Frozen Synapse Prime


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Complete Review & Description

Every piece of my logical sanity has been tested. For hours on end, a labyrinth of corridors guarded by neon soldiers has been hacking away at my brain. Every move, every second is to be calculated just perfectly to create the best-case scenario, oh but that result won’t do! Move the soldier there, but then that other guy’s vulnerable… Maybe this is my final setup? Every turn you take is a calculated risk, constantly creating cycles of second guesses, tactical sneakiness and just all out guns-blazing madness, making this turn-based shooter incredibly addictive.
Frozen Synapse Prime is a top-down sequel to the original Frozen Synapse, which in simplicity, is really just the planning phase of Rainbow 6 Rogue turned into an entire game. It’s a tactical squad-based title where you need to move your team around, issue it orders and confirm to see what happens. On each turn, the player makes his move and commits (or Primes) the unit for the real scenario. You’ll have 5 seconds to complete each turn in real-time against your opponent to see if you’ve covered your bases correctly. If you’re naturally OCD like myself, the nail biting tension as you wait for your moves to render makes for consistent satisfaction and in turn, one of the Vita’s most rewarding games I’ve ever played.

Prime features a far-reaching story-driven single-player campaign that, depending on how you play it, could keep you busy for a dozen or so hours. The cyber-punk narrative wasn’t for me, but I appreciated how Prime made a special effort to create somewhat of a story to a plot that could have easily been left faceless. Looking beyond the story, the campaign does a great job at creating unpredictable scenarios and testing your skills in semi-randomly generated arenas. A few were incredibly frustrating, but overcoming each one felt like I was unlocking further intelligence into how I could deal with certain future scenarios.
Along with the challenging singleplayer, Prime’s real gem lies within its multiplayer modes. If you’ve played the single-player campaign and picked up a couple of tricks, most battles will be a breeze. Each game will give you every tool possible to orchestrate the perfect battle, including match parameters, highly customisable maps and if you want to relive the battle glory, a replay theatre.

Before I continue, let’s go back to the era when multiplayer Chess on MSN and email-to-play was a thing. Do you remember how frustrating it was for your friend to take their turn? Hitting the ‘Nudge’ button (to shake their screen) as fast as it became available after its cool-down time? Well, thankfully Prime has implemented a system that won’t let you re-live that pain while waiting for your friend. The multiplayer menu allows you to back out and take part in multiple games while you wait for actions to complete on others. I did struggle to find battles that I saw all the way through, with players leaving halfway, or going through several where the opponent hadn’t even attempted at playing their turn after accepting the match. But that’s always the reality of the multiplayer beast. Once in-game though, it makes any efforts getting into the combat system worth it.
Every step counts in Prime, and the combat system feels a little more intuitive than it’s predecessor. Humans are infatuated with finding patterns in everything and with the previous version, running your simulation over and over would help reveal the most possible outcome, especially when playing against the AI. With Prime however, you need to take your thought process a step further and reinforce any actions you take to ensure a smooth win. The tutorial will probably take you about 25 minutes to complete, but once you’ve got yourself through the teething process and learned the difference between the Aim, Sweep and Check commands, you’ll begin to appreciate the deep well of tactics you’ve now acquired.

One thing I struggled with early on was setting waypoints and multiple actions at each point for my soldiers, mostly because things get very complicated, very fast. There’s a lot to control and almost unlimited accuracy for timing, down to the last split-second. It also allows you to feel in control of absolutely everything; I was never left wondering why something might have happened that shouldn’t have, or the outcome was significantly different to what I had expected. I either screwed up or I didn’t. The level of complexity that you’re able to apply is pretty ridiculous, but with every added instruction, thrill levels ascend and bring to life what Prime really set out to achieve as a tactical sim.
In relation to the original Frozen Synapse, Prime has seen some brand new skins, textures and a dramatic increase in polygons to soldiers and objects in the game. There’s also an added ‘killcam’ that gives you an in-world perspective for brutalities caused, which as much of a gimmick it may sound, adds a dimension of drama to the set. The controls are a good blend of physical and well-placed touch controls and were easier to get used to than I anticipated.

At first, Prime might feel like a basic combat sim, but you’ll need to delve a little deeper to really embrace everything that this game has to offer. I also highly recommend you drive yourself through the tutorials and get a hang of a few clever tactics that you’ll inevitably pick up on the way. Prime is a great point of difference from the classic run-and-gunners currently available on the Vita, and the controls fit comfortably. In total, I’ve spent more time playing Prime than any other title on my Vita, so I feel that has to stand for something.



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