freely. I think I would have rather played an on-rails shooter in the Syndrome game world than the current survival mode though – it could have a sci-fi version of Rush of Blood that way.

As a VR nut, it felt strange to enjoy the non-VR portion of the game more – even though that’s not exactly stellar stuff either. I’d score the main game at 6/10, but since my focus was on VR and I’m writing this for VR fans, I’m knocking the score down by a point. It’s great to see a new developer embrace Playstation VR, but Bigmoon hasn’t reached its full potential yet. They’ve also announced Erased though, so we’re curious to see what that will bring – too bad it’s not out until 2019…

Score: 5.0/10

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