Published on July 22nd, 2023 | by Gareth Newnham
Synapse (PSVR2) Review
Summary: Synapse is a superb shooter that uses the PSVR2s capabilities to the fullest extent possible.
Live. Die. Repeat
Synapse is an exhilarating roguelike shooter that makes superb use of the PSVR2’s features and is another must-have for Sony’s shiny new VR rig.
The best way to describe Synapse is Inception crossed with The Rock by way of Superhot, with psychic powers.
You play as a special agent who has to stop a terrorist attack by diving into the mind of a rogue Colonel in a coma while being guided by your handler.
Synapse features some top draw voice talent, with David Hayter and Jennifer Hale trading barbs as you delve deeper into the Colonel’s mind, and the plot is gradually revealed. It’s simple, effective, and mostly window dressing for the explosive action on screen.
If you’ve ever played a roguelike FPS before, you’ll know exactly what to expect. You make your way through a series of maps while gunning down waves of increasingly powerful enemies.If you die, you start again from the beginning with your progress reset.
You begin each run with a pistol and your basic telekinesis abilities that let you pick up blocks and blow up barrels with mind bullets.
As you progress through each level, you unlock a series of buffs and upgrades that do all kinds of fun things like making the last shot in your weapon a grenade, curving bullets towards enemies, as well as simple boosts to your damage and defense and more powerful weapons like shotguns and submachine guns.
The real star of Synapse, though, is the moment-to-moment gameplay, which is absolutely stellar. Gunplay is refined and fun, while your evolving psychic abilities help create an incredibly satisfying power fantasy that eventually lets you toss enemies around like rag dolls, blow up barrels in their faces, and beat them to death with the environment.
This is facilitated by excellent use of the PSVR2’s eye-tracking, which lets you select what you want to control with a simple glance. Then with a quick squeeze of the right trigger, you can then grab and chuck cover away from enemies and later the enemies themselves, or you can lightly hold down the adaptive trigger to hold explosives or pull it all the way down to crush and detonate explosive barrels in your invisible hand.
Though the levels themselves are fairly drab, the enemies and the parts of the environment you can interact with pulse with a neon light that makes it easy to keep track of enemies as well as what parts of the environment you can use to dispatch them.
After a couple of runs and a few permanent upgrades, it’s easy to get into a proper flow, and you feel like a God as you tear your way through anything that gets in your way. Grabbing a grunt and flinging them 20 feet in the air always feels satisfying, and it was this gleeful sense of mayhem that kept me coming back for one more go, time and again.
Though there is a fairly small selection of enemies, and unlike many roguelikes, the levels aren’t procedurally generated, Synapse avoids becoming repetitive due to a clever upgrades system that rewards carrying out certain actions with skill points.
These range from simple things like completing levels or killing a certain amount of different enemy types to more complicated maneuvers like using crates as cover, blowing up several enemies at once, or slamming a certain number into the environment.
These challenges force you to change up the way you approach each run a little and reward you handsomely with new weapons, powerful permanent upgrades to your psychic abilities as well as boosts to your health, and extra starting cash to help you snatch up more optional upgrades during each run.
Synapse is a fun and engaging shooter with tight mechanics that does a brilliant job of making you feel like an absolute badass.
Though David Hayter and Jennifer Hale may be a little wasted on the fairly forgettable narrative, satisfying and stylish moment-to-moment gameplay will have you diving back in until the wee small hours for just one more run.