Game Review: “Singularity” for XBox 360

Take the tight first person control of Call of Duty, add the ominous feel of Bioshock, toss in some old school Cold War paranoia and insert some cool time altering powers and you find yourself with a recipe for success in Singularity.

Gameplay:

Especially in a shooter, there is so much importance on quick and reactive control and Singularity nails it. In single player, the player follows a fairly linear path where they must shoot their way through modern day elite forces, underarmed Soviets from the 1950s and a host of mutated monsters made up of the former residents of Katorga 12.

In addition to traditional assault rifles and shot guns, players get to take control of some new and interesting weapons like a remote control rolling grenade launcher and an exploding harpoon gun. Depending on the player’s preference, they will find themselves either relying on the classic tried and true weapons or experimenting with these new ones in combination with the TMD.

The TMD, the Time Manipulation Device, is the crux of Singularity’s unique gameplay. Over the course of the game, the TMD gets upgraded with new powers. At the start, it can only age or renew objects from their modern day to 1955 states. This also works on soldiers and mutants, leaving them with a quick and painful looking demise.

This power also allows players to uncover clues left by an unknown source in the form of messages left on walls in the past. Eventually, players gain the ability to control gravity and create small bubbles in which time stops for them which leads to some interesting combat scenarios.

Multiplayer focuses on playing in two uniquely different roles. Players never face off with humans against humans or creatures against creatures. Instead, there is an Extermination mode where creatures must defend three areas that players will try to renew using TMDs.

Once one team has completed the objective, players switch sides and repeat the process with the fastest team winning the round. The other option comes in the form of a team deathmatch where humans square off against creatures with the team racking up the most kills wins. A more detailed look at the multiplayer can be found in Raven Software’s developers’ trailer.

Story and Presentation:

The story of Singularity takes a three pronged approach. In a combination of military conspiracy, sci-fi and horror, the team at Raven Software have crafted a somewhat familiar tale with a new twist on it. Players begin as US special forces member Nate Renko as he and his squad investigate the Russian island of Katorga 12. The player finds themselves passing through a break in time and space where they teleport back to the year 1955 and save a man from falling to his death during a laboratory fire.

Upon traveling back to the present, the world has been drastically changed and the player must now try and set things right. Along the way, the player faces ghastly mutations of the island’s residents who have been transformed by exposure to the atom E99.

The game reveals itself in much the same way that Half-Life and Bioshock did. There are no real formal “cut scenes” as everything happens in the first person perspective. Extra story insights are told through audio logs and notes left by former inhabitants of the island.

There is an interesting pace of the story, also similar to Half-Life as there is a “big boss” battle half way through the game and there are more story driven events instead of epic battles towards the conclusion. The conspiracy itself is a fairly straightforward narrative with some plot points that become easily predictable for a player paying close attention but are still just as rewarding to see pan out.

Graphics and Sound:

Singularity is a dark and dirty looking game for the most part which captures the ambiance of a destroyed military island (which has a staggering problem with mutants) beautifully. Switching back to the past, the still crisp and sterile white walls are a great contrast to the destroyed world you have just come from. The particle effects and explosions of Singularity look fantastic as well.

While the character models look great, it is somewhat disappointing that they are not unique. While the Zek (the little blue teleporting guys) look drastically different from the Revert (the puker), each race has only one character model. It seems strange in a world where people have been grossly mutated that they’d end up looking identical to each other in every way.

Sound plays an important part in the world of Singularity. The background noise and music are a character unto themselves. Taking a page from the Doom 3 playbook, ominous tones or frightening sound effects come in to play to throw a player off guard and distract them from the danger in front of them or complete silence overtakes the game before a vicious attack comes from out of nowhere.

Overall:

Though it hasn’t been heavily advertised, Singularity finds itself already to be a critical darling. The gameplay is crisp and fun and it looks fantastic. While it does take nods from many other games, Singularity does so respectfully and implements them well in its own world. The story is well told and the multiplayer is fun enough to keep players coming back, though it could use some additional gameplay modes.

Singularity is a strong summer shooter that actually has some depth to it that helps fill the gap before Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops are released.. Crossing back in forth in time to save the world with a great tragic twist at the end is incredibly rewarding experience which fans of any first person shooter should try.

XBox 360 (Also available on PlayStation 3 and PC)

Publisher: Activision

Developer: Raven Software

$59.99

Score: 8.0

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