Developer: Raven Software
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date: 06/26/10
ID Software’s common collaborators, Raven Software, jump back in the developer drivers seat with their first original game concept in over a decade. Singularity combines the popular alternative history concept with several other FPS aesthetics we’ve seen quite a bit of over the past few years, in a strong attempt to make a wave in the heavily flooded genre. Can Raven’s new title compete with the big guns currently dominating the FPS market? In all honestly, probably not, but that is through no fault of its own. We’re here to decide if Singularity is worth swapping out that copy of Bioshock or Modern Warfare that has most likely been secured in the genre fans’ consoles for a playthrough.
The world of Singularity takes place in a present day alternative history that, until the events of the game, has been under wraps. During the Cold War, Russian scientists discover a new element “E99″Â on the island of Katorga 12 that carries an unprecedented amount of power. Under control by Joseph Stalin, the dictator spares no expense in experimenting with the new element, which eventually leads to catastrophic results so great, the Russian government saw fit to mask the very existence of the island and the experiments from the pages of history. The player controls the voiceless Nate Renko, a soldier sent with his team to investigate sporadic radioactivity coming from area of the forgotten island. He eventually discovers that under the influence of E99, the island itself is trapped in a variable time paradox, and exposure to the powerful element has left the island inhabited with an array of horrifically mutated creatures.
It won’t be long after Singularity‘s plot starts unrolling that the inevitable similarities to the Bioshock series start coming into play. Katorga 12 is essentially a less artistically architectonic Rapture for all intents and purposes, complete with all the 1950′s war propaganda aesthetics, bio mutant monstrosities, and crusty old tape recorders that chronicle the days leading to the end. The E99 element, which can be used to bolster a number of different abilities, is essentially the equivalent of ADAM, and ultimately, the gears of evil are being oiled and turned by a man who probably sat next to Andrew Ryan in crazy bastard class.
Even with the heavy Bioshock influence present, Singularity‘s story still manages to come together as its own thing, and provides more than enough to drive you through the game’s single player campaign. The interesting time leaping concepts are worked in effectively, and by its end, the plot ties itself up as a well told and interesting science fiction horror story with all the twists and moral consequences one could hope for. Considering this, Singularity comes together less than a rip off of Bioshock, and more like a creative remix of the general formula.
The island of Katorga 12 is an effectively detailed bio genetic wasteland that time forgot. Crumbling residential buildings turn into moldy old laboratories seamlessly, and the structure and layout of the island establishment is painted and aired much like a concentration camp, with moody lighting and war ravaged textures heightening the overall atmosphere. Though many of the mutant monster designs are nothing noteworthy conceptually, they all are effective, and quite horrific to behold. Explosions from grenades and other fire effects lack the punch as seen in other current FPS games, but other than that, Singularity is a generally expertly depicted world of scientific terror.
The voice acting throughout Singularity is very competent, and the ambient sound effects do well to set the mood. Some of the gunfire noises sound a bit under the weather, but still manage to do their job effectively enough. The various grunts and groans from monsters in the distance are balanced appropriately, and always manage to heighten the tension from sparse silence.
From a gameplay standpoint, Singularity does not reinvent the FPS wheel, and in all fairness, it really doesn’t have to. Just as Bioshock built its grandeur more through its unique interpretation and artistic nuances over any particularly interesting gameplay element, Singularity follows suit in a similar fashion. As Nate Renko, players will traverse the horrific island of Katorga 12 in a very familiar fashion, mostly by way of shooting an assortment of stereotypical ordinance, opening boxes and containers to retrieve ammo, health packs, and E99 leftovers that act as upgrade currency for the many bonuses that can be equipped. Monsters will attempt to sneak up on you or surprise you by breaking through doors, and progression will have you face down a few boss enemies. What is here works perfectly, even if it is a carbon copy of any number of FPS games that came before it.
Some ingenuity comes by way of the gameplay mechanic that was heavily pushed during previews and advertisements of the game: the time bending, atom splitting TMD, or Time Manipulation Device. This godly gauntlet of scientific wonder offers an interesting assortment of abilities that are easily the most amusing aspect of Singularity‘s gameplay. In additional to being able to use the TMD to compose or decompose certain structures and objects at whim, the device can also be used to age human enemies a millennium in a mater of seconds, turn them into flesh eating ghouls that attack one another, or simply make them detonate amidst a group of their comrades. Though certain features of the TMD bear a strong resemblance to the effects of some particular plasmids in Bioshock, or even the gravity gun from Half Life 2, Singularity‘s toy works as a great component to add something to the solid, though familiar FPS gameplay.
The multiplayer modes in Singularity offer some interesting fun as well. Taking a cue from the deathmatch set-ups in Left for Dead 2, the matches here will see one team of players controlling a number of the various creatures that exist in the single player campaign, and the other team, grunt soldiers. Besides recording statistics however, the multiplayer experience rises little above an interesting and creative diversion, as there are no rewards or unlockables to be earned for a player’s performance.
Probably the weakest aspect of Singularity is the overall longevity of the product.
The single player campaign is lengthy, but there is nothing new to be done in additional playthroughs or difficulties besides collecting various trophies that might have been missed the first time through. The game also offers three unique endings, but all can be obtained by simply loading a save game and performing a different action during the final scene. The multiplayer mode, as mentioned, is amusing for what it is, but without rewards to be earned, the addition can only carry itself as far as it can with its mere existence alone. Since there are a number of other FPS multiplayer set ups that offer progression and incentive to keep going, Singularity‘s offering falls way short.
Singularity keeps a steady and well balanced pace through out the single player campaign. New abilities become available often for the TMD glove, and what follows are new enemies or obstacles that require the recently acquired features to overcome. Singularity is not an exceptionally difficult game, especially for the FPS veteran, but the difficulty remains consistent to the end, and avoids instances of frustration.
Taking into consideration the large amount of the Bioshock formula that Raven borrowed for this product, upon completing it, Singularity still has managed to leave a strong and unique impression on me. Though the aesthetics are blatantly borrowed from Bioshock, and the gameplay is quite traditional, the game collectively puts itself together as something just different enough to be memorable. It could be the thin layer of sci-fi/horror camp that is lovingly applied to the experience, which is just as effective as the overdramatic execution of that in Bioshock, and definitely more fun. It could be the expert pacing of the competent science gone awry plot line, coupled with the satisfying FPS elements. It certainly has something to do with turning a man into dust by time jacking him a thousand years into the future. Regardless, Raven has made a mark with Singularity that is familiar, yet unique at the same time, and a playthrough of the single player campaign will probably lead most to a similar conclusion.
The single player campaign in Singularity is among the most expertly paced I’ve come across in FPS gaming in some time. That said, this will be a hard game to put down once it’s gotten into. The length of the experience will see you upgrading abilities, fighting monsters and unraveling the conspiracy of the century with incredible management of all aspects. It’s sad that once it’s completed, it’s pretty much done, but Singularity is great interactive entertainment from start to finish all the same.
Like most first entries into the over saturated FPS market, Singularity‘s appeal will most likely be hit or miss in a lot of respects. The concept of aging enemies into dust sounds like fun, but it’s not really enough to get people to put down their Modern Warfare or Bioshock I’m afraid. Singularity could thrive by word of mouth if enough people recommend it, but out of the gate it’s up against some stiff competition.
Having played both the 360 and PS3 versions of Singularity, I can say that both versions are comparable to one another. I noticed slightly more frame skips at times with the 360 version, but other than that the experience was practically identical. Raven deserves a nod for this, as it’s a difficult thing for a developer to achieve in most situations.
APEAL FACTOR: MEDIOCRE
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary:
Raven’s Singularity is an great FPS experience from start to finish with few flaws, but unfortunately, not a whole heck of a lot we haven’t seen countless times already. At times, the game’s structure and aesthetic borrows more from Bioshock than Bioshock 2 did, but still manages to come together extremely well as its own dystopian sci fi/horror epic. The game’s time bending gimmick is pretty much the only thing it offers that is new and exciting, and while the presentation feels fresh, it feels familiar enough to hurt the game in the long run. Singularity is a well crafted game that will please FPS fans, but it doesn’t do enough to pry Modern Warfare or Bioshock fans away from those games and to it, which hurts it overall.