back to article Bullfrog Syndicate

Bullfrog’s innovative titles gave me some of my best 1990s gaming memories. Who could forget Populous and Dungeon Keeper? The pre-cyberpunk aesthetic of Syndicate mesmerised me and gave us Agent Smith before anyone had even heard of The Matrix. This game isn’t complex but as long as I have a Persuadertron, I am going to do well …


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  1. Lottie
    Thumb Up

    Thank you

    I was hoping you'd review this game. Possibly one of the best games I've ever played. It was so engrossing.

    I wonder how many weeks of my life I lost to this and to Fallout...

    1. Inachu

      No review of Bullfrog Syndicate 3D??????

      I played both but the one in this review was the best as the 3D one always crashed no matter the hardware/CPU type....even 15 years later!

      My first time playing though was on AMIGA 500.

      I'll play it tonight sicne I read about it hehe.

      I got to the very end and its soooooohard!

  2. phuzz Silver badge

    Just one?

    Persuade just one of the NPcs to follow? Where's your ambition?

    Once you're upgraded a bit you can pretty much persuade everyone in a town, cap a few guards to get some weapons and soon enough your agents will be surrounded by a mob of helpful citizenry :)

    On the downside, there's a remake of this supposed to be on the way, I smell an XCOM style miss coming :(

    1. David Dawson

      I seem to remember

      Persuading a bunch of enemy agents as well making the most lethal conga line in the world. probably.

    2. killercow

      The Pacifist's Toolkit

      If I remember rightly, you could actually end up beating most levels by just pursuading the whole town ... citizen, guards, police and the enemy agents! No one was immune to the persuasive powers of this fantastic tool! If you focussed research on upgrades like shields, body armour and legs those enemy agents could only pop one or two shots at you before you had them under your influence! Nothing a couple of medikits couldn't fix - and any enemy agents you pursuaded joined your ranks (and you could sell the equipment they came with - more cash!)

      Great game, a top 5 entry from my childhood!

  3. McBread
    Thumb Up

    Top choice.

    A brilliant, underappreciated game. Personally I loved using the Persuadertron to build the largest possible massive swarm of cannon fodder.

    The only thing missing was the ability to rotate the world by 90 degree increments. I played a demo of the follow up, but the move to 3D killed the feel of the game. A modern day recreation, sticking with isometric but throwing in multiplay would surely be a blast?

    1. Inachu


      I played the full version and yeah it was a waste of money and the original was best.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    I'm really not convinced you should be pointing readers to legally questionable material. Abandonware, such as it is termed, is not free for download legally, unless there is a statement somewhere to the effect that it is being made freely available for download. Right now it's questionable, even if you actually own the PC version of the game you're downloading (if you own, say, the Amiga version it's not actually OK to just download the PC version of it.)

    The game is still owned by EA, and while some of EA's works have been made legally available to purchase from GoG, Syndicate (and Syndicate Plus) are not among them, and having such sites do damage the agreements that are made in order to get things legally available through GoG and similar places.

    1. Thomas 4

      Fair enough

      You tell us where we can legally buy a brand new copy of Syndicate and we'll buy it. Otherwise, please feel free to enjoy a nice warm mug of STFU.

    2. Dapprman

      Assuming EA still have the source code

      If EA still have the code then you do have a valid argument, but if not, then they're not losing money through the site in the main topic. And trust me old titles do get deleted - I know from direct contact that Ubisoft deleted most the back catalogue of Blue Byte Games (I was trying to track down a replacement copy of Historyline 1914-18 for the PC and approached them to find out where I could get/buy a copy from) and the same could be possible for the Bullfrog titles.

    3. Cameron Colley

      Doesn't matter whether you can buy it, or if anyone has the source code.

      Without the express permission of the copyright holder it is not legal to distribute it.

      Personally, I have no problem with people making it available -- but it doesn't matter what we think, the law is the law.

      1. Rattus Rattus

        re: "Without the express permission of the copyright holder it is not legal to distribute it."

        And who really gives a shit about the copyright holder's permission? Especially when the holder in question is EA. People want it, the copyright holder isn't distributing it. Therefore people will find their own ways of obtaining it.

        1. Thomas 4


          I always gave a shit about Bullfrog. They were based just down the road from me in Guildford and I used to daydream as a teenager about playtesting for them one day, given the awesome games they put out: Syndicate, Theme Park, Magic Carpet, etc.

          I couldn't give a flying f*** about the ungodly amorphous blob known as EA.

  5. yossarianuk

    Another example Amiga genius

    One of my favourite Amiga games!

    Avoid the dos version as it isn't as good... (like all games in those days)

    1. lpopman
      Thumb Up

      titular memories

      Amiga for the purist, most definitely. Must dig out my Amiga, I have a WHDLoad install of it raedy to play :)

      1. Anonymous Coward



    2. Def Silver badge

      Re: Another example Amiga genius

      The 'not as good' DOS version was the lead platform for the game (which was written in C, so the only 'difference' was in the actual hardware interfacing - the actual game code was identical on all the computer formats). I believe the console versions were rewritten substantially to fit the controller better, but I could be wrong. The DOS version ran far faster and smoother than the Amiga version, and all at (back then) high resolution - 640-400 iirc. The Amiga version actually only rendered about 190 pixel lines due to the fact the machine wasn't powerful enough to render even 200 lines.

      Overall though, a most excellent game that will always bring back good memories - not just of the game, but also of the good times I spent at Bullfrog working with genuinely nice and extremely talented people.

  6. juice Silver badge

    Bring on the Minigun...

    Ah the joys of building up a mini-army of cyborgs and equipping them all with miniguns; it was like controlling your own Terminators...

    From what I recall, Syndicate wasn't particularly hard to complete, but the American Revolt expansion pack didn't increase the difficulty: it flew it up to the top of Mount Everest and surrounded it with nuclear landmines. I can remember taking my squad of top-line, fully equipped enforcers into the first mission and watching them turn into a fine red mist about twenty seconds in...

    Then there was Syndicate Wars, which I never really got into at the time (my PC wasn't powerful enough), though I recall it looked pretty stunning for a first-gen 3D game. I've got the PSX version sitting around somewhere... I'll have to slap it into the PS3 at some point!

  7. frankgobbo
    Thumb Up


    Oh man, one of the best games I ever played. I adored it! I was around 13 at the time it came out, just got a new PC.. my mother hated this game :)

    As others have said, ending up with a complete army of zombie followers was terrific. If your powers were strong enough you could pick up cops, anything. I think the mission in NSW (Australia) which involves killing all the corrupt cops I made it my mission once that, aside from killing every enemy agent, I would 'pursuade' every single other person on the map including the police to join me.

    I'd love to see a remake, but of the classic version. Isometric, but with the ability to spin the world perhaps. Not first person...

    Would just be awesome.

    1. Adrian Esdaile
      Thumb Up

      Corrupt cops? NSW, Australia?

      What on earth gave them the idea that Australia, especially NSW is full of corrupt cops? Oh, hang on....

      Thank you for reminding me of this brilliant level, I love games that have a nice little laugh at the real world around them.

      (Far Cry 2, anyone?)

      1. Thomas 4


        The Alaska level was my favourite - A heavily defended fort, with multiple options for infiltration. The Atlantic Accelerator level was a nightmare though. Oo

  8. Danny 5
    Thumb Up


    oh god how i played this game to bits. a fantastic take on what basically an RTS game.

    the massive crowd forming around you once you've "persuaded" enough people was always a highpoint in the game.

  9. BarryMc

    Syndicate runs deep in my gaming DNA

    I loved this game so much on my Amiga. Lost a lot of time playing this. Loved every minute of it.

    If I'm honest, I'm still looking for that buzz.

  10. Frostbite
    Thumb Up

    Fantastic Game

    Just bring it back to PC untouched and I'd be happy.

  11. Jules75
    Thumb Up


    Good feature and I look forward to more retro-reviews!

  12. Fred Mbogo


    An isometric remake of the game is highly unlikely my retrogame colleague. Apparently the powers that be decided that isometric, turn-based, non-multiplayer games are not profitable.

    A remake of Jagged Alliance with better graphics but still iso and turnbased would be cake. Hell, add multiplayer if you want to (the Bear's Pit crew has a kludgy, barely working version on their 1.13 patch).

    Its freaking idiotic, everybody is just looking to make their own Call of Duty clone. Look what they did to the Fallout franchise. They turned it into a bloody, click-pause based shooter!

    The PC game industry's thinking baffles me. They keep rehashing the same bullshit titles and genres, and then are surprised when people don't want to buy that garbage. Then they blame pirates for their losses. I don't deny that pirates do cause losses but those losses are inherent to the business.

    I wish there was a non-idiotic publisher willing to fund a remake market. I don't CARE if they don't reinvent the wheel and release the same game. Gimme good graphics, add multiplayer if applicable but please don't frankenstein the game into another genre, make it moddable and you'll see a healthy, appreciative fanbase.

    1. AdamWill

      not turn-based

      syndicate isn't/wasn't turn-based, it is/was real-time. It could be multiplayer too - I don't recall if that was ever a feature of the original, but it's obviously something that would work.

  13. CockKnocker

    Please oh please

    Will someone re-make this game, it was awesome. I check every few months to see if there is a re-make in the works but alas I am left wanting. A re-make of Frontier Elite would be fekkin aweseme as well, Oh and Canonfodder!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Awesome Game

    There is also a reimplementation of this in the works under GPL, the project is here:

  15. CD001

    You utter bastards

    You realise I've been playing X-Com until the wee small hours of the morning a LOT recently after you'd reminded me how great it was the the last article... DON'T make me try and find Syndicate now as well :P

  16. Bunker_Monkey


    Bring on the Gauzz gun! Or was that the sequel so heavily played on the PS1?

    I started throwing ideas around for a movie, based on the look of Bladerunner\Alien2 starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Christopher Walken & Clint Eastwood in the drenchcoats...

    Mines the one with the weapons arsenal in the pocket..

    1. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Gauss gun

      Yes the Gauss gun was in the original syndicate, just dont fire it too close or you will kill your own agents.

      As someone mention the American revolt additional missions took difficult game play to a whole new level. I believe the Amiga and PC versions of American revolt were slightly different with the PC version having Air strikes as a new weapon where the Amiga version didn't. I remember the Amiga version used to give you the cheat in the instruction manual to get all weapons and body armour as they said it was almost impossible to complete American revolt without doing that.

      I think its time to fire up WinUAE and play this again. I still have the original Amiga disks up in the attic somewhere.

  17. James Micallef Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Ah, the many hours...

    ...spent on this first on Amiga and later on PC when my Amiga (sadly) died. Syndicate proudly holds the no.1 spot in my list of "Reasons I didn't do as well as I could have at school". Was that the right trade-off, looking back at it from the point of view of my older and wiser self? Hell, Yeah!

    What I loved about it was the tactical variety. Just as I believe my team of highly-upgraded mingun-toting squad is as kick-ass as it could be, I get my ass kicked by something unexpected. Biggest WTF? moment was the level where all the agents are equipped with long-range rifles. It was pretty easy to win with shields, but the sheer unexpected horror of seeing my crack team picked off at will was one of the things making the game so special.

    And of course, 'persuading' citizens, flamethrowers, hovercars, organised crime, cyborgs.... what's not to like ?

  18. Ben Norris

    in my day, sonny...

    Where has all the creativity gone? Games of today arn't even a shadow of classics like theme hospital, syndicate or dungeon keeper.

    1. AdamWill

      you're clearly...

      ...playing the wrong games.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    war techniques

    I've played this game over and over. One of my favourite technique was to crank the tax to 100% after I've conquered a bit of land, but only for the countries you conquer at the beginning. That way, you get wicked money and if they revolt (and they will) you can easily redo the mission. For instance, the Western Europe mission (the first) is a matter of sending a single agent with a minigun to kill the dude and as a bonus, take the hidden weapon for resale.

    Once the money problem is taken care of, you can upgrade your men at a more rapid pace and finish the game in no time. Also, don't bother putting v2 body parts on your men. Equip them all with v1, research like a mad man, and then go straight to v3, one entire man at a time.

    Finally, there is nothing wrong with sending just one agent on many of the missions. It's easier to handle and harder for them to track you.

  20. dpGoose

    I've been persuaded to enter a title

    Joystiq posted about a possible remake a little while ago.

  21. RedRichie

    Loved Syndicate

    I was hoping this article was going to herald that the game had been re-released for iOS or Droid.

    Oh well.. hope springs eternal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      hmm, remakes or...?

      anybody had a go with DosBox?

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Yep, works fine in DOSBox

        There are some problems with your post.

        The post is required, and must contain letters.

  22. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Syndicate wars and magic carpet

    Were my 2 favourite bullfrog games. SW for the pedestrians running in terror and magic carpet for the 1st gen top class accelerated graphics. The game that sold a million pentiums (or was it p2's)

    I still chuckle when the woosh sound effect from MC turns up on a 90's thriller or TV movie.

  23. ttuk

    A-z and/or 0-9

    yes fantastic game..

    I used to like holing my agents up somewhere safe and pulling all their drugs down to the minimum for a while, this giving the advantage then you could then go.. right.. time to fuck things up, put all the drugs up to the max (and they would stay there for ages since you'd lowered them before) and march into a massive fire fight.. (with a horde of zombie cannon fodder too)

    cannon fodder also worth a mention as an example of a game that took part of the idea and made a cool fun arcadey style title from it

  24. Nick Davey
    Thumb Up


    The happy mispent days of my youth. I don't know about anyone else but the graphics still don't look all THAT bad for a game almost 20 years old...damn that makes me feel old now.

  25. defiler

    One agent, every mission

    My preferred tactic was just to leave the agents in the freezer. Take one, and tool him/her up as far as I could afford. Then take on the mission. 5 shields could give you a constantly-recharging defence, and by the time you needed that there were miniguns strewn around the streets.

    Atlantic Accelerator with only one agent was surprisingly easy. I even completed the AA without firing a single shot once. And no Persuadatron.

    Welcome to the dawning of a new empire!

  26. Peladon


    I hate this series. Mostly because, um, I love this series. But I'm old. And it gets me thinking of game Whatevertheheckitwas that I played when Adam was a lad, and now can't remember.

    Never mind find. Or play :-P.

    My current bug-bear? A game where you played either America or Russia, and used 'influence' to shore up governments or, um, 'revolutionary groups' to either support your interests in an area or simply impede the computer opponent's. Interestingly, right up front the manual said things like 'you may find it useful and in your interests to support groups who oppose you if they make a country less stable - then you can take it over'.

    Rats. Now I have to start racking my brain again :-P.

  27. Chris Griffin 1

    Ruined everyone elses day!

    Im sitting in a pub beer garden, having a beer, just catching up on some reading...... Then i get to your article! I think it took less than 2mins to go from reading the last line of text and loading up dosbox. Then the next thing you know im cheering like a lunatic as i shotgun my way through the first 2 zones as the rest of the pub looks at me like im nuts. A quick pause for another pint. Then my brain screams BRUTAL SPORTS FOOTBALL!!!!!! A quick search and its found. Now there are 4 lunatics screaming in a pub beer garden as we drop kick each others gooolies off the pitch. Other patrons have not got a clue.

    I have to state I am an Amiga codger, and i love Syndicate but it had been forgotten from my little mind until now, THANK YOU EL-REG!

  28. JDX Gold badge


    Such a brilliant game. I spent years waiting for a sequel and then SW was rubbish. I would so love a proper remake using proper 3D.

    My personal favourites included:

    - trying to get 200 people into a car

    - trying to run over 200 people in a car

    - a weird bug which let your ghost take control of a vehicle

    - Gauss gun!!!!!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Great Game

    I'm not sure if I'm getting crossed wires with another game but I swear you could fit the entire group of persuaded followers into your car with you. I also remember that it used to slow my Amiga quite a bit as you then exited the car followed by hundreds!

  30. Adrian Esdaile
    Thumb Up

    Which century?

    " set in a dystopian 22nd century. Organised crime has infiltrated all business and politics."

    Funny, that sounds more like the early 21st Century to me.

    Syndicate was one of the truly great games - it always made me think of Bladerunner's aesthetic.

  31. Z80

    Ahh, great memories...

    I had this on my Amiga 1200. It really flew after I installed a 28MHz 68030 upgrade card - it made scrolling over to the other side of the city when one of your crew came under attack much quicker.

    I remember doing drive-bys from those funky little cars you could hijack and I once bazookad a monorail train just for the hell of it.

    There were a few bugs I think in the Amiga version at least. I'm sure there was one mission which involved capturing something or other from inside a seriously well defended building - I managed to nab it from up on the roof above the object when it mysteriously appeared on the outside.

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