SYNCED Hands-on – Serviceable, yet engaging third-person shooter

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

SYNCED then fell off the radar for over three years, and reappeared just a couple of weeks ago with the announcement of the PC Open Beta test to be held between December 10th and January 15th, 2023. We had the opportunity to take part in a pre-press preview of the event, despite playing for an hour. or so and capture a decent portion of gameplay footage from that session.

SYNCED, a free-to-play game with in-app purchases, 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 a match) take them out. Just like in every game of this type, matches are launched from the appropriately named Safe Center Haven, where you can talk to various NPCs.

Before we get into the details of the gameplay, let’s take a small step back to discuss what made each area outside of Haven so unsafe. SYNCED envisions a future where nanotechnology is the backbone of human society until the nanomachines go crazy in a so-called meltdown event, becoming deformed death-dealing machines.

Humanity has since found a way to oblige certain nanomachines to do their bidding. During the gameplay, defeating one of the Prime Nanos (as they are called in the game) allows you to sync them up and turn them into a very powerful sidekick. Players can then transform Nano’s companion into one of four classes according to their needs: Crusher, Suppressor, Guardian, and Seer. There is also some flexibility in how they are used, as Nanos can either be summoned into a special device (in which case the character’s abilities are enhanced) or deployed on the battlefield against enemy Nanos.

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Another twist we’ve found throughout the Dead Sector PvE rounds is the presence of a few roguelike elements. You’ll encounter several vending machines that offer random ability-enhancing mods, provided you’ve collected enough of the required resources. These mods only stay with your character for the rest of the PvE run and are also reset if the run fails (if your entire team dies, basically).

Other than that, SYNCED largely fails to impress. The maps look pretty small by today’s standards; The goals also came deterministically in finding the eruption formations and clearing the eruption storms, where there is the highest concentration of nanoscales. Even while discussing with colleagues who were playing on the same team, we couldn’t help but feel the loop’s inherent repetition even after an hour or so of playing.

It didn’t help that the firing part was just right or there didn’t seem to be much tactics needed to succeed other than targeting obvious weaknesses. That’s not to say we didn’t have a modicum of fun; Instead, the game just didn’t manage to stand out from the countless stealth shooters currently on the market.

Even graphically, SYNCED is decent, but nothing more than that when compared to the average Unreal Engine game. Its environments have a somewhat 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. However, they don’t seem to have followed their own beliefs, since ray tracing is currently nowhere to be found.

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Granted, there is a chance it will be added before the full launch. Likewise, SYNCED is listed as one of the DLSS 3-supporting games, although Frame Generation is now unavailable. However, there is a function to upgrade. It’s not classified as DLSS, but it probably is.

You can check out the SYNCED Open Beta by simply requesting access on its Steam page. For now, based on our playtime, we think the studio will likely add some additional premium features before the game goes live.

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