Genre: First Person Shooter
Raven have a history of making some outstanding First Person Shooters. They were given the task of making Quake 4 and did an admirable job. They also had the almost impossible task of following up Star Wars Jedi Knight and managed to succeed at making a game good Star Wars game at a time when that was almost unheard of. Lately they’ve been branching out, making RPGs and most recently the game adaptation to the movie Wolverine: Origins. They must have had a hankering to get back to their roots though, because they are back with the running gunning first person shooting Singularity.
In 1950s Soviet Union, Josef Stalin is desperate to find a counter to the American Atomic Bomb which is keeping him from ruling the world. On a remote island off the Pacific coast of the USSR scientists discover a powerful and rare element. The Soviets pour billions into researching the project, and some progress is made. Just when they might succeed in achieving their goals a horrible accident occurs, forcing the Soviets to abandon the research and wipe all records of the incident from official records. Fast forward to the future, the US Military notices a large amount of radiation on the island, and determine that invading sovereign Russian soil is a wise move. Thus you and a squad of special forces soldiers are dispatched on helicopters to investigate. Then it all goes wrong, and you wind up in 1955 through a freak accident.
I will not spoil the rest of the story, as I actually found it pretty interesting for a first person shooter. Basically, you spend the rest of the game trying to fix whatever it was that happened, and restore the timeline. You will jump back and forth through time on a few occasions, and you will see the results of your meddling. The game actually gives you multiple outcomes based on how you choose to end the game. You are presented with a choice. Refreshingly, it is not a black and white decision.
The game looks good, even very good at points. There are plenty of sci-fi special effects to be found in the game, as well as mutants and such, and most of them look really sharp. I had two problems. Firstly all of the Russian soldiers appear to be using the same character model, or pretty close to it. And secondly one of the mutants you run into looks like it was constructed using three polygons.
Having said that though the rest of the game is really well built. Environments, both destructible and non, feel suitably abandoned when you are in the present and suitably new when you are in the past. Storyline characters are modeled really well, and the story is told in game, never via external CG. I cannot express enough just how decrepit the developers managed to make the levels in this game look.
Somebody at Raven was clearly inspired after playing Bioshock, because Singularity is rife with examples of Raven paying homage to that game. Every step you take in the first portion of the game feels so very much like the introduction to Rapture. There are tape players littered all over the island, where people tell the story of what happened in their final hours. Some of them can be very emotional, especially when you stumble onto a corpse and later find out who it was and what their desperate quest was.
The voice work is really solid. Of course since you are on a Russian island the vast majority of voices you hear will have a Russian accent, but that is OK because nobody sounds like a buffoon. Nolan North makes an appearance as well. I really wish he would stop doing that, or else I am going to hate him by the time Uncharted 3 comes out. The guy is everywhere these days.
Control and Gameplay
The gameplay in Singularity centers around the Time Manipulation Device. Early on you get it strapped to your wrist and as you advance through the game you upgrade it at points along the way. The TMD, as one might guess, allows the player to manipulate time in various ways. One ability restores equipment to working order by making it younger, or alternately rapidly aging it. This is a fairly basic thing but the developers use it to full advantage, making you solve puzzles by making things younger or older as needed. Another ability you acquire is the ability to slow time to a crawl within a bubble. You cast this at a group of enemies and then have your way with them, as suddenly they are moving like a herd of turtles. Other powers do not make nearly as much sense in a time manipulation manner, like the telekinesis-like ability to grab things from across the room and then hurl them around as you please. As well, you get something of a Force Push ability which does not seem to be a time power, but who cares, both abilities add greatly to the fun of the game.
When you start the game it feels very much like a survival horror experience might. You have zero ammunition, you hear strange and scary noises, and you just KNOW something is out there wanting to gnaw on your leg. As you get deeper into the game though, the gameplay shifts from running scared to running and gunning. And at some point I realized I was having a blast using the powers to take out enemies. I could not wait to find out what the next twist was in the gameplay. If you are killing your opponents using just the weapons provided you are playing this game wrong.
The game gives you at least three outcomes, but each of those can be achieved by reloading the last game save and choosing a different option. There is nothing during the game that indicates there would be multiple outcomes. There is also online multiplayer, when it works. Unfortunately, as good as the single player is, I had serious difficulty getting the game to connect to an online game. I did succeed a few times, enough for me to discover that online pits humans vs mutants, like a mix of Left 4 Dead and Shadowrun, where the human characters have some powers (like teleportation and force push) and the mutants have different ones (like instantly grabbing an explosive barrel from nowhere, and being able to possess human characters). I wish I could have given that game play mode some more attention, but to be honest I am amazed I got any game time in on it at all. In my attempts to play I stumbled onto a bug that would not stop trying to connect to multiplayer games even after I had given up and had quit to the main menu. In fact it even kept trying when I pressed the PS button to read a message. At that point I halfway expected the game to keep trying after I quit the game entirely. This was not some fluke occurrence either, I encountered this bug on three consecutive nights. Still, perhaps you will have better luck than I. The time I did get playing the multiplayer showed me the game was at least worth more than a passing glance.
Like I mentioned above the game changes from Survival Horror to Run and Gun at some point during the game as you upgrade your abilities and unlock new weapons. At no point did I feel the game was too difficult for me (except when the game was supposed to feel that way during the introductory levels), though during one boss battle I found the game was too limited, as I should have been able to move more freely than I did; this caused me to die more than once. During that same boss battle the blindingly obvious solution managed to elude me until I had finished the fight, so perhaps I was really doing it wrong.
The setting is unique. Soviets are a nice change of pace from Nazis and zombies, but the gameplay is very reminiscent of previous games, including a few Raven developed games. Some of the powers you acquire could be taken directly from Jedi Knight 2, while the early atmosphere is a grand tribute to Bioshock. Even the time powers could be compared to previous games that use bullet time, but really, I will not quibble. The setting is unique enough for me to be satisfied.
The single player campaign is an absolute blast to play, from beginning to end, and I do not hesitate to tell you this. The multiplayer, when it worked for me, was interesting enough that I would have put more time in if I could have. I do not understand why so many PS3 games have trouble connecting to online games, while the very same game on the 360 has no trouble at all.
If you miss the cold war and want to revisit the heady times of Gagarin and Sputnik, when Communism was a threat and not a joke, this here is your game. If you want a solid to spectacular single player First Person shooter this too is your game. If you are looking for your dog Spot, look elsewhere, he is not here.
I like the various endings you can unlock. Actually I like the fact that there is more than one ending. I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to find three different endings. One is clearly the official ending, it had real voice talent and CG attached to it, but even knowing that I enjoyed all three. I also look forward to any sequel that might result.
Story/Modes: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Classic
Replayability: Above Average
Originality: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Very Good
Final Score: Very Good Game
Short Attention Span Summary:
A terrific single player romp that combines science fiction and history to give you a look at what might have been. Multiplayer deserves some attention, but only if the developers give it some attention in the form of a patch.
Tags: Activision, raven