Singularity (Available on Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: M
Developer: Raven Software
Release Date: June 29th, 2010
PSN/Xbox Live: Online Multiplayer
Parent Talk: Don’t let your children play this M-rated game. Tons of gore, loads of violence and lots of nasty bad language is seen and heard. You’ve been warned. In terms of resolution and audio, the game supports up to 1080p, and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound systems.
Singularity is a brand-new IP in a genre that’s dominated by AAA software. In other words, your product needs to be pretty special to stand out from Call of Duty, Halo, Killzone, and everything else. Even those that manage to break the mold, like BioShock, are exceedingly rare to follow-up on. You see, BioShock 2 failed to capitalize on the success of the original. It sold around half as many units. Armed with that knowledge, it’s easy to understand why Singularity would struggle to break in to the fold. You need to do something great, something special, something…awesome. Even then the odds of ‘making it’ aren’t so great.
You command a device that can rewind or fast forward time on objects. Say there’s a crumbled staircase; flash the device on it and bingo, 40 years of age suddenly disappear. Now imagine activating this device on a human, except you fast forward time 80 years. Said soldier(s) burst to ashes. This is Singularity, or at least part of it. It’s the most interesting aspect of the game. I wish more objects could be manipulated, but it’s tough to hate this toy.
+ Puzzle-solving. It’s awesome how the game design wraps around the Time Manipulation Device (TMD). I explained using it on stairs before, but I want to offer a more complex example. Say there’s a gate that you can’t quite crawl under. The TMD can collapse a crate (rewind) so it can fit between the ground and your obstacle. Revert it to present day, and it will open the gate. Imagine this with other tougher puzzles, and you’ve got a brain teaser.
+ The weapons. An FPS can’t succeed without interesting weapons, and Singularity sure has them. One of the more interesting is a rifle that uses your time powers. The TMD becomes your projectile’s controllable ‘bullet time’ essentially. This is one example, and there are countless others. All the weapons are ultra-fun to fire, which means you won’t mind some of the tamer ones.
+ The story. The script is too deep for its own good, but fascinating just the same. It’s an alternate perspective on the Cold War. The USSR remains strong, and discovers a secret element that allows it to achieve a power greater than nuclear. Fast forward to present day, and your US army mission assignment stumbles upon a hidden island where the element was found. Was it really accidental though, or is there more going on than meets the eye?
+ Some cool boss fights. Not every FPS has you fighting a giant bug that can flip over your train as if it was a paper clip, yet that is one of my favourite moments in the game. It’s wild because as you sever the creature’s limbs, it becomes ticked; thereby flipping the train car you’re riding all over the place. The action can become pretty crazy because of the first person perspective.
+ Everything old is new again. Singularity borrows heavily from BioShock and Half-Life 2. We’re talking everything from the audio recordings to the gravity gun. You can grab objects and throw them. Thankfully it never feels stale. Raven’s previous efforts include Wolfenstein, and at times the look and feel of Singularity matches that to a T. How does it never feel derivative? The answer is pacing, because you’re constantly whisked off to a new area that requires different uses of the game’s elements. Let’s not forget the TMD, which adds a lot to the experience.
+ Time to advance. There’s a robust level-up system here. It’s not RPG-esque though, but more akin to BioShock. Add-ons of all sorts can be found for your weapons and TMD. You can acquire a larger health bar, bigger ammo clips, etc. Each upgrade requires finding special machines scattered about.
+ Fun multiplayer. The online component is a riot to play, but not overly original. The modes offered are the standard fare for the genre.
– Dated presentation. The environments aren’t ugly, but not as detailed as Gears of War 2 or BioShock 2. Also, areas that call for the TMD are fantastic, but the core design is linear and often annoying. Sometimes you must fight a large amount of small creatures in a confined area, ensuring that you take painful damage that should otherwise be avoidable.
– Too much borrowing. Yes, I said everything old is new again, but the “been there, done that” feeling still props up. That’s especially true for the audio logs. I’m growing sick of audio logs, only because some of them make no sense.
– AI. The enemy AI is questionable. Some have spotted me, only to turn around and trek the other way. Umm, what’s that about?
Take a very good look at these enemies, at your own risk. They are butt-ugly!
Given what I’ve said about Singularity, you may be surprised by my final recommendation. I propose that you Try It. This is a flooded genre, and while I love new IPs, there are simply many other AAA titles you could consider. I’d love it for you to try Singularity before you decide if it’s really for you to keep. No matter what happens though, this is an FPS you really don’t want to miss.