Of course there were going to be BioShock clones. The game was simply too highly rated to not make an attempt of at least replicating it. Singularity is one such game but it tries very hard to be something all its own.
- Worth The Time?Yes, for the most part
- Things LovedSolid single-player campaign, believable voice-acting, Time Manipulation Device, the brief moments when the lighting and effects come together to make the game look great, well-constructed gunplay, mutants vs. soldiers multiplayer mode
- Things HatedOverall sub-par use of the Unreal 3 Engine, Bioshock clone, unimaginative and repetitive puzzles, predictable story, rather limited multiplayer
- RecommendationWhile it may not be one of greats that will forever have a place in your game collection, it is worth picking up if for nothing more than its rather good single-player campaign. Even though you will probably want to sell it after a while. Just bare in mind that CoD: Black Ops and Halo: Reach are about a month away.
- Name: Singularity
- Genre: FPS
- Players: 1-12
- Multiplayer: Online
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
- Developer: Raven Software
- Publisher: Activision
- Price: R350 (PC), R700 (PS3, Xbox 360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
Singularity is certainly not great, and will probably fall out of consciousness by next year, but it’s definitely not a bad game. What we have here is the definition of a game that is just high enough above average to deserve and hopefully enjoy some success.
From the people who brought you Wolfenstein comes Singularity, an FPS with a fetish for time and the manipulation of it. Although there was virtually no exposure for this game, many expected it to fail with flying colours – but it’s always nice when one of these games comes along and surprises you a little bit.
The basic premise of Singularity is one of ‘what if’ scenarios that game designers always like to throw around. Like ‘what if Roberto Borgia had been a Templar’ or ‘what if Hitler was actually a super-powered mutant’, and this time it’s ‘what if the Russians had something more powerful than nuclear weapons’.
Yes, Singularity is trying to put a spin on everybody’s second-most long-in-the-tooth time period next to WW II: the Cold War. It goes that the Soviets discovered a new element called E99 and began experimenting with it on the remote island of Katorga 12. They soon discover that it has amazing time-bending properties, among other things, but the project goes south when an incident in the 50’s causes the entire island operation to be shut down and quarantined. There are audio recordings, notes, videos and writing on the walls to help you piece together what happened way back all those years ago.
You come in 50 years later in 2010, as a US Military soldier named Nate Renko (I’m sure there’s an irony to be found in that last name) who is sent in with his team to scope out the now deserted island due to recent disturbances in the vicinity. Your chopper crashes and you are ultimately left the last man standing who is constantly shifting between time periods on the island. You will switch back and forth between the present and the 50’s when the catastrophic incident took place on the island.
Nate is constantly guided by helpful voices in his ears and time echoes which show ghost images of incidents from 50 years earlier.
Excluding the last part, does any of this invoke a sense of déjà vu? While the story is well-told and not too bad as narratives go, it is all just too much like Bioshock. This makes the entire game and all its little plot-twists very predictable and even though there are 3 possible endings, it doesn’t account for much since they’re all foreseeable.
The gameplay is a far better element of the game which, despite little in the way of originality, is well-executed and varied enough to stand out somewhat. While you have your regular array of guns and weapons there are some rather exciting ones such as the Spikeshot which is essentially a railgun capable of causing serious damage over a fairly large area. The best part of the gunplay is the feel and effect. Each shot feels like it has power behind it (and I don’t even have a Dualshock controller) as well as the effect that each weapons has. The shotgun for example will visibly dismember certain parts of your enemies while the Seeker (sniper rifle) allows you to steer a round in slow-motion after firing it. You are constantly getting access to new weapons and are able to upgrade current ones at specific upgrade stations which allows you to increase clip-size, reduce reload times etc.
The game’s party-piece of course is the TMD or Time Manipulation Device. You get this pretty early on in the game and while there are plenty of things to do with it, you will probably have mastered them all within an hour or so of actually getting the device. Besides allowing you to freeze enemies in a temporal distortion bubble, you can also levitate and repel an enemy (which doesn’t quite make sense) and you are also able to make use of time echoes to guide you along the way. The main feature though is being able to age things either backwards or forwards. Sounds great but its limitations quickly become apparent. You are only able to age certain objects such as aging a crate backwards so that it fills up but you can’t age the door next to it to break its lock. You can age just about any enemy, but the developer has casually sidestepped allowing you to shoot babies by instead turning enemies into raving mutants that kill each other when you age them backwards.
You won’t just face-off against mutants though. There are certain points in the game when you actually fight off Russian soldiers as well. But for the most-part it’s you against the mutants.
Most of the game’s puzzles rely on the TMD and while there are some that stand out as original and innovative, the vast majority are repetitive and follow a very stock and similar pattern which makes them very predictable and little more than a laborious chore.
You are constantly exposed to new enemies, but after receiving the TMD they are just about no challenge for you.
The level design is something rather unique though, because while many shooters will stick to either the claustrophobic corridor type of design, others may prefer the expansive and sprawling style. What Singularity does is blend the two together to make the effect of both just a little bit more enhanced.
While the game is not challenging overall, you may need a helping hand for some of the more challenging puzzles and especially for the first 30-50min of the game where you have yet to receive the TMD and are constantly strapped for ammo.
Visually, it’s a disappointment. Yes, there are moments when the lighting comes together with the time manipulation effects to create a truly gorgeous scene and it is a treat to see an enemy turn to ash or get gloriously dismembered, but Singularity is a decidedly sub-par use of the Unreal 3 Engine. Singularity certainly won’t be winning any beauty contests.
The game does well to set the mood with an industrial sounding soundtrack, dark lighting and good level design, but you never really feel the horror/thriller atmosphere that Raven seem to have envisioned. The once-human creatures don’t have the same traits as the Splicers of Bioshock either. In Bioshock, a couple of Splicers may have an argument or exhibit some human traits before you attack them but there was none of that in Singularity. There was one mutant early on in the game that seemed to be looking through a bookshelf for something but I’m not sure whether this was an exhibition if human traits or just animal curiosity. You are generally just too over-powered and it feels a little like Dead Space where the creatures have more right to fear you than you them.
Now we come to the multiplayer aspect of the game. With such a good single-player experience, you’d expect the multiplayer to be an afterthought, lacking and limited. You’d be right on all 3 counts. The multiplayer is governed by a handful of maps and literally only a couple of modes. You get the standard Team Deathmatch and the other slightly more interesting mode which is Soldiers VS. Mutants. Yeah. You play as either a soldier equipped with a TMD, albeit with many of the powers stripped away, or one of the many mutants that you encounter in the game. It’s fun for a while, but the lack of scope and depth quickly drags this rather interesting mode into monotony. It’s doubtful that there will ever be an ardent group of Singularity multiplayer gamers but it should be fun for a while at any rate.
By the way, it doesn’t usually warrant a mention but the voice-acting is actually pretty good in this game. It even has Nolan North, who has officially become the first person to prostitute their voice. Look out for him in the upcoming Assassins Creed: Brotherhood and no doubt a dozen other games before Christmas.
The simple truth is this: Singularity walks, talks and feels like Bioshock right down to the whole super-power thing, but it doesn’t come off as really suffering from that. Yes, the story becomes hopelessly predictable after you realise where the inspiration came from, but the rest of the game is decidedly above average and definitely good in most respects. Not great, certainly not, but good all the same.
There are some very solid and very great elements to Singularity, but the question you have to ask yourself is this: “Is it worth my time and money?” Yes, it is, as I said right at the start of this review, but is it good enough to warrant you spending money on this instead of waiting another month or so for Halo: Reach or Call of Duty: Black Ops or even the new Medal of Honour? Probably not. Based on what these games have shown us, they will all probably be better than Singularity and have a lot more to offer, especially concerning lasting appeal.
While it does what it does rather well, Singularity suffers from relying on old elements of shooters. There’s just about nothing new or special or even updated that it brings to the table. There’s nothing to make it stand out, except maybe the TMD. With a little more work and some extra polish, Raven Software could have had a great game on their hands, however, what we have is still a good game, but nothing that can compete with the other heavyweights in the over-saturated genre of FPS games.