August 2010


August 27, 2010

Singularity is a game that very obviously looks to classics like BioShock and Half-Life 2 for inspiration. From your first moments on Katorga-12 until the story’s fateful conclusion, the parallels are obvious and welcome. However, despite these overtones, the game is just as obviously all about killing mutants and manipulating time. Singularity isn’t as deep as its forbears, nor is it as good. However, it is a fun game if all you want to do is kill hideous creatures.

The story sets up with a semi-realistic Cold War mishap. Stalin wants a new weapon that can help him overtake the Western world, in addition to his atomic weapons. Luckily, on Katorga-12, a remote island off the coast of Russia, a new element, E99, is discovered to have amazing properties. These properties range from being able to generate limitless energy to being able to manipulate the fabric of the space-time continuum. Unfortunately, when the scientists turned on their E99 device, the entire island simply vanished. Decades later, in 2010, Katorga-12 has been erased from history and forgotten when it suddenly reappears in a flash of radiation. The USA sends a group of Special Ops to investigate, which is where you come in. You and your team crash-land on Katorga-12 to find an expansive Cold War era Soviet base that appears to be all but abandoned. Charred and decimated bodies are everywhere and you are plagued with strange echoes of past horrors.

After this, you’ll be caught up in a strange drama of time travel and time paradoxes, where the changes you make in the past change the present. These changes, in general, serve to make things more and more dangerous for you, but the good news is you will quickly be given a time manipulating device, or TMD, which will add variety to the puzzles and combat.

The combat is varied and broken up enough to not get old. It’s due to the many weapons you can use, from a standard pistol to a time-slowing sniper rifle to an assault rifle that allows you to control the path of the bullet, and because of the addition of the TMD. The TMD allows you to turn enemy soldiers into dust or turn them into crazed mutants who turn on their comrades, or freeze some of the faster mutants so you can dispatch them with your conventional weapons.

As mentioned before, the similarities to BioShock and, to a lesser extent, Half-Life 2, are apparent throughout the game. Audio recorders are left throughout the island for you to activate and listen to, giving you a more complete understanding of the tragedies that took place on Katorga-12. The mutants are former inhabitants of the island who were changed by the disaster that make Katorga-12 disappear from the world for 55 years. And the old-style weapons all feature cutting-edge technology that are incongruous with the time period that you are supposed to be in. Finally, the TMD has uses that mimic both plasmids and the gravity gun in Half-Life 2. The set-piece combat and an environment that screams at you that something horrible has happened here complete the picture.

Singularity does have a multiplayer component as well, and it is one well worth experiencing. It feels somewhat like a mash-up of Halo: Reach’s beta and Left 4 Dead, as you can choose to play as either the mutants or soldiers. Each side has four classes, each with different powers that can be unleashed in the two gameplay modes. The mutants have Zeks, which are melee attackers who can also throw explosive barrels and become invisible for brief periods; Reverts, which can set proximity mines and belch toxic vomit; Phase Ticks, who can crawl on walls and possess soldiers; and Radions, who have a tongue whip and shoot projectile weapons. The soldiers have Blitzers, who can Teleport in whatever direction they are facing (and teleporting into an enemy instantly kills them); Lurkers, who can activate reflective shields and become invisible; Bruisers, who can push enemies back and cause considerable melee damage; and Healers, who, obviously, can heal themselves and their teammates.

Graphically, Singularity is slightly below average, though the atmosphere and ambience certainly help to make up for it. The audio and sound definitely lend to the creepiness, as do the time echoes that you see throughout the game. The periods of time between combat also help to amp up the tension. All in all, the atmosphere of the game seems to be more than the sum of its parts. 

Unfortunately, despite everything the game does right, it just isn’t as good as the games it takes its inspiration from. Its atmosphere, combat, and story set it apart from almost every other game on the market, and it is worth checking out. Just don’t expect the level of polish or storytelling you get from BioShock or Half-Life.

Pros: Combat is varied; Good pacing ramps up the tension; Atmosphere is fittingly creepy 

Cons: Graphics are substandard; Story isn’t as good or deep as it could have been



August 25, 2010

Limbo is the first of five games under Microsoft’s third annual “Summer of Arcade” Xbox Live Arcade releases, and it’s definitely the one that stands out from the rest. All of the other games seem to be based on an established franchise or gameplay style with a heavy multiplayer focus, while Limbo is a single-player-only puzzle platformer that lacks the replay value of the other titles. But what it lacks in replay value it more than makes up for in style.

Limbo’s visuals are quite incredible. It goes for a very specific style, but it works, leaving you with a constant sense of dread as you make your way through this sinister world. You never know what to expect, as certain things can easily blend into the background (such as bear traps very early on) that will kill you instantly (and in a rather gruesome fashion). 

The gameplay is rather basic, as are the controls, but don’t let the simplicity fool you. You can jump and you can grab objects, but there is a wide variety of different puzzles and terrifying situations to get yourself through that you will shortly forget the simplicity of everything. 

It won’t take long before you think you have seen everything Limbo has to offer, but it will quite often changes things up on you, especially once you near the final chapters of this adventure. This game is also surprisingly tense, with several moments that require almost precise reaction time. Thankfully the game is very forgiving with checkpoints, as you will most likely find yourself repeating some of the same sections many times.

As a whole, there isn’t much to Limbo but a fairly modest three hour long adventure, but the game definitely lives up to its lofty ambitions and delivers one of the best gaming experiences of the year. If you own an Xbox 360, you owe it to yourself to at least try out the game’s trial for a very small taste of what to expect. There is no other game out there like it, and it is not one you will easily forget. 

Pros: Excellent style and atmosphere; very well-designed puzzles with plenty of variety

Cons: Game may be too short for some players


Very few games manage to set the bar even lower for movie tie-ins, but Clash of the Titans does just that. Based on the remake of the same name and just in time for the…DVD release of the film, this game seems like it might be a bit better than your average video game based on a movie. It has been given a bit of extra development time, which you would think might help, but it won’t take you long before you realize that it didn’t make a bit of difference in the end.

The game’s presentation is absolutely horrible. The graphics seem like they are best suited for a launch PS2 game, and the voice acting (featuring none of the actors from the film) is as dull as the lines they are speaking. It sounds as if the voice actors are simply phoning it in, with none of the characters sounding anything like their big screen counterparts. Although I would also be inclined to believe a lot of them are just part of the development team who have been thrown into a recording booth and told to read lines as emotionless as possible. 

The controls work sometimes, which is probably the nicest thing I can say about them. There is often this delay between your button presses and the actions on screen, especially when trying to pull of very precise combo attacks. The action is never too intense that it really matters though, however the camera will definitely not help in your battles against the waves upon waves of generic enemies. You’ll be lucky if it actually stays focused on the enemy you are facing. There is a way to lock onto specific targets, but it, like the camera, is finicky at best.

So the presentation is weak and the controls are a bit off, but how is the overall structure of the gameplay? Well, it works like this. You run into an area with a crowd of enemies, fight your way through them, and then move to the next area with a new group of enemies. There is rarely any variety in both the environments and the enemies you face, and if there are new enemy types that pop up, they are never smart enough to pose any sort of threat either way. 

The combat just feels shallow and unresponsive. You never feel like you are actually timing your many combo attacks properly, and if you do land any, it is done by sheer luck. You never get a sense of impact from any of the attacks like you would in games such as God of War or Bayonetta. You can upgrade your weapons, but it does absolutely nothing to help; you will shortly learn that just mashing the same attack buttons works on all enemies no matter what weapon you use or level the weapon has been upgraded to.

Oh, there are plenty of item collecting objectives and fetch quests to “vary” up the gameplay, but I guarantee none of these actually offer any real excitement or challenge. The only fun I ever had with the gameplay is when the bosses come up, because if anything, they offer a nice break from the norm and give you more of a challenge than most enemies you encounter. Sure, a lot of the bosses themselves are not terribly exciting, but they are a hell of a lot better than the mindless drones you face throughout your gameplay session. 

It’s pretty much impossible to recommend Clash of the Titans to anyone. If you liked the movie, you might consider giving this one a rent, but I guarantee that it is very hard to find any enjoyment here. If there is anything Clash of the Titans does well, it lowers the already very low standard for video games based on movies by being one of the worst to ever come out. Avoid at all costs.

Pros: The boss battles are kind of fun

Cons: Horrible presentation; very shallow and tedious combat; imprecise controls and camera; lots of pointless item collecting and weapon upgrading


This week we cover the PSP2, Duke Nukem’s return, and Mass Effect.

Current score

Andrew Passafiume: +270

Graham Russell: +214

Eric Schabel: +70

Shawn Vermette: +270



Sony prepping a 500GB PlayStation 3 next

Well, next ended up being the operative word, as Sony used GamesCom to announce 2 new versions of their PlayStation 3 console: a new 160GB version, and a 320GB version. No word on pricing or any further iterations of the console, however; the lack of a 500GB version has rendered this rumor false.

Andrew 50% = +0

Eric 80% = -30

Graham 20% = +30

Shawn 55% = -5


PSP2 to have touch controls

So far, Sony’s “PSP2” is still simply a rumor, as they refuse to comment even on its very existence. Despite this, rumors keep circulating regarding its various features. The most recent, and undoubtedly the most interesting, is the rumor that the PSP2 will feature touch-sensitive controls on the back side of its screen for use in controlling games. No word on how this would be implemented or whether a second screen is also in the works, as Sony refuses to comment.

Andrew: If this is true, it’s pretty obvious Sony is still trying to play catch up with Nintendo (or even Apple at this point). But considering that most handheld devices have some kind of touch screen capabilities, I could definitely see whatever the PSP2 actually is having a touch screen. This is of course assuming the PSP2 even exists; I wonder if Sony is still recovering from the failure that was the PSP Go to even bother at this point. It seems pretty likely that it will come out, but I’m still a little skeptical.  70%

Graham: Well, here I go again with the whole “being technical” thing. The PSP2? If something is the successor to the PSP, then it’ll count. And we keep hearing that they’re making a phone. If that’s the case, it’d certainly have a touch screen, and even if it isn’t, it’s still pretty likely that they’d throw that in. They’re the lone holdout. If they never release a successor, this’ll never be resolved. So I’m pretty confident.  80%

Shawn: The interesting thing about this rumor is where the touchpad is located: the back of the system. I’m not sure that sounds plausible, it just sounds awkward and difficult to use if you can’t see what you are trying to manipulate with your fingers. Will the PSP2 have a touch screen? Very likely. Almost all handheld multimedia devices have them now. Will it be on the back of the screen? Sure, why not? This is the company that released the PSPGo for $80 more than the PSP-3000 and then wondered why people weren’t flocking to stores to buy it. 75%

Duke Nukem Forever returns

We thought we’d seen the end of Duke Nukem Forever when 3D Realms shuttered its doors, but rumor has it now that Take Two has handed the reins of the franchise to Borderlands developer Gearbox. The big issue with such a rumor is whether or not Take Two has the right to continue on with the game without 3D Realms.

Andrew: Duke Nukem Forever just needs to come out already. Anyway, I can definitely see this happening, as Gearbox is the best team I think that can handle this project. I think the only people actually interested in this game at this point only care because of the mystery surrounding this game, not because of the game itself. Either way, if any team is going to do it, it’s going to be Gearbox. 80%

Graham: If Gearbox really is taking over development, the game will release. That said, there will be almost no content from the original, so it’s not really the same game that lived in development hell for so long. I’m not sure the legal issues will be worked out, so I’m going to punt on this one. 50%

Shawn: Duke Nukem Forever seriously needs to either die or be released already. Yes, I do think it is likely that, assuming Take Two can wrest control of the IP from 3DRealms, they will give it to Gearbox. 65%



Mass Effect to be ported to PlayStation 3

Fresh off the surprising announcement of Mass Effect 2 being ported to the PlayStation 3, we’ve got rumors regarding the original Mass Effect. Namely, that it too will be ported to the PlayStation 3, either as a standalone title or as a pack-in with Mass Effect 2.

Andrew: I’m not 100% positive on this, but I’m pretty sure that BioWare has confirmed there will be an extensive prologue in the PS3 version of Mass Effect 2 that will cover the events of the first game. Whether or not this prologue will provide anything beyond a lengthy cutscene explaining the events of the first game is uncertain, but I don’t see all of the original game coming to the PS3 in any capacity. 10%

Graham: Probably not. My only hesitation: so much of the game’s charm is the effects previous decisions have on future events. What if you skip them completely? A possible solution would be a quick series of cutscenes that let you pick choices from a menu…but that’s just not the same. I can’t see the end being as satisfying, especially when you get through ME3. (That, I’d assume, is definitely releasing on PS3. Just the second in a series would just be weird.) 15% 

Shawn: I’m pretty sure that despite EA’s purchase of BioWare, Microsoft still has the rights to the original Mass Effect. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. However, those rights might simply extend to actually selling Mass Effect on the PlayStation 3. It’s entirely possible EA could integrate the entirety of Mass Effect into ME2, or even give it away for free to ME2 purchasers to get around it. Will they though? I doubt it. I suspect they’ll simply give ME2 a very long, possibly interactive, prologue that covers the salient aspects of the original. 25% 

Today, Nintendo announced the release dates of the most anticipated first and third-party games for both the Wii and th DS. Among the announcements were Kirby’s Epic Yarn (October 17), Donkey Kong Country Returns (November 21), and Goldeneye 007 (November 16). A full list of the games announced is provided after the break. READ MORE