SYNCED Hands-on – Serviceable, But Generic Third-Person Shooter

Alessio Palumbo
SYNCED

Beyond investing in dozens of Western game studios of all sizes and types, Tencent has also done the same with a few Chinese developers, such as the Shanghai-based NeXT Studios, the one responsible for SYNCED. The third-person post-apocalyptic shooter game was first introduced at Gamescom 2019, where our then-collaborator Dave Aubrey had the opportunity to check out a playable build.

SYNCED subsequently fell off the radar for over three years, resurfacing only a couple of weeks ago with the announcement of a PC Open Beta test to be held between December 10th and January 15th, 2023. We had the chance to participate in an advance press preview event, though, playing for an hour or so and capturing a decent chunk of gameplay footage out of that session.

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SYNCED, a free-to-play game with in-app purchases, is divided into two main modes. The PvE mode Dead Sector features three players banding together to take on hostile NPCs, while the Nerva Run PvP mode sees four teams of three players (for a total of 12 players in the match) duking it out. Just like in every game of this kind, matches are launched from the safe hub aptly called Haven, where you can talk to various NPCs.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of gameplay, though, let's take a small step back to discuss what made every zone out of Haven unsafe. SYNCED imagines a future where nanotechnology is the very backbone of human society until nanomachines go crazy in the so-called Collapse event, becoming deranged death-dealing machines.

Humankind has since found a way to bind some of the nanomachines to do its bidding, though. During gameplay, defeating one of the Prime Nanos (as they are called in the game) allows you to synchronize and turn them into a very powerful companion. Players can then morph the Nano companion into one of four classes depending on their needs: Crusher, Suppressor, Guardian, and Seer. There is also a bit of flexibility in how to use them, as Nanos can either be recalled into a special device (in which case they buff the character's abilities) or deployed on the battlefield against enemy Nanos.

The other twist we found during our Dead Sector PvE runs is the existence of a few roguelike elements. You'll encounter several vending machines that offer randomized ability-boosting mods, provided you have gathered enough of the required resource. These mods only stay with your character for the remainder of the PvE run and are also reset if the run fails (if your whole team dies, basically).

Other than that, though, SYNCED largely failed to impress. The maps seem to be pretty small by today's standards; the objectives also inevitably came down to finding Surge Formations and clearing Surge Storms, which is where there is the highest concentration of Nanos. Even discussing with our colleagues who were playing in the same team, we couldn't but feel the inherent repetitiveness of the gameplay loop even just after an hour or so of playing it.

It didn't help that the shooting part was only adequate or that there didn't seem to be much of a tactic needed to succeed other than targeting the obvious weak spots. That's not to say we didn't have a modicum of fun; rather, the game didn't manage to stand out in the myriad of looter shooters currently on the market.

Even graphically, SYNCED is decent, but nothing more when compared to the average Unreal Engine game. Its environments feature a rather drab color palette, which doesn't help. Once upon a time, after the original announcement, the developers commented that ray tracing would be the standard in two or three years. It doesn't seem like they followed their own beliefs, however, because ray tracing is currently nowhere to be found.

Granted, there's a chance it may be added before the full launch. Similarly, SYNCED is listed as one of the DLSS 3 supporting games, though Frame Generation is unavailable now. There is an upscaling function, though. It is not labeled as DLSS, but it's likely to be.

You can check out the SYNCED Open Beta simply by requesting access on its Steam page. For now, based on our playtime, we reckon the studio should probably add some extra distinguishing features before launching the game.

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