lakeport_abe's Singularity (Xbox 360) review

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Singularity is an enjoyable game that isn't without it's faults

Singularity is the most recent first person shooter to come for Raven Software, and their experience in genre really shows. That said, even though Singularity tries to bring in some unique elements in terms of gameplay and story, it never quite hits the mark.

Katorga-12 is all but abandoned
Katorga-12 is all but abandoned

The game starts off with the player as Captain Nathaniel Renko a member of a team of U.S. black ops soldiers sent to investigate strange signals detected on the abandoned Russian island of Katorga-12. Things go quickly awry when an energy pulse takes down the chopper and separates Renko from his team. While trying to regroup a second energy pulse transports Renko back in time to the 1950's in the midst of a burning building. Running through the flames to escape the player stumbles across a man falling to his death, saves him and brings him to safety. Once being returned to the present he notices the timeline has changed and that the soviet union now rules the world. With the help of Kathryn Norvikova (a member of a resistance group known as MIR-12), and Doctor Barisov (a once prominent member of the Katorga-12 research team) Renko searches for the TMD (Time Manipulation Device) to use its power to restore the time line, and save the world.

The Seeker Rifle
The Seeker Rifle

At first glance Singularity could easily be mistaken as a BioShock clone, running around an almost apocalyptic environment, picking up audio logs to progress some of the story, switching between more conventional weaponry, and a strong focus on a special energy used to power your attacks and level up your character's abilities. Once you get your hands on the game you'll quickly realize this simply is not the case. Singularity has a much stronger emphasis on combat, and this is where Raven's history in the FPS genre really shines, switching back and forth from the common ballistic weaponry and the combat powers given to you by the TMD flows incredibly smoothly, and its easy to take on multiple enemies that all require different tactics to take down. The traditional armoury is what you would expect from a shooter set in the modern day, shotguns, machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, and of course a mini-gun. It's the E99 imbued weapons that really spice up the action, such as the Seeker rifle, which after fired allows the player to control the bullet, much as they would a guided missile. Crouching behind a crate and taking out an entire squad of Russian infantry has never been so fun. There's a good variety of weaponry in the game, but I found myself sticking to the same two or three weapons throughout the game. Especially considering you need to invest rare to find weapon upgrade points into your weapons, the game doesn't really give you a good reason to go outside your comfort zone. What few situations you come across that do require more out of the box thinking always have a far too convenient sniper rifle or rocket launcher pick up. It's a shame seeing as some of the weapons seem quite inventive.

No Caption Provided

The other half of the combat comes from the TMD, powered by E99 energy it has multiple abilities for the player to use. It can age a man to dust, de-evolve him into a grotesque monster known as Revert, pick up and throw objects, create a bubble that slows time, and used as a melee weapon. These powers can come in quite handy, as some enemies have varying effects when infected by E99, such as the time shifting Zeks, where a quick blast of the impulse melee attack will bring them back into the present where they can be finished off, or beetle like Phase Tick when hit with the age ability is infected with E99 and becomes a target of the rest of the swarm. The TMD isn't just used for combat though, many of the abilities are also used for some mild puzzle solving. As an example in many cases the player might see a ledge that is just out of reach, but if they use the age effect on the nearby destroyed crate it will return to its original state allowing them access to the ledge. There is very little variety in the puzzles and only a few examples where the TMD powers are used in conjunction with each other to solve one, so the puzzles do get repetitive, but they aren't a big enough issue to take away from the core experience.

No Caption Provided

Singularity looks great. The environments are as you would expect, with laboratories, military barracks, and warehouses, all with the foreboding vortex from the singularity itself looming on the horizon. The areas are appropriately aged, with crumbled ceilings, peeling paint, and rusty pipes and railings, and have a clean lived in look when you visit them in 1955. Unfortunately I found the industrial nature of the setting and environments to drain on me near the end, but with one segment where you're running through a freighter as it's ageing before your eyes particularly stands out. It's a shame that the residential areas you go through in the early game aren't revisited to change things up. The enemy designs are excellent. Russian soldiers have period appropriate clothing when visited in the 1950s and futuristic armour when fought in the present, the blue skinned, glowing eyed, time shifting mutant the Zek stands out though. I played the Xbox 360 version of the game and with only a few cases of some texture pop in the game ran smoothly. The frame rate was consistent throughout even when the action really started to heat up.

Singularity comes from a veteran developer, in a genre that has saturated the market. With it's fast paced, inventive and complex combat, and interesting setting, it brings just enough of it's own thing to the table to try and stand out from the crowd, but it never quite achieves it's goal.

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