Hands-On: Frozen Synapse

James is at Eurogamer Expo 2010 in London, and while he’s trying to enjoy himself at his first games showcase, he’s also trying to work and get some hands-on time. This is one of several previews of games featured at this year’s event.

One of the games that really surprised me at the Eurogamer Expo this weekend was at the Indie Section: a turn based strategy called Frozen Synapse by Mode 7 Games. It’s a squad-style turn-based shooter that’s a bit hard to explain in only a sentence or two in the opening paragraph. Allow me to elaborate.

Frozen Synapse pits you against the CPU (or another player) in a randomly generated map on what appears to be an AI simulator. Each team is given an again randomly generated squad of soldiers and your mission is (usually) to take out the opposition. This is where the game’s hook lies.

The game is largely about planning your attack and second-guessing your opponent. You can see where your opponent is (the demo I played didn’t have Fog of War but I’ve since been assured that it’s a planned addition to the game) and you have to figure out where they’re going to move so you can eliminate them effectively. These plans are broken up into 5-second intervals so that keeping up with your plans is relatively easy. Every plan can be previewed in advance so you can see it in action before confirming it as your “move”, though you can’t see what your opponent has decided to do until your move is finalised – at which point it’s usually too late.

Characters move by setting a series of waypoints on the map for them to move to, and along these paths, you can choose for them to run forward, aim and strafe if you think you may get flanked, crouch behind walls, and so on. It’s relatively simple to get the hang of and the tutorial really explains everything in a good amount of detail whilst remaining quick to go through, giving you more time to go out and enjoy the game.

There’s a lot of scope and potential for this game as both a single-player and multi-player game. As well as having modes like Skirmish, Hostage Recovery and Secure (a form of territorial capture/defend) in the current Beta, and promises of a full single-player campaign in the final release, the game could wind up being the Rainbow Six for a new generation. Although Rainbow Six’s planning only went as far as team selection, equipment and deployment position, with the rest being formed on a first-person shooter, it’s the closest comparison I can draw to Frozen Synapse’s general style and demeanour.

This will certainly be one to watch out for when it gets released in the first half of next year. Pre-ordering now will grant you access to the beta testing phase, as well as a beta key for a friend to try out the game too and play against you.  For more info and to order the game, visit the Frozen Synapse website.

By James Henderson

James grew up with a Commodore 64 at the tender age of 3, and has practically had a controller of some description stapled to his hands ever since. He also enjoys watching sports in his spare time, which makes him PXOD's de facto sports guy. He's been with Press X Or Die since June 2010.