I’ve decided against better judgment that I will make up a word in this review, keep an eye out for it. It’s very much needed as Singularity is quite a “mish-mash” game, but stick with me as it’s also quite wonderful. Raven have done most things right and only a couple of things wrong, keep a checklist handy as you may need it.
Singularity features plenty of time travelling, I know, yawn. People sometimes file time travel in the same column as zombies – “overused and only occasionally used well.” When a developer has a spiffing idea of including time travel in their game it can be shoved in rather awkwardly. Usually giving nothing to the game other than the ability to rewind a section or shoehorn a bizarre and pretentious storyline into their title.
Raven has accomplished something wonderful with the TMD featured in Singularity. TMD stands for Time Manipulation Device and is not only a brilliant narrative tool but an evil weapon that delivers a sly smile with each use.
Before you acquire the TMD, Singularity could be mistaken for many games in the landscape – mutants, scares, generic guns and bloody Nolan North. That’s not to say it’s a terrible start, far from it. This is probably a good moment to suggest that Raven have been influenced by some of the greatest PC games of recent years. Astute players may see the blood of FEAR pumping through the starting vein of the game.
With apparitions teasing at the combat you’re soon to be facing, cupboards opening mysteriously and hallucinations generally playing with what you believe is real; Singularity only needs a small girl standing at the end of the corridors with lank hair to throw you off the scent. Then there are moments where you could swear that you’ve stumbled into Rapture, particularly when observing the scenery and items littering the environment, it’s all a bit bioshocky.
And strangely, every once in a while, some Fallout will slip into your Singularity in the form of off the wall carton propaganda. Please don’t think of these moments as plagiarism, they really aren’t. Let’s call it a homage to some of the greatest games and combined they make a fantastic experience that may very well prove to be the sleeper hit of 2010.
So the first couple of hours have passed. You’ve dispatched many cookie cutter enemies by pulling the trigger of your “machine gun” or “shotgun” but then here it is, the TMD. Strapped to your left wrist, the TMD can…well, manipulate time. Now you wield a power that can age enemies rapidly and turn them to a dusty skeleton in seconds. Now you can rebuild fallen staircases, broken switches and of course solve many puzzles by doing these exact things.
But trust me; it’s more exciting than that. The TMD can alter anything that has absorbed E-99, a mysterious mineral found beneath the surface of the game world. This includes the mutants found throughout the game. Some of these mutants can shift themselves between the plains of time, causing them to become translucent and of course immune to your bullets. This is a problem, give them a blast with the TMD and kick their arse back to the present day, ready to be downed.
So now you have the TMD and can walk through time rifts into 1955, you can solve puzzles and alter the very being of every enemy in the game. However now, the weapons are getting better. You’ll start to get access to grenade launchers that allow you to control the roll of the explosive, rifles where you can guide the bullet from the barrel and weapons that are a little more unique.
None of these guns feel in any way contrived. The Seeker rifle is a particular favourite, allowing you to fire a round and then use the mouse to guide the bullet through an obstacle course of scenery to its target. Raven has turned a generic shooter into something a little more special. So all we need is a good story? Then by all means place a tick mark next to that entry on the list.
Playing as Captain Renko you are set with the task of investigating an electromagnetic surge on an island named Katorga-12. After landing on the island and being separated from your team it’s time for your first flash through time to save a man from a burning building back in 1955. Yeah, I know, it’s all bit Back to the Future and can become slightly confusing but each twist in the story is rather compelling and all leads up to one of three endings that are each suitably succinct in wrapping the story well.
There are only a couple of red marks to add to the list of features. For everything that Singularity gets right there are a few slips too. The biggest in my opinion would be the lack of subtitles. This doesn’t just alienate the hard of hearing or deaf community but some dialogue can be hard to hear leaving you to fumble your way through the next section. This is quite an unforgivable misstep.
Another complaint can be seen in the linearity of the environment. Despite the intelligent puzzles and path clearing moments the whole game can be seen as one long path with only the occasional branch off to flip a switch or turn the power back on for another switch. Some more exploration could have elevated the game to a whole different level.
Singularity on the face of things can be seen to be “just another shooter” but even just a few hours in and you realise what a fool you are for almost leaving it on the shelf, either physical or digital. When you can shoot faces with one hand and create bubbles in time with the other you’ll find that when you’re not jumping from your seat with fear, you’ll be grinning like an idiot at the power you wield.
Don’t let Singularity slip under the radar. Don’t let this great shooter slip into bargain bin obscurity. It may create moments when you’ll doubt your choice and maybe even my word, but it is quite something. Put down generic war shooter 12 and play something worthy of ten hours of your time.