Singularity is also a game that wears its influences on its TMS (that’s ‘Time Manipulating Sleeve’). Half-Life and BioShock are two of the most obvious, and are evident in a lot of the things the game does. While collecting recordings that flesh out the plot a bit and upgrading your TMD at the various upgrade stations strewn about the island, you wouldn’t be blamed if you expected to hear a Big Daddy’s drill bursting through a crumbling wall. The Half-Life comparison becomes apt anytime you enter one of the games really well done set piece battles, which are almost always huge and epic. There are even some decent scares scattered throughout the game that are as organically scary as Dead Space. Singularity easily stands on its own by offering good gunplay and a well paced plot that offers multiple ending scenarios, so it certainly isn’t a negative that it has taken some influence from a few of the better games of the last decade, but some people may be a little bit surprised to see just how obvious those influences are. It’s better that it can be compared to Half-Life instead of something like Daikatana though, so I see no problem with it.
The actual problem is that Singularity just doesn’t do enough with its own potential. It takes some of the best parts of some great games and ends up creating an original experience and atmosphere out of it, sure, but the first few hours of the game offer you the most entertainment. After a while though, things just hit a plateau and get stagnant. It never really capitalizes on the massive amount of interest and potential the first bit of the game shoves into you. Time travel and time manipulation is such a great concept for a game, and a concept yet to really be utilized to its fullest, that you find yourself expecting a lot more from Singularity. Whether it be more control over the plot through the things you do or don’t do in the past, or deeper puzzles utilizing your little time destroying gauntlet, it’s easy to see the direction this game could have gone and compare it to the direction the game did go and be a little disappointed.
It’s actually quite a duality, as the most glaring example is with the most entertaining part of the game, the TMD. The puzzles never get really difficult or different and mostly just stay at the same level throughout the game. Sure, Singularity is influenced heavily by BioShock and Half-Life, but it would have been an even better game if they were influenced a bit more by Portal. The TMD is the centerpiece of Singularity, and it never really gets dull as an offensive weapon, but the repetitiveness of the puzzles you end up facing just detract from an otherwise good experience. The multiplayer also suffers a bit because not enough is done involving the TMD, and it does feel as tacked on as this mention of it in my review is. It only includes two game modes, neither of which are entirely engrossing, and screams that it was just included because a whole lot of people (wrongly) think that every game needs a multiplayer component now. This is a single-player shooter with a great story and interesting mechanics, the fact I can’t play capture the flag doesn’t effect my opinion of the game at all. Multiplayer in story-based games should be considered icing on the cake, not the cake itself.
Despite not living up to its own potential and suffering from some frustratingly avoidable and seemingly ever present technical glitches with the Unreal engine on the PC, Singularity is still a good game. Not a great game, or a classic, but a good game. Not everything needs to be legendary, just like how everything phallic shaped doesn’t always need to mean whatever it is Freud usually got at with that stuff… I didn’t really pay much attention in psychology class. In the end, shortcomings or not, Raven has crafted an experience that science fiction and FPS fans will find an enjoyable experience here no matter what. And beyond graphics or potential or gimmicks or what have you, that’s really all that matters.
Plus, Activision sent me this awesome TMD replica to mess around with. It’s pretty cool. I wonder what this button does…
+ Original concept.
+ Fantastic atmosphere and story.
+ Large amount of weapons to help you through the games huge set-piece battles.
- Dated graphics, if that type of thing is important to you.
- Sets its own bar high and doesn’t quite clear it.
- PC version suffers from technical issues that, as of this writing, need third party fixes to sort out.
Singularity was developed by Raven Software and published by Activision for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. It was released on June 29th 2010 in the United States, with a retail price of $59.99 on the consoles and $49.99 on the PC. The copy used in this review was for the PC and provided to Ripten by Activision. The single-player mode was played to completion, while 3+ hours were put into the multiplayer. Specs of the PC used are as follows: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 @ 2.83ghz, Dual Nvidia Geforce 9800 GTX, 8GB RAM, and Windows 7 Ultimate 64 it.
Sigmund Freud once allegedly said ‘sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.’ He was, of course, talking about things that look like dicks not always meaning it’s a cock- instead it’s just a thing that looks like a wang. Singularity isn’t really penile related, but you could extrapolate that into the world of first person shooters also- sometimes a good shooter is just a good shooter, nothing more. Or maybe you would realize that was just a really poor attempt at an intro and ignore it. Either way, I don’t have a Time Manipulation Device so its too late to go back and change it. Let’s just keep going in a linear fashion from beginning to end.
In Raven Software’s Singularity, you are Captain Nathaniel Renko, an American soldier sent to the mysterious Russian island of Katorga-12. As with all mysterious Russian islands, there are plenty of secret hijinks going on. These hijinks are less like the kind Scooby Doo might investigate, and more like the kind that can alter the time-space continuum because of an element called E-99 that, among other things, holds the secret to time travel. I don’t think Velma would have really been prepared for that one.
Singularity really makes the game about its plot, which is quite full of shuttling back and forth between present day and the 1950′s when the island was a functional research facility and not a creepy undead playground. Of course, if Back to the Future taught us one thing, it’s that messing around with the past will end up making your arch-enemy super rich and ruin the world, and that is exactly what happens in the opening moments of this game. The rest of your time on the island is spent trying to heal the ills you accidentally caused and tear the present back out of Yakov Smirnoff’s stifling control.
Luckily for Captain Renko, he has an arsenal of weapons at his fingertips to blast his way through the games enemies- mostly made up of Russian soldiers and genetically mutated evil doers. The usual cast of carnage causing weaponry is supplemented by various E-99 infused special weapons that do everything from give you a remote controlled bullet to homing energy grenades. The pièce de résistance, however, is the thing the games concept is built around- the Time Manipulation Device, or TMD. With the souped up Power Glove that is the TMD, you can manipulate objects and enemies by reverting them to their state in the past or aging them to near complete degradation. This is the bread and butter of Singularity’s game mechanics, and it is a very interesting concept that lends a great deal to the above-average entertainment the game offers.
The TMD keeps itself from feeling like a gimmick by giving you various powers you can use to make your way through Katorga-12′s labyrinthine layout. You can make huge domes of energy that slow time for everything in it, allowing you to blast away and get out of bad situations, or you can use it to bring objects forward in time and get through a puzzle to the next area. Singularity really revolves around the TMD and what you can do with it, and rightfully so. Raven has made a good shooter at its basic level, and the TMD helps to keep it a head above this over-exposed genre’s chaff.
I mean, who doesn’t love a little time manipulation, right?