Synced Open Beta shows massive promise | Hands-on preview

by on December 20, 2022

At first glance you’d be forgiven for assuming Synced was another Outriders-style 3rd person looter-shooter. Big dudes and skinny chicks in bulky armour, hopping from cover to cover and slinging superpowers around like toys in a sandpit. It certainly looks the part, environments greyer than a wet weekend in Margate, and little to make it stand out visually from the crowd.

Once you actually play it though, you realises that, yes, it is kind of those things, but also more. It’s a PvP/PvE hybrid shooter set in a world devastated by a nanotech-based cataclysm, now overrun with vicious nano beasts. Originally it was called Synced: Off Planet but the subtitle has since been dropped. Instead, it now refers directly to the process of syncing with a “prime nano” and turning them to your side.

Split cleanly between PvP and PvE, there’s no apparent solo mode – or at least, there isn’t in the open beta. You either go out with a team of fellow Runners to face the nano threat, or play against two other teams in a race to defeat the enemy and gather as much of the highly valuable “Nerva” as possible.

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In either case you choose from 5 available Runners, each with different abilities, and select a nano Companion who will fight beside you. When a match begins, your first objective is to take out an enemy known as a Prime Nano, who you can then sync with, creating a summonable nanobot  Companion to fight alongside you. Each Runner names the Guardian they fight with; for example, Dr. Stone refers to his Seer-class Companion as Churchill, which raised a smile.

The combination of Runner and Companion is essential to developing a specific play style that suits you, as is the weapon loadout you select. Pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, LMGs and sniper rifles are available – all customisable with performance mods and weapons skins. You’ll also have two individual Perk pools for each Runner, one for each mode. You earn mods for each in the relevant activities, and unlock them by making it out alive.

Like many PvPvE games these days, there’s an onus on getting in and getting the job done. In PvE mode, the nanos attack in an event called a Surge. You spend two phases of each mission wiping out Surges and gathering intel before the final phase pits you against a huge Tyrant boss fight. The longer you spend in each phase, the more dangerous the Surge will become, eventually reaching a 100% and draining your health for every second you’re in mission.


Shooting feels tight and reactive. Smaller nanos go down pretty easy, while Primes and Tyrants take a lot more damage. They have glowing weak points you’ll need to target to take them down, so positioning and movement are key to survival. You can tag items and locations for teammates, or communicate with emotes or voice chat to coordinate. Each Runner has a unique ability such as Dr. Stone’s healing device or Deadcut’s grenades.

In PvP you face off against two other teams of three and must push forward, claiming as much Nerva as possible before ultimately taking out the nanos and extracting. Each player has three lives, and you’ll need to find and sync with a Prime Nano to get your Companion. The Companions themselves are pretty cool. I favoured the Crusher, a massive brute that can deal huge amounts of damage fast.

Periodically you’ll come across Exchanges, where you can trade a currency called Radia for buffs that last the duration of the run. These boost damage and regen, or apply special effects to your reloads. You can also buff your Companions her, too. The catch is that you never know what upgrades you’ll get until you approach them, so they aren’t always winners.

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Currently there’s an early access battle pass in place, which rewards the premium currency and various skins, emotes, stickers, and decals. The store is live, but you can only spend this premium currency there. This is likely to change when Synced launches, but for now it’s a comfortable system that encourages completing objectives and extra jobs – given out by the various Vendors of Haven – for XP.

There’s a lot to like here, despite the fairly generic visuals. The shooting is genuinely fun, and both modes feel surprisingly well balanced for an Open Beta. The team-focused aspect stops it from feeling oppressive or overwhelming, and there’s enough here to keep you going for a while. It will need more maps and varying objectives at some point, of course, but it’s early days yet.

With weapons that pack a punch, an interesting buddy system, and fast-paced, objective-based missions, Synced is shaping up to be a very enticing prospect. It could do with a little more colour and visual flair, but it’s an enjoyable, well-crafted team shooter that’s only going to get better.

The Synced Open Beta is live now on Steam.