Frozen Synapse 2
Taking control of a security force tasked with eliminating a sentient AI, Frozen Synapse 2 sees you battle your way through isometric maps, while planning, testing and routinely reworking your combat strategy. After deploying your troops, you issue a series of intricate commands to each individual soldier, giving them orders to move into position, shoot at or ignore enemies, or duck for cover. These delightfully tactical turnbased encounters take place in increments of five seconds, meaning that acute attention to detail and meticulous execution is the order of the day.
Fortunately, you’re granted the gift of foresight for concocting your segmented plan of attack: you can issue endless orders to your units and watch the resulting scenarios without having to commit until you’re satisfied with the outcome. When you’re done daydreaming about how useful that function would be in real life, you can use it to save hapless soldiers who’ve unwittingly fallen foul to a hail of enemy gunfire, or get your soldiers into position to pull off the perfect shot. As long as you remain undetected, you can even see enemy movements; open fire or get spotted, however, and the opposition’s manoeuvres are reduced to educated guesswork involving trial and error tactics.
Each soldier specialises in a particular weapon, the type of artillery on hand having a vast impact on how you approach the situation at hand. Shotguns have the benefit of added accuracy, but lack the range of SMGS, while knives offer a stealthier approach and grenade launchers can be used to take down walls and create new paths to the opposition.
While this second instalment does little to evolve the gameplay ideas established in the 2011 original, the excellent combat and tactical depth, backed up by a crisp interface and some seriously stylised graphics, keep the formula feeling fresh throughout the newly added single-player campaign. Set in Markov Geist, a cyberpunk city run by an intriguing bunch of rival organisations and plagued by terrorist group Sonata, the narrative, while not overly investing, does offer a sense of purpose and added depth to the world.
When you tire of battling armies of AI opponents, there’s also a robust multiplayer on offer to test your tactics against other payers. The unpredictability of human opponents makes for vastly more thrilling and memorable encounters compared to playing alone. A variety of different modes greatly extends the game’s lifespan, including ‘One Turn’, a mode in which you must complete the objective in a single round to achieve victory.
More casual strategy enthusiasts may be put off by Frozen Synapse 2’s overwhelmingly considered approach to conflict, but the game’s slow pace and second-by-second execution of the perfect strategy can make for a thrillingly tense experience that’s far more satisfying than simply mindlessly mowing down wave after wave of enemies.
above: The neon red and green of the opposing forces against the dark backdrop sees shootouts imbued with an unembellished, yet undeniably slick and distinctive, visual style, backed up by a euphoric soundtrack that perfectly fits the game’s futuristic design.
above: When not dealing with a Sonata incursion, you can take on various contracts. These include tasks such as setting up checkpoints, delivering items and infiltrating buildings. The funds from these allow you to purchase new units to expand the might of your military force.
Xcom: enemy unknown