Reviewed: August 3, 2010
Released: June 29, 2010
Raise your hand if you’ve ever encountered this scenario. You walk into your nearest gaming store establishment looking for something new to play and you come across a title that you’ve never heard of. It grabs your attention until you finally pick it up to read the back of the box and mull over the possibility that you might purchase it on a whim.|
Thanks to a virtually non-existent marketing campaign, there was very little buzz or even an awareness when Singularity slipped into stores a few weeks ago; a shame since this inventive and original FPS had little or no immediate competition on the PC or console. I had heard of the game some time ago, but at one point or another lost track as is slipped from the gaming radar so when it suddenly arrived for review it straight to top of my attention list. My first impressions came from viewing the 360 version, which I must say was amazing, but this review will be dealing the PC version of the game.
The story starts out in present day with an American soldier, Nathaniel Renko, on a routine mission to Katorga-12, an island once established by our good old-fashioned protagonists, the Russians back some 50 years ago. While the Cold War is history, Singularity rewrites a few pages and effectively creates a new present and future with some clever twists on time travel thanks to the Russians and a new element, E99 that offers some rather unique properties and abilities that just might make them the reigning superpower of the world.
After an “EMP” blast takes out your chopper, you are stuck along for a ride that can only be described as “Back to the Future gone horribly wrong’. Near the beginning of the this hellish adventure you are caught in a time rift that takes you back the year 1955 (sound familiar) and caught up in some major workplace accident in which you save a man that you later find out should have died, thus screwing up the timeline in the process. The Russians are now a global dominant power and you must restore things back to the way they were.
Singularity features the exact same interface as the console versions with the only variance being the controls. FPS games are my favorite genre on the market and I usually prefer to play them on the PC for a number of reasons with control being high on the list. Playing Singularity with a keyboard and mouse was significantly easier, especially against the toughest boss, which I had no trouble with on two separate occasions. I also found using the Kasimov SNV-E99 sniper rifle much easier with a mouse sometimes even to the point of not needing to use the gun’s Temporal Dilation or slow mo feature.
While the traditional PC setup works for the majority of the title, I did find one instance where having a USB gamepad or 360 controller was actually much better – almost a necessity. In one section of Singularity you must slowly make your way through an area occupied with an abundance of blind creatures that react to the slightest noise. I quickly found that slowly tapping the W key was no substitute for sneaking with an analog stick, and I was getting nowhere fast. The coordination required to slip past upwards of three creatures at a time was not feasible with a traditional keyboard and mouse setup.
Trying to reset history back to the way it was is going to be tricky but thanks to the help of a female covert operative and a head researcher on the E99 project, you gain access to the “TMD” or Time Manipulation Device. This portable device placed on your arm allows you go back in time via rifts scattered across Katorga-12. But its uses don’t stop there. The TMD allows you to not only go back in time but change objects like health crates back to their original state, reduce humans to dust and phase objects back into the present time. You even can go so far as to rebuild a ship and a massive suspension bridge with the TMD’s powers.
During your unfortunate stay on Katorga-12 you can explore its many nooks and crannies to uncover various blueprints, ammo, med kits and audio recordings. The most coveted items you’ll find are the E99 Tech and even harder to acquire Weapons Tech cases. The E99 Tech is your currency in Singularity and is used to upgrade the TMD’s powers as well as your own personal abilities such as sprinting or boosting your overall health by redeeming these E99 points at machines scattered periodically through the levels. Some of these abilities are innate while others mush be equipped to be effective.
The Weapons Tech cases allow you to upgrade your weapons abilities such as clip size and reload time, which is really useful in the later levels. Several of the cases are out in the open, but in true Raven style, some of them are tucked away and will require extensive exploration to find them all.
One of my favorite parts of Singularity is the impressive arsenal. While you start out with the basic pistol and a knife you gain access to other more powerful weapons such as an assault rifle, grenade launcher, and mini-gun later on. You can carry up to two weapons at a time that can be switched out at any available weapon station or off the dead bodies of your enemies. My personal favorite combination is the Volk shotgun and the Kasimov sniper rifle, which I used extensively and with great effect. There are two special weapons available, a rocket launcher and my personal favorite, the Seeker. This little piece of destruction allows you to steer you shots in slow motion and watch the aftermath up close and personal. These weapons are limited though, both in ammo and in frequency of finding them in the game, usually just when you need them.
Singularity offers some truly cool gameplay elements that require you to use every trick in your arsenal to survive. There are times where you will have to freeze time and enemies within a stasis bubble called “Deadlock” to get past certain obstacles or stop heavily armored enemies. This ability is one that I didn’t use as much as others probably would, but I will admit that it extremely effective and rather fun to watch the explosive results as the bubble disappears. I also really enjoyed the level where you revive a massive freighter only to have it slowly deteriorate while you’re in it.
One of my favorite things about Singularity is Raven’s end game decision to not feature some over the top final boss. Instead they went with a more human approach where your actions and their consequences determine one of three endings. Raven also did the wise choice of not requiring you to play the game three times to get them all. All you have to do is load up the last checkpoint and take the other paths.
Visually, Singularity looks pretty good on PC. The architecture and smaller weapons details are well implemented. The color scheme varies almost to a graphic novel feel from time to time. Ripple effects hint at visionary rifts in the time line, almost like a second sight, and there are some truly epic set pieces. One of my favorite elements is that the Raven had to render some locations at least twice for two different time periods. That’s not something you see in most titles and the effort definitely pays off.
Singularity is a solid 10-12 hour game if you take the time to truly explore the world of Katorga-12. There are a lot of secrets hidden in almost every possible place, some that are so well integrated into the environment that I have to give Raven a huge thumbs up for. The first couple of hours rival my favorite FPS, F.E.A.R. as far as its eerie setup and environments. Most of the fear is generated through the incredible sound presentation with all sorts of subtle nuances playing in all the surround channels. The voice acting is surprisingly good and effective. I enjoyed listening to the audio recordings but I wished the sound traveled with you so you didn’t have to stay in close proximity to hear them. It kind of interrupts the flow of the game.
Singularity adds a token multiplayer offering with two modes that have humans battling mutants in straight-up team deathmatch or an objective-based mode where you fight to control locations on the map. Pick your side, pick your class or creature type, and tweak your weapons and abilities then go for it. During my time with Singularity, I found little to no players available to compete against but that may vary depending on the times you play.
In the end, Singularity is an awesome FPS wrapped in an engaging piece of science fiction. The story grabs you from the very beginning and takes you on an adventure that is full of twists and several epic reveals. Its inventive mix of solid gunplay and time manipulation makes it an excellent addition to the first person shooter genre. It’s a pity that it did not receive a better marketing job. I highly recommend this title to any FPS fans out there.