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Frozen Synapse Review

Justin Clouse | 10 Jun 2011 23:00
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Frozen Synapse is both fast enough to play back and forth with someone, but you can also "play by email" by sending you notifications when the next turn is ready. It's not unusual for you to be playing in several games at any one time, especially if you enjoy delving into the various multiplayer game modes like Extermination, Secure, Disputed, Charge and Hostage with Light and Dark variations on each. In Light you will be able to see all the enemy units, but likewise he can see yours. I found it pays to be fast and aggressive, though occasionally holding to try and catch your opponent moving while you are stationary. Dark mode is where things can get really fun though. Units are only visible if they are within line of site. Letting you try and sneak a flank attack, feint that you are heading in a certain direction or simply hide a guy around a corner in ambush. You are given grey ghost units to indicate where you last saw an enemy, and correctly guessing or predicting where your opponent's units are is one of the keys to success. When you join a game, a random map is generated and each team is given a squad of soldiers equipped with machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers or grenade launchers. Each weapon behaves differently, so you'll need to master how best to take advantage of each one. So each match is the opportunity for a new situation, forcing you to focus less on finding the best stat or item combinations and instead on actually making better tactical decisions than your opponent based on the terrain and team you've been dealt.

Honestly the developers could have stopped with just the multiplayer and had a shippable product that many would still enjoy thoroughly, but Frozen Synapse is crammed with even more elements that really combine to elevate it into greatness. On the single player side there is a 55 mission campaign in which you play as Tactics, a construct brought in to give orders to the otherwise mindless vatform soldiers. As the game describes it, they can move and shoot with the best of them, but try and give them a book and they are likely to eat it. The narrative centers around the Shape, the network that has grown in connection to become a mirror of our own reality. It's through this network that you are able to see the world and interact with your units, but there are also various factions vying for control of the Shape and the city. The AI does an admirable job of presenting you a challenge; especially when you are pit against increasingly lop sided odds. With some missions having unique obstacles or objectives to accomplish, mission ratings based on your success and many using randomized maps, the campaign is much more than a simple after thought. Between it and the skirmish generator, there is plenty of fun to be had if you are craving a quick match but don't want to play or wait for a human opponent.

Back on multiplayer are a slew of community features: from a robust ranking system to friends lists to integration of Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Some of you may recoil at social networking and media dirtying up their games, but there is something undeniable enjoyable about challenging a friend, destroying them in a match and then spreading it around for everyone else to see, like this rocket filled match I played against BabyTea a few weeks back. Letting you bask in the glow of your own tactically superior prowess or at least until that next match where they see through your flank and destroy half your squad out right.

Bottom Line: Frozen Synapse is an amazing refinement of the tactical strategy genre. It's both approachable for those new to the genre and deep enough to keep you coming back.

Recommendation: You should go buy this right now and give the included free copy to your friend.

Game: Frozen Synapse
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Mode 7 Games
Publisher: Mode 7 Games
Platform(s): PC

Available for purchase at Frozen Synapse.

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