Unfortunately for gamers, the summer months are a harsh desert of poor shovelware titles that stretches on until the cool refreshing shoreline of holiday titles appears on the horizon. This year isn’t too different. Aside from a few big name titles like Alan Wake, Lost Planet 2, and Starcraft 2, there isn’t much to look forward to until September. However, once in a blue moon there comes that game that flies completely under the radar. While certainly not triple A titles, obscure games provide a much needed drink of cool refreshment for desert travelers. One such game is Singularity.
Singularity is a first person shooter developed by Raven Software and published by Activision (Singularity Home page). The game draws influence from titles such as Doom, BioShock, and Time Splitters. You play as Captain Nathaniel Renko, a member of an elite U.S. task force in charge of investigating the island of Katorga 12. The fictional island is located of the coast of Russia, and houses the fictional element of E-99. This fictional element is the centerpiece of Singularity’s main story, which tells the tale of time line manipulation, Cold War rivalries, secret experiments, and conspiracy. It’s a rather complex story that won’t be delved into too deeply into this article. The main focus of the game though is around an item called the TMD or Time Manipulation Device. Your character finds one, and soon has all of Russia breathing down his back for it. Basically, he gets trapped on the island, messes up the timeline, and then has to go back and fix the mess he made. Most of the game’s levels take place in the present, however you will travel back in time for a few parts. The setting remains the same despite the time change, which makes for some cool before and after effects when traveling between times. Katorga 12 contains several varied environments. Ranging from a school district to military silos. So the level design never gets too boring.
However, the game’s strong point lies in it’s combat and the powers of the TMD. Remember the revived Wolfenstein attempt? Well apparently Raven software realized how crappy that remake was and decided to correct their mistakes in the form of Singulairty’s TMD. The main point of this tool is the ability to age various objects in the game’s world. Everything from enemies to stairs can be made older or younger. Aging enemy soldiers into dust provides a level of dark humor in battle, and making dilapated staircases new again allows for more level exploration. As the game progress Captain Renko unlocks more TMD upgrades such as a Stasis Field, Zombiefier Ray, and others. All of which provide a new tool for exploration and/or killing opponents. The weapons in Singularity are amazing. There’s the standard pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, and sniperrifle, however all of which have been given a fresh sci-fi makeover by the game developers. However, it’s the special unique E-99 guns that really capture the spotlight. Highlights include a rifle that when fired allows the player to control the fired bullet, a gernade launcher that allows the player to control the dropped gernade like an RC toy, and a railgun that fires explosive arrows of E-99 energy (think the Torque Bow from Gears of War and you’ve pretty much got it.)
However, there are some obvious reasons as to why Singularity is not a triple A, super title. The game has a few blemishes that keep it from really reaching the plateau of blockbuster games like Halo and Call of Duty. Chiefly, is the atrocious enemy intelligence. Although the enemies are varied from mutant zombies to Russian soldiers, they all follow the same attack pattern. Run at player in a straight line. Maybe stand behind cover… maybe not… It’s kind of pathetic. It’s like the developer really want you to blow the idiots sky-high with all the nifty weapons they give you, which isn’t a terrible selling point. However, it does make some enemy encounters rather dull. Second, is the upgrade system. It’s really not even necessary. The only two upgrades that actually seem to have a clear impact to the game are the health and energy upgrades for the TMD. Plus, having to trudge through levels exploring every knoock and crany for upgrade materials can really bog down the game. While it certainly isn’t a deal breaker by any means, the upgrade system is merely a side attraction to the main show that is Singularity’s gun play. Third and finally, is the tedious way that the super weapons can only be carried one at a time, and they can’t be carried from level to the next. It’s just lazy development, and an attempt to make boss fights more challenging.
Overall though, the game is a fun ride. I didn’t get the chance to sample the online multiplayer during my playthrough, however I’ve heard some great things about it. So if you’re interested only in the multiplayer aspect, check out some of the gameplay footage on Youtube. So if you’re in the mood for a fresh and fun new game to tide you over during the summer months, give Singularity a looksee the next time you visit your local game retailer. Till next time, happy gaming!