It's here that the co-operative campaign comes into play and thankfully immediately solves some of the problems with the singleplayer component. Some of the solutions are a broadening of the feature set, such as the upping of the available breaches, and others are remedies purely borne from the structural change. The constant impatience of a multiplayer setting means there's much less of a delay between you and the action.
The most appreciated changes though are manifested in the improved level design. In Syndicate going from single player to co-operative is like going from decaf to espresso; the former staid and simple, the latter a teeth-gritting romp through missions unafraid to challenge you.
Comparing the two reveals an interesting divide, in fact. While the single player campaign boasts the most explosive and visually striking missions, the ones that are actually fun to play are located solely in the co-op campaign. Playing with up to three friends elevates even the most medium-typical content to a loftier height, it seems.
The co-op game sees more tactical and role-playing elements weave into the game too, with more passive Breach abilities for team-support actions and consistent character development across the campaign. There's character development in the singleplayer too of course, but there it's bizarrely limited to a grid of abilities from which you can choose whichever you like whenever you are semi-randomly given an upgrade point.
That the multiplayer options are limited to co-operative maps is an issue for Syndicate however, as while there's some incentive to journey back through the co-operative campaign it's frankly not something we can see providing oodles of longevity. This isn't Left 4 Dead, with shifting landscapes of enemies and random variants every time you play - this is a set level of challenge for you face off against. Complete the singleplayer, complete the co-operative and then that's it.
That's enough for some games, of course - it was for Deus Ex: Human Revolution - but for Syndicate that's not the case. The co-operative is good, occasionally great, but the single player is so lacking that it wounds the entire product when compared to competitors and nostalgia both.
What makes things worse though is that there are some glimpses of design flair at work within Syndicate; specific weapons or animations which hint at a more purposeful and intelligent game. There are weapons such as the Gauss Gun, which locks on to targets and then fires seeking bullets around corners, or the beguiling bastard voice acting of Brian Cox as he breathes life into your boss. Simple pleasures like being able to slide across floors or deactivate grenades in mid-air ring true through Syndicate regardless of how you play it.
Yet, it's ultimately not enough. Starbreeze's Syndicate fails to capture the bleakness of the future in any meaningful or lasting sense, instead choosing to sacrifice itself on the altar of blockbuster FPS. The result looks explosive at times, but it's predictable and trite under the gloss; your mission never really resonates and it's hard to come away feeling anything but bored.
It's the supreme joke, in a way: Syndicate is a game about huge corporations and has been published by one of the biggest in the business...and it fails because nearly every element of it feels designed by committee. The shooting is competent, the co-op fierce, but in a saturated market where consumers are spoiled for choice those two plus points aren't enough to recommend the entire game on.
You're better off waiting to see what the competition can come up with, because the sum total here is completely average.