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


Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.