by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
Of course, Singularity isnít a total throwback to the origins of the FPS. The game does incorporate modern storytelling techniques, as described earlier. It also provides you with some time-bending powers via the Time Manipulation Device or TMD, a product of Soviet research into E99.
As you progress through the game, you gain more abilities for the TMD that aid in puzzle solving. One of the first is the ability to age and de-age objects. Is a switch in disrepair? Return it to its 1950 state. Stairs rusted apart? De-age them to their original pristine condition.
The puzzles in Singularity are fairly simple and donít require much thought. Most are solved using a combination of the TMDís aging ability and its anti-gravity feature, reminiscent of Half-Life 2ís gravity gun. But manipulating objects with the TMD does produce some nice eye candy. Watching small pieces of metal contort and wires reattach themselves on a switch never gets old.
The TMD is also useful in combat. Other than the flesh-eating mutants, youíll face some competent Soviet soldiers both in 1950 and 2010. Theyíre particularly adept at finding cover, but with the TMD, you can age that cover into basic rubble and fire into them freely. You can also save ammunition by directly aging the soldiers into piles of ash.
A later TMD ability, Deadlock, is useful for slaying mutants that are just hard to hit. When youíve got a swarm of fast-moving kamikaze spiders coming at you or youíre surrounded by constantly teleporting mutants, Deadlock will generate a bubble that suspends everything in it, with the exception of you.
So when youíre surrounded by five or six teleporting mutants, unleash Deadlock and take your time to fire a few bullets into each of the suspended mutantsí heads. After Deadlock expires, enjoy watching five or six mutants simultaneously drop to the ground. It is very cool.
Shoot Me Here
Singularity also offers robust weapon and TMD customization. Through Weapon Lockers, you can modify damage output, clip size, and reload speed on all basic firearms. Through Augmenters, you can do a lot more. You can improve your weapon accuracy, increase your health, decrease the time it takes to use a health pack, and increase a TMD abilityís effectiveness, among many other things. Customization wonít change the way you play the game, but it will increase your effectiveness, particularly in the unfortunately few boss battles.
Singularityís bosses all have giant shoot-me-here bullís-eyes, so youíre never at a loss of what to do. But you have to make use of different tactics and abilities to take down each boss. One battle later in the game takes place on a narrow and crumbling train bridge. The arena in which you have to fight this boss constantly changes as the bridge continues to collapse and train cars fall. The battle doesnít require much thought and itís not particularly challenging, but itís definitely fun and visually rewarding, much like the gameís puzzles.
Two Schools of Thought
Singularity is old-school monsters and shooting mixed with new-school story, abilities, and customization. Together, both schools offer a very enjoyable experience. But both of these schools are also well established, which reveals Singularityís major shortcoming: it lacks originality. The TMD and its associated powers add depth to the gameplay, but theyíre all derived from other time-manipulation mechanics in previous shooters. Singularityís story elements, presentation, customization, and boss battles, will all remind you of other seminal first-person shooters, some of which have been mentioned above.
Granted, the list of these shooters is long and diverse, and Singularity pulls from them all to good effect. But the game does not inspire any sort of philosophical discourse. No aspect of Singularity is particularly memorable or worthy of emulation.
The PC version that I played also suffered from severe texture pop-in issues. In some instances, textures never popped in on certain environmental objects. But Singularity is gorgeous, regardless, and neither the lack of originality nor the texture issues detract from enjoying the game.
Raven Software has taken some of the best aspects of other shooters and combined them to make something thatís definitely satisfying. Singularity may not be the most memorable game, but itís still ridiculously fun.
Shooting at mutants doesn't get more fun.
Derivative of seminal shooters, Texture pop-in.