Friday, 29 October 2010

Singularity review

Singularity is a first person shooter from Raven Software and Activision that slipped under the radar of most, and it's a damn shame. While it may seem like a budget FPS, it's probably the most underrated game of the year.

The game puts you in the shoes of Captain Nathaniel Renko, sent on a mission to find the source of a huge EMP blast, which downed a US spy satellite. The blast came from Katorga-12, an old Russian island used for experiments with the powerful element, E99. As your chopper approaches the island, another EMP blast cuts the power and sends you plummeting. An exciting start to rollercoaster of a game.

The game takes part in one location, but in two different times. The game starts in 2010 but soon, a third blast takes you back to 1955. It's almost instantaneous and whilst the layout is the same, the aesthetics are completely different. What makes it more interesting is that in 2010, everything is rusty and broken, abandoned for decades. Jump to 1955 and everything is new, shiny and perfect.

The first time you jump back, you save a man from dying. If only Renko had seen Back To The Future. Change something in the past and the repercussions could be disastrous. And they are. The man who you saved eventually became an evil dictator. So when you jump back to present day, gone are the Stalin statues and posters, replaced with the very man you saved. The mission just changed...

The gameplay is what you would expect of a modern FPS. Throw in some time manipulation, gravity altering and energy blast devices, attached to your wrist, and the game really shines. Up until you get the device is a bit of a drag, but it's worth it. The aptly titled Time Manipulation Device is the star of the show, and allows for awesome combat and puzzles. It even makes traversing the corridors and buildings of Katorga-12 fun. Can't get to a higher level? Send some stairs back to '55, back to their former glory, allowing you to climb. Can't open a door? Send the lock to the future, where it is broken. Simple! It makes mundane things such as walking between locations fun.

Want more fun? How about a massive selection of weapons? With special powers? Check. Equip the sniper rifle, look down the scope and slow down time. Making heads explode has never been easier. A grenade launcher shoots out perfectly spherical explosives which you can then control. Send it around corners and through cracks in the wall, it's so much fun to use. A missile launcher allows you to control the projectile after you have fired it. Whether the enemy is above, below or behind you, nowhere is safe from the Seeker.

There are some really impressive set pieces in Singularity, rivalling those of the big titles like Halo Reach. The sense of power when you raise a sunken ship and revert it to being brand new is amazing. Climb aboard the ship and it starts to age rapidly. Paint peels off the walls, doors rust and fall of the hinges, holes in the hull reappear and take the ship back to it's grave. This game has so much atmosphere. Vast amounts of the time are spent alone. Minutes pass with silence from both allies and enemies. It's not particularly scary, but is definitely creepy.

As it's not one of the huge budget games, some aspects of the game have taken a hit for the team. The graphics are generally good. The characters look decent, but look a little closer and the textures are pixelated and blurry, the facial expressions are far from fantastic and the movement is often jerky and stiff. Textures on the environment are the same. Really nice from a distance but not so much close up. These are minor niggles and do not detract from the overall experience.

The multiplayer sees you playing as a human, or as one of the creatures from the single player missions. They vary from small and fast but weak, to huge and powerful, but slow. Experimenting with your team mates to find the perfect combination is great fun. There are only two modes however, and the overall multiplayer game lacks the depth and complexity that some of the big games have.

Singularity has been missed by so many gamers, and it is a shame. If it had been marketed a lot more, this game could have stood among the giants. Instead it will most likely gain popularity as a niche title, a cult classic. Even so, Raven Software have made one of the best new shooters of the year.


by Louis Gardner

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