Frozen Synapse

Frozen Synapse is a simple arena style tactical game with a simultaneous turn based interface. There’s a single player story based campaign and a ranked multiplayer game, both which revolve around completing an objective in an office-like map with your team of gunners.

The simultaneous turn based mode is probably not for some, but it leads to some very tense games. It works by both players issuing orders to their team, and when they’re done the next 5 seconds of orders play themselves out in realtime. The orders are issued from a single menu, but are surprisingly detailed – you can time your movements exactly how you need to without needing to learn a programming language to do it. The game features a sort of rehearsal button to play out in advance the orders you’ve given, and handily you can even issue test orders to the enemies to try to predict what they might do.
Once you commit to your orders (and once the other guy does in MP), the turn plays itself out exactly as ordered. All you can do is sit on the edge of the seat and hope that your predictions are right. It works nicely, being very satisfying when you pull off a kill, and amusing when your opponent gets one over on you.
I’ve not played all the game modes yet, but they’re pretty interesting and customisable, although every invitation you get will be for a fog-of-war deathmatch (and you’ll get a lot).

Sights and Sounds
The graphics are very stylised, representing a kind of virtual overview of what’s happening in the real world. Despite this the animations are lovely and the spurts of claret from a well placed sniper’s bullet are a nice contrast to the blue maps (and also give their position away). The ambient music is also very good, not intrusive but rather atmospheric.

Stuff that sucks
The single player campaign could be offputting. The story is told in little click-by-click dialogue boxes and doesn’t make a lot of sense, referring backwards and forwards to various cryptically named organisations. I skipped through almost all of it. Playing against the AI can also be frustrating without a human opponent to share a laugh with, especially since it can be bloody hard. Lastly, there’s not a huge amount of variety, and so its replay value might suffer pretty quickly

For a quick game every now and again it’s great. The old cliche ‘easy to pick up, difficult to master’ is true here, and that makes it compelling as your mistakes drive you to just one more go. In multiplayer it’s great, getting the drop on your opponent with an unpredictable tactic – especially if you can hear their ‘noooooo!’ on TS. The tactical side of things is detailed and the gameplay tense. I think it might not be for everyone, and the jury is out on how long you’ll be playing it for, but the game at its heart is very enjoyable.

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