Synapse Preview – Feel like John Wick’s Jedi in PSVR 2

The leap in quality from PSVR to PSVR 2 has to be experienced to be believed. After you’ve finished swooning over the incredible Horizon Call of the Mountain, it feels as though the natural next step is nDreams’ Synapse, an incredible VR action game that mixes the mind-tapping secret agent antics of Inception with the telekinetic chaos of Control. How’s that feel? Like you’re a gun-toting Jedi. Which is to say, incredible.

Synapse places you in the monochromatic mindscape of big-bad Colonel Peter Conrad – played by gaming icon David Hayter – your task dropping you deep inside his memories in search of information that might help to stop the biological attack he’s orchestrating. He knows you’re in there, he can feel you moving around, and at various points during our hands-on he promised to root us out, seemingly by sending wave after wave of armed personnel that his mind has manifested in defence.

Thankfully you are not alone in your endeavour. Mass Effect’s Jennifer Hale plays your handler, guiding you with her enigmatic presence through this otherworldly setting.

This greyscale world you find yourself in is immediately arresting, with platforms and walls shifting and moving as you progress through each area. At the edges of each, the ocean of Conrad’s mind washes against the shore, and while Christopher Nolan may have provided plenty the inspiration here, it’s quite another thing to experience it in person. The world is punctuated by colour, the glowing red of the enemies and the collectible Malice proving a dangerous counterpoint to the level’s end portal and its shifting kaleidoscopic shades.

Synapse combat in PSVR 2

You have to use the skills at hand in order to survive and progress, starting with the tried and tested method of sending them back to their maker with ballistic armaments. While you start off with a pistol, our demo advanced to a semi-automatic machine gun, which had you spraying your way through a multitude of enemies. From here things become less traditional, and while your right hand handles the shooty stuff, your left controls your telekinetic abilities.

Synapse uses the PSVR 2’s eye-tracking here to impressive effect, and all you have to do is look to a moveable object, whether that’s a piece of cover, an exploding barrel, or even an enemy soldier, and grasp them with a tug of the left trigger. You can then lift them up and launch them across the scenery, preferably knocking over a batch of enemies in the process, or defending yourself from enemy fire. The barrels in particular showcase PSVR 2’s haptic triggers, with a gentle tug allowing you to carefully lift them without exploding, while a full pull crushing them, causing a face-melting explosion that’ll take any enemy with it if they’re standing too close.

Progress in Synapse is roguelike in nature, and each time you die following an attempt to access the Colonel’s subconscious, the world resets. However, you retain anything you’ve unlocked from the skill tree. Advancing through each tier is given an interesting twist, with the tokens needed to unlock new abilities placed behind a series of gameplay specific tasks, whether that’s killing enemies by throwing things at them, or achieving a certain number of headshots. It feels pleasingly organic, and it forces you to experiment with a variety of ways of playing the game.

Synapse PSVR2 Screenshot

The tech tree offers various boosts to your character, starting with the traditional increase to health or damage, through to more unique ones that cause damage to spread out from the enemy you’re initially attacking. You can also unlock boons that will appear in levels, such as a fountain that doles out health, or the ability to restock your ammunition. While we weren’t able to experiment with everything during our hands on, it feels as though Synapse is going to empower you more and more as you delve ever deeper into the Colonel’s twisted mind, and there’s a wide spread of abilities to enhance your character with.

Synapse looks and feels incredible to play. The PlayStation 5-powered visuals are exceptionally vivid, and the bursts of colour only add to the otherworldly atmosphere that nDreams have created. We came away yearning to play the full game, and for once, that’s not too far in the future.

Synapse releases exclusively for PSVR 2 on the 30th June 2023.