Synced is an extremely generous free to play looter shooter | Hands-on preview

by on August 4, 2023

I stepped firmly out of my comfort zone earlier this week to attend a hands-on with forthcoming NExT Studios’ free-to-play co-op looter shooter, Synced. It left me with my appetite well and truly whet for what is looking to be a great slice of multiplayer fun, with plenty of variables to play with and keep the action fresh and fun.

An introductory sequence sets the scene with a series of faux news broadcasts documenting the breakdown of civilisation. This world-ending event, known simply as The Collapse, was not precipitated by your usual zombies, nuclear bombs, or fungal viruses, though. This time around the rise of hostile nanotechnology is the culprit, with environments being overrun with strange technological beasts known as Nanos; their arrival signified by an eerie, crackling blue energy in the air, and a flickering, electronic glitch as they spawn into the battlefield. Synced is set in the US Pacific Northwest – now named The Meridian – a particular hotbed of Nano shenanigans.


The hook of the gameplay loop here is the fact that you are able to turn the tables on the Nanos by “syncing” with them once you defeat them in combat and employing them for your own buff-tastic ends. In the battlefield you can unleash your own personal beastie to enter the fray and start tearing shit up. It’s a bit like Pokemon, if all of your Pokemon were enormous, super intimidating giant anthropomorphic robot monsters from the future.

I had a good couple of hours getting to grips with Synced, which allowed me to experience solo play and co-op in a series of exhilarating PvP and PvE sorties. For something that is going to be released as a free title (with optional in game purchases, as you’d expect), there is a lot of customisation and different ways to play straight from the get-go. You get to select one of a diverse array of character types – known as Runners – all with distinct personalities and attributes. I spent most of my time in control of Deadcut, a wisecracking gambler who runs with a Nano companion called Ace, and can use a handy fire grenade to set his foes ablaze. I also tried the warrior Glory Zhao who can employ an evasive smoke bomb, and the enigmatic, Kris Kristofferson-looking Dr Stone, who acts as a healer class, and is intending to go to the Meridian to discover a “cure” for the Collapse.


The main aim of the Runners is to obtain precious collectible Nano energy known as Nerva, and this is accomplished in PvE by battling through various Sectors, taking out all of the Nano grunts before finally facing a boss or Tyrant Nano. You can do this in squads of three, in co-op, or on your own, and it is great fun. The weapons feel meaty and exciting to use, and the creepy enemies all have different attack patterns and weak spots to learn. There are some varied Northwest settings, but some icky underground labs and nano-riddled structures to play around in.

Capturing Prime Nanos to use for your own combat capabilities are the most fun part of the game. Their four classes all bring something different to the mix. Crusher is the brutal close-combat tanky powerhouse, Guardian the shield-holding protector, Seer a scouting ace who can loot opponents, whilst the Supressor is a powerful all-rounder. You can wield two different types and switch them on the fly in real time.


Just like other classic looter shooters, Runners can obtain resources in PvE and PvP matches to level up their character, while also unlocking powerful weapons and mods. I was even lucky enough to be boosted along a bit by NExT Narrative Director Kevin Shortt, so I could get a feel for how things can pan out when you really put some time into playing the game and gathering all the Nerva. Although I still died multiple times and had to constantly be revived by my companion, emptying all manner of crazy weapons into these techno beasts was a great time.

Elsewhere, PvP places you in direct competition with other Runners but also with a tonne of Nanos, and is a race to see who can gather the most loot before the clock runs out.

This is looking to be an extremely generous free to play title, and the devs have clearly listened to feedback from the fans after the beta. It is a game I will most definitely be playing as it satiated my love of solo play, but also tickled my fancy to dip my toe into multiplayer waters again. It’s coming to PC as you might have seen on Steam, but it will be hitting the Xbox Series S|X consoles and PS5 at some point this Summer, and I’ll be checking it out again, when I can.

Synced is coming to PC and Consoles.