System: Xbox 360
Developer: Raven Software
Release Date: June 29, 2010
Take a large heaping of Bioshock and sprinkle in elements of Half-Life and F.E.A.R. and you have a pretty good idea of what Singularity is all about. A much overlooked first person shooter, Raven Software’s Singularity is something that I would have known nothing about if a friend of mine had not brought up his love for the game. While its influences are readily noticeable, Singularity is able to mold them all together into its own unique adventure.
The game takes place on Katorga-12, a fictional Russian island that served as the breeding grounds for a bizarre experimentation during the Cold War. You play as Nathan Renko, a soldier sent to the island to investigate a recent mysterious blast that damaged an American spy satellite. After a rude helicopter landing, Renko discovers that things are very, very wrong there, and he begins slipping through time between the years 1955 and 2010. It turns out that the Russians were messing around with the powerful Element 99, with their master plan being world domination. As is expected with any good-natured protagonist, Renko sets out to end all of this madness.
While the story isn’t going to win any awards for creativity, it is deep enough to maintain interest, and the frequent jumps from past to present day keep things fresh. In order to actually do the time traveling, Renko is equipped with the TMD (Time Manipulation Device), a badass weapon that is the game’s major selling point. Not only can the TMD propel Renko through time, but it can also turn enemies to dust — a very handy trick, no doubt. The TMD allows Nate to have objects sent to him (a la Half-Life 2′s Gravity Gun) and it can send massive pulses of energy that maim enemies. When I say “maim”, I mean it. There are some pretty gruesome deaths in this game, and shooting enemies can lead to limbs flying everywhere. Outside of the impressive TMD, there are standard weapons available, including assault rifles and rocket launchers, as well as an awesome Seeker rifle that lets you control its bullets in slow motion. Needless to say, there are a lot of cool toys available.
The sheer amount of weapon choices makes combat a blast. There’s nothing like shooting an enemy with the TMD, then quickly reverting it into a mutant which in turn starts attacking anything around it (i.e. the bad guys). There are two main types of enemies to slaughter: evil Russian soldiers from 1955 and then their disgusting mutated counterparts from 2010. A handful of exciting boss battles and some clever puzzles also keep things rolling throughout the roughly ten hour single player campaign.
Singularity has the added bonus of a surprisingly great online multiplayer mode. Drawing heavily from Left 4 Dead (in the form of humans vs. mutants), the multiplayer allows you to choose the type of character you want to be, as well as their special abilities. I wasn’t expecting much from the online portion, but I quickly got sucked into the experience. Unfortunately, the game itself wasn’t a big seller and therefore the online community is fairly small one year later. If you can get a good game going, however, it’s a lot of fun.
The overall game isn’t without its faults. There are some annoying moments (most of which involve Phase Ticks, equivalent to Gears of War’s ticker enemies), and it can take a little while to learn all of the TMD controls. There are also some laughably Russian accents used by the handful of recurring characters. Still, these are all minor blips on what is a surprisingly engaging experience.
Singularity doesn’t really try anything new, but as a compilation of excellent aspects from various other games, it certainly succeeds. This is a bargain bin title these days, and it is a steal at $20 or less. It’s a shame that this wasn’t the big seller Activision was hoping it would be, because this is one of the most interesting first person shooters to come out in recent years.