Synthetik: Ultimate began its life on PC to high acclaim. Favouring realistic, methodical gun mechanics over high-speed action, it’s a relatively fresh take on the roguelite genre, albeit one that feels a tad unpolished at times. There’s no doubt that Synthetik: Ultimate has a mighty steep hill to climb when competing with the likes of Hades and Dead Cells, but if you’re after something a bit different, then this might just be the game for you.
Displayed from a top-down viewpoint reminiscent of classic Metal Gear titles, you play as one of eight different character classes with a vague goal of reaching the top of a structure called the ‘Citadel’, each class granting you with a specific loadout. The menu interface when loading up the game is frustratingly fiddly, relying on a slow-moving cursor to pull up the necessary information, with text that’s just a hair away from being too small when playing in handheld mode.
Thankfully, once you’re spawned into the game itself, the gameplay is immensely satisfying. The controls are typical of twin-stick shooters, with a reticle present to assist with your aiming; naturally, the reticle expands and retracts depending on your speed of movement, and standing completely still is often necessary to pull off your shots with pinpoint accuracy. You also have special abilities linked to your chosen character class, and your overall stats also vary, including speed and defence. As you progress, you’ll find plenty of items to assist you, and the weapon variety is particularly impressive.
What sets Synthetik: Ultimate apart from other twin-stick shooters is its focus on realistic gun mechanics. We’re all used to manual reloading in games with a simple tap of a button, but Synthetik takes it one step further, requiring you to manually eject your empty magazine with ‘L’ before loading a fresh one with ‘ZR’, implementing an active-reload mechanic to speed up the process. It forces you to rethink how you reload – particularly if you’re a seasoned player of shooting titles – as manually reloading too often can result in plenty of wasted ammo.
In addition to the reloading mechanic, all of your weapons can jam at random intervals, and you’ll need to fix this by rapidly tapping the firing button. This sounds like an absolute nuisance, but thankfully it doesn’t happen too frequently, and resolving the issue takes just a couple of seconds. Of course, should you wish to disable these mechanics entirely, you can. The game features fully customisable difficulty settings in which you can add or remove certain parameters to your liking. Doing so will increase or decrease your reward yield respectively, so it’s recommended that you play around with it to see what suits your play style.
As with any roguelite, Synthetik: Ultimate requires an abundance of playthroughs in order to progress further into the game. Its overall length very much depends on your own commitment, but the strong gameplay is more than enough incentive to keep coming back, despite the poor menu system and less-than-stellar graphics. The addition of an Arena mode on top of the main ‘Citadel’ mode is welcome, though it doesn’t offer anything particularly new, so you’ll likely just stick to the main mode.