Syndrome Preview | MOUSE n JOYPAD

Horror is a difficult genre to master. Hell, it’s a difficult genre to do even half-way well. There aren’t many great horror games that have been released over the last few years (and no, I do not count Five Nights at Freddie’s as a good horror game), there have been some exemplary titles but most of the time all we can hope for is something that will give us the odd jump scare. Creative Assembly proved that the horror genre is still alive with Alien Isolation, a game that gave me the closest physiological disorder to PTSD that it is possible to get from a video game. As I got a brief hands-on with Syndrome, the new title from the deceptively cheerily logoed Camel 101, I have to admit that I got the old feeling of being watched, hunted and completely at the whim of events that are out of my control.


The lighting is spectacular.

The brief section of the game that I had access to is just a snippet of what I think we can expect from the full release. The gameplay began with my character waking up from cryosleep to a seemingly empty space ship. The gameplay saw me activating some of the ships systems with no real idea of what was going on. Most of my roaming aboard the sphincter-tightening ship seemed fairly uneventful… until it wasn’t. Syndrome is going back to the theory of horror where you are responsible for your failings, but any victory is simply a brief reprieve. Codes to open doors are not automatically saved and when you come to a keypad you will have to type the number in yourself. The gameplay doesn’t stop when you interact with things in the world and I can just imagine trying to summon up the dexterity to type in an access code as something terrifying comes my way.

There are a few aspects that I really want to talk about. First of all, this was a preview build and anything in the game may well change but even with an unfinished product I was astounded by the art design. I don’t have a powerful rig so I did have some choppy moments of frame rate drop and the odd crash, but that has no bearing on the game that seems to be moulding itself around some very primal fears.


This looks innocent enough…

The art design is fantastic with environments that clearly take inspiration from Alien, exposed pipework and random debris from the goings-on are looking to build a story. Some of the corridors are wide expanses but the feeling of claustrophobia never quite left me in the couple of hours that I played the game. In a perverse way, open areas often exacerbated my already racing pulse. This comes down to some of the best lighting effects I have seen in a First Person game. Drifting smoke and steam seem to create backdrops and blocks in the play area that I could feel ghostly spectres and monsters moving around me, just out of sight. Speckles of dust on the PoV camera adds a lot of weight to what is already a very brooding and sinister environment. I really can’t praise the lighting effects enough, and I don’t mean “for a preview”, I judge it by the merits of how awesome it is in its own right.

The sound design is just as good. Walking through the unsettling and still environment had me looking over my shoulder (in search of my stuffed penguin that I use for comfort in these situations). Echoing footsteps started to become a constant companion, when out of nowhere the clatter of something falling sent me spinning around searching for a threat. Most of the time, there was no threat but the anxiety never diminished.

Surviving crew members are paranoid and will radio you telling you not to trust the other groups, all the while assuring you that THEY are being honest. I’m not sure how this will tie into the end product but it will certainly be interesting to find out. I hope that there will be some choice based gameplay that will either gratify your decision to trust a certain person or make you curse your lack of paranoia. It will be interesting to see how deeply this will factor into the gameplay.


You say I can play this in VR? No thanks!

In the preview section that I got to play there was a fair amount of backtracking, partly because I missed obvious vents that I needed to crawl through or I was simply getting caught in the atmosphere and took the path of least resistance (or fewer dismembered body parts but I suppose that amounts to the same thing). Repetition is the nemesis of horror. Repetition breads familiarity and familiarity beckons complacency, there are ways to counter this downward spiral of adrenaline sapping tedium: P.T. used the familiarity of the environment in a way that was almost grotesque by deviating from the norm just as the player started to feel confident. If Syndrome can pull off a similar trick then it may not be an issue at all. I just hope that Camel 101 are able to make the backtracking process less monotonous and instead make it work for the unsettlingly scary game that they are in the midst of spawning.

Syndrome is VR compatible although I didn’t get the chance to witness the VR in action, partly because I didn’t have any VR equipment to hand and partly because I think it may have genuinely killed me. I can’t imagine a more terrifying concept than placing a VR headset over my eyes with Syndrome running. If Camel 101 pull it off, I can see the cult of VR having a new and unique king of horror to gaze upon.

But don’t take my word on it, check out the gameplay at the bottom of this article and decide for yourself.

Syndrome still has a month of development time and I hope that Camel 101 keep up the impressive pace they have set in creating what could be one of the truly impeccable horror titles to join the ranks of the greats. Syndrome is due to release on July 1st and will release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

For more on Syndrome make sure you check back regularly. Let us know what you think in the comments!