by Davneet Minhas
reviewed on PC
Remnants of the Cold War
Early in the Cold War, Soviet engineers under Stalin discovered a powerful and volatile element, E99, on an island off of Russia’s eastern coast. They promptly established a research station on the island, deemed Katorga-12, in hopes of harnessing the element’s power. But the element proved to be too volatile and the Soviets abandoned the island soon after. Katorga-12 was forgotten.
Over fifty years later, a radiation surge from the island blinds a U.S. spy satellite. The U.S. fears another Chernobyl, so they send you, Black-Ops soldier Nathaniel Renko, to investigate the apparently deserted island. Unfortunately, after reaching Katorga-12, a radiation spike sends your helicopter careening violently into the island.
At the outset of Singularity, you find yourself, coincidentally, where new personnel first arrived on the island: Katorga-12’s civilian dock. It’s abandoned and decrepit and eerie. But it’s also still full of life. Inside the welcome center, a projector plays a propaganda film about Katorga-12, a miniature of the island describes the various regions, and a personal audio recording provides insight into the island’s abandonment.
It’s all very Bioshock-esque. You’re able to connect with the former inhabitants of Katorga-12 and wonder what happened to them and the island. Of course, you also quickly discover that the island isn’t so abandoned – E99 has mutated the few remaining inhabitants into flesh-eating monsters. Though that may have inadvertently been your fault after traveling back to 1950 through a time rift.
Further exploration of the island reveals more details about the former everyday life on Katorga-12. Stray notes reveal the oppressive working conditions families had to endure. More notes and audio recordings expose secret experiments performed on children in the school cafeteria.
Just a Shooter
But this attention to detail in the environment doesn’t last throughout the game. After all, Katorga-12 wasn’t established as a school or as an objectivist’s utopia. It’s populated mostly by warehouses and laboratories and long, narrow corridors – places generic and lifeless both in-game and out.
Mise-en-scene has never been Raven Software’s forte, either. The developer has been focused on first-person shooters since the genre’s inception, and it leverages all that experience in Singularity.
Modern developers strive to create complex, cerebral shooters with intelligent AI, cover systems, stealth mechanics, team-oriented tactics, RPG elements, and open-worlds. But in doing so, they can neglect the primal appeal of the genre’s origin, an appeal that Raven Software has never forgotten: Blowing a mutant’s head off with an overpowered shotgun feels good.
Katorga-12 is full of mutants that want to dismember you, and they enjoy popping out from behind corners to startle you as much as possible. In turn, you can dismember them, much like in Soldier of Fortune, another Raven Software title. But that doesn’t mean they’ll stop coming at you.
Shoot off a mutant’s right arm, and it’ll swipe at you with the left. Shoot off the left arm, and it’ll keep coming with the right. Shoot both arms off, and it’ll use its teeth. So, go for the head.
You don’t need to out-think these monsters; you just need to put them down faster than they can do the same to you. It’s an old school shooter mentality with an old-school pay-off of living to shoot another day and seeing lots of blood. You even have to pick up health packs to heal yourself – it doesn’t get any more old school than that.
Shooting at mutants doesn't get more fun.
Derivative of seminal shooters, Texture pop-in.