‘Synced’ is a Wild and Weird Online Shooter with an Evolving World

Synced, a new shooter from Level Infinite, is an intriguing take on an online world that has plans for a multi-year storyline about nanomachine mutants.
Synced game preview free-to-play online shooter

The upcoming sci-fi free-to-play shooter Synced from Level Infinite and NExT Studios has an interesting approach for building out its futuristic sci-fi online world. Much like in the vein of Destiny 2 or The Division, Synced puts you and other players in battles across various missions, multiplayer matches, and dungeon-style runs to power up and acquire new gear. As you gain new skills, you’ll amass a more extensive set of tools to face off against the growing threat of the Nanos, mutants powered up by rogue nanotechnology.

Synced does charge along a familiar path set by other online shooters, but it does have an edge when it comes to presenting a more thoughtful approach to character progression and storytelling within its planned evolving world. 

Just before its upcoming release later this year on PC, I got the chance to play an extended preview of the upcoming shooter, diving into its many missions, and spoke with narrative director Kevin Shortt about the plans to bring Synced’s multi-year storyline into focus.

‘Nanomachines, son!’ 

Set in an alternate near-future Earth following a global catastrophe called the Collapse, you take on the role of one of six Runners, mercenaries who fight against roaming mutations known as Nanos. Along with possessing advanced combat skills, the Runners also have the power to capture and control special elite Nanos, who then fight by their side. During the many missions and events within the ruined zone of Meridian, the crew of Runners will uncover how the Collapse came about and how each has ties to what occurred.

Like other online shooters, your chosen character will begin their journey in a player hub known that acts as a waypoint for different activities. This home, called Haven, is where you interact with other players and a team of allies who act as vendors, quest givers, and general supporting characters to flesh out the game’s setting and narrative. From here, you can chart your path for your Runner by taking on PvE missions – solo or in a squad of three – or PvP team battles that focus on banking resources for your team and taking out enemy players.

Image: NExT Studio / Level Infinite

The setting of Synced presents itself as a stylized and high-octane take on the incredibly trippy sci-fi film Annihilation, which saw nature and human settlements overtaken by a mysterious source of otherworldly power. According to the narrative director, that film and other trippy science-fiction were a source of inspiration in building out Synced’s world. However, they put a lot of focus on ensuring that Synced establishes its narrative through a vibe and tone instead of continuous cutscenes and exposition.

When speaking with the developers, they stated that the main story and lore of the game’s world aims to be about a larger mystery within Meridian, which will evolve the game’s planned lifespan following its launch with seasonal events. This is all with a cast of Runners who have their own backgrounds and insight into the growing Nano threat.

‘There’s a sense of mystery within this game when it comes to the Nanos and the encroaching Tyrants, and that’s really needed to pull players along this journey,’ said Shortt about the plot’s driving force. ‘We knew that if we could find and figure out what’s going on beyond just simply what happened with the Collapse and what is bubbling under the surface, then it would be a main push for players. Not just for the main story, but along with the seasons down the road – we made sure that Synced’s story has legs to keep it going for many seasons to come.’

Image: NExT Studio / Level Infinite

Runners Vs. Nanos

During my hands-on, I spent most of my time jumping into the set of PvE exploration missions known as Dead Sectors. These missions task you with mowing down Nanos and completing objectives on an open map, all while picking up loot and roguelite-style power-ups that are randomly generated upon each pickup. To add more pressure, a ‘surge difficulty’ is active on each mission, gradually filling overtime time and adding more Nanos of different tiers to fight. 

The Dead Sector missions were a great mode to showcase the core gameplay loop of Synced, which focuses on slick and snappy third-person shooting gameplay with Hero-style character abilities. Synced’s combat and core action abilities felt satisfying and stylish to see when the action was picked. Along with these abilities, the Runners can also take control of special enemy Nanos and have them fight on their side. This adds another layer of strategy, letting you decide which ally Nano best supports your hero character, and they can really let loose on foes once you give them commands.

In addition to the Dead Sectors, there were more co-op-focused story missions, similar to Destiny 2’s Strike activities. These are more guided and event-driven missions that see you face off against a boss. While I generally enjoyed playing solo, Synced’s co-op missions get very hectic and chaotic as it unfolds, which are topped off by some interesting Nano boss battles. 

Image: NExT Studio / Level Infinite

Synced gives players free rein in how they progress through the game’s narrative, which largely stays in step with how many activities players take on. It calls to mind the recent Exoprimal, which tasks you to dive into the various game modes and complete missions to unlock new intel and story beats. Along with new characters’ interactions at Haven, you can also find memory fragments – essentially audio logs – throughout the game, which will explain more about the events occurring in Meridian.

‘We wanted to make sure that you’re getting a sense of progression each time you complete a sector or any of the game’s activities; we know players are going to work through the maps that way,’ said Shortt. ‘We needed to find ways to bookend events and missions and make it clear to players that they are getting more information about the story. I feel we’ve found a good balance of how gameplay and story are married together, and when the season events kick-off, you’ll see a new cinematic that sets the new tone for what’s to come.’

Synced is certainly an interesting game coming out at an interesting time in 2023, but it’s so far shaping up to be a satisfying – if a bit familiar – multiplayer shooter. While there are certainly many online-focused action shooters that try to build their own take on that evolving game world, I found Synced’s sense of action and setting to explore to be really intriguing and exciting to dive into.

Image: NExT Studio / Level Infinite

It’s a very stylish and interesting take on a shooter, and I found Synced ended up having more charm that I anticipated. Synced might be a new shooter to keep on your radar this Summer, and it has the makings of a cool and slick shooter that offers some nice thrills for those who want to dive into a weird world of nanotechnology gone amok.

Synced is slated for release on PC sometime in 2023. You can wishlist Synced on Steam.

Alessandro Fillari is a writer/editor who has covered the games, tech, and entertainment industries for more than 11 years. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, he previously worked at GameSpot and CNET as an editor specializing in games coverage. You can find him on Twitter at @afillari