As someone who solely enjoys single-player narrative-heavy games, I tend to stay away from multiplayer shooters, but after spending some time with Level Infinite and NExT Studios’ upcoming Synced, I’ve found myself reconsidering my stance and looking forward to jumping back into the cooperative looter shooter – a first for me.
Synced is set in the near future of our world, after an apocalyptic event known as the Collapse where nanomachines turned on their creators and evolved into deadly Nanos that have since decimated the world.
Runners Gotta Run
You play as one of several Runners in the game, who are tasked with venturing into the Meridian – the game’s world – to fight the Nanos and uncover the valuable nano-energy substance known as Nerva. Exploring the Meridian is done by embarking on solo or cooperative runs, which you can start from the game’s base camp, Haven.
The base is a location where you’ll interact with various characters and vendors to unlock and customise new characters, skins, and weapons. It also functions as a space to access the game’s databank and brush up on your knowledge of the game’s enemies once encountered or take a look at collectable Memories obtained from defeated Nanos that offer a deeper look into the game’s story.
When embarking on runs, you’ll have the option to complete either solo or co-op matches, which are played on refreshed maps, offering different experiences each time you play. During my two-plus hour session with the game, I began a lengthy run of the first Dead Sector – one type of game mode – and was tasked with eliminating Nanos to contain a surge and complete enough objectives to reach that run’s Tyrant, one of many powerful Nano bosses found at the end of all matches.
During the run, I explored an open map reminiscent of Bend Studios’ Days Gone – a dusty and green biome with trees, hills, rocky cliffs, and plenty of abandoned machinery and worksites to visit – and locate and cleanse six Surge Storms, swirling masses of purple storms that I could easily spot around the map.
While exploring, I uncovered safe houses with gear and upgrades, as well as multiple caches that provided me with new weapons and refreshed my ammo stock. These caches and upgrades were lifesavers as I was bombarded with numerous Nanos when reaching the Surge Storms, enemies that utilised varying attacks and came with weaknesses – some required me to attack weak glowing parts of their body to deal damage, such as their head, arms or torso.
Regular basic enemies were aplenty, along with fast scarpering insect-like Nanos, and larger Nanos that, when defeated, could be synced, which leads into the game’s core mechanic. One of the ways Synced differentiates itself from similar titles is the synchronisation ability – it’s in the name of the game, after all – where you convert an enemy Nano into an ally and use their abilities to help you on runs. There are four classes of Nanos; Crusher, Guardian, Seer, and Suppressor (Shown below), each of which comes with varying abilities and strengths.
I mostly focused on using the strong Crusher Nano during my playthrough, and I found that utilising it was essential, as I was frequently overwhelmed with enemies and larger Nano bosses. Crusher helped by distracting enemies and attacking them with its punches and slams, and together we managed to take down groups of Nanos one after the other. Defeating Nanos rewards you with Radia, the game’s currency, which can be used at electronic stalls around the map to purchase mods of varying levels for your Runner and Nano, unlocking new abilities and upgrades, such as a chance to drop explosives when reloading your gun, the ability to deal different types of damage with your Nano, unleash ricocheting bullets, and more.
After exploring the Dead Sector’s map and taking down all six Surge Storms, I was given a fresh objective to follow – a radar on my mini-map towards a crystalised Surge Formation. After reaching it, I was instructed to scan the formation before destroying it, which triggered a boss-like health bar with ongoing swarms of Nanos to fight as well as attacks from the formation as part of its final attempt for survival. Upon defeating the formation, I was then taken to the next zone, where I had to face one of the game’s many bosses – a Tyrant Nano.
Despite the Tyrant Nano’s overwhelmingly large size, the fight wasn’t overly difficult. This was partly due to the numerous mods I had equipped on both my Runner and Nano on my journey there. The fight simply required me to memorise the boss’ attack patterns and avoid them, while also fending off hordes of smaller Nanos. Eventually defeating the Tyrant Nano completed the Sector run, providing me with a range of rewards and sending me back to Haven.
With everything unlocked as part of the preview, I decided to launch a second run in the final Dead Sector but was surprised when the first large Nano I encountered slaughtered me within seconds, putting a humorous end to what was a very unsuccessful run, and allowing me to try my hands at a co-op run.
Gaming’s Better With Friends
I embarked on a co-op run with two other players, a process that started at Haven through what functioned like a friends-based invitation system. You can embark on runs with two other players to form a three-person team, each with their own companion Nanos.
The co-op run I played functioned similarly to playing solo. My team and I needed to complete a series of objectives before coming face-to-face with a Tyrant Nano at the end of the run. The co-op match I played wasn’t set in as interesting a location as the first solo match I completed, as I was instead loaded inside a large building and was made to explore it room-by-room to defeat Nanos, acquire upgrades, and purchase mods.
However, it was a pleasure working alongside other players to defeat the Nanos and complete the run. Completing each zone ended with a short tally that highlighted each player’s overall damage and placed us in a three-tiered ranking system, offering a dopamine hit if you avoided third place (I did!). It was a joy communicating with fellow players, strategising who wanted to sync with which companion Nano, and work together to take down the numerous enemies. The co-op run introduced new dangers, and culminated in a fight against a terrifying Eroder Nano, which we as a team eventually managed to defeat.
Synced also has a PvP mode, where you can fight and compete against rival Runners, but I unfortunately wasn’t able to try the mode. It’ll be interesting to see how the Nanos fit into the gameplay mode at launch as well as how the synchronisation of Nanos works – will opposing Runners rush to sync with Nanos before their opponents? And will you have to battle rival Runners while facing the same hordes of enemies?
Hitting The Ground Running?
Synced shows a lot of promise. While it was hard to get a sense of progression due to my playing with a levelled character and with all equipment unlocked, the game was an overall fun experience with a unique premise, tight controls, and fast-paced gameplay. The synchronisation mechanic helps Synced break apart from other co-op shooters, and it’s going to be great to see the unique builds players will create after launch with their Nanos and the numerous mods available.
My only concern with the game is the variety of objectives within runs and how NExT Studios will keep matches feeling fresh, although the developer has promised multiple seasons with new collectables, lore, maps, and events. The game will feature in-game purchases, but it’s currently unknown whether said purchases can be unlocked in-game or are just additional skins.
We can expect more information in the lead-up to the game’s release later this year on PC and PlayStation 5.