Review: Singularity (Sony PS3)
by J. Rose on August 6, 2010

Singularity
Developer: Raven Software
Publisher: Activision
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.

Story

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″ 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.

Graphics:

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.

Sound:

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.

Gameplay:

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.

Replayability:

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.

Balance:

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.

Originality:

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.

Addictiveness:

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.

Appeal Factor:

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.

Miscellaneous:

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.

The Scores:
STORY: GOOD
GRAPHICS: GREAT
SOUND: GREAT
GAMEPLAY: GREAT
REPLAYABILITY: POOR
BALANCE: GREAT
ORIGINALITY: GOOD
ADICTIVNESS: GREAT
APEAL FACTOR: MEDIOCRE
MISCELLANEOUS: GOOD
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.



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J. Rose

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  • MrMidstream

    Wow! What a lame review this was from an obviously, Bioshock/PS3 fanboy. Guy doesn’t even mention the time traveling aspect of the game, which IMO, was pretty freaking awesome!

  • Mark B.

    So, while Mr. Rose doesn’t comment, I do, so I wanted to respond to this with a funny observation:

    Both Mr. J. Rose and myself play far, FAR more of our games on the 360 than the PS3 by personal choice, and we both think Bioshock is an overrated game by several orders of magnitude.

    Just saying.

  • MrMidstream

    Let me guess, Indie games are all superior to triple A in your opinion? Smh…

  • Mark B.

    Actually, we were talking about that on the podcast last night; I fall squarely into the category of thinking most indie games are underproduced and derivative, and that indie gaming is largely going to end up imploding in on itself before we get anywhere with it.

  • Alexander Lucard

    I would agree with two exceptions: classic shoot ‘em ups and point/click adventure games. Mainly because they’ve mainly been purely in the realm of indie games for twenty years now. :-P

    Maybe horror too.

  • Mark B.

    SHmups I’ll agree with, though we’ve seen more than a few that aren’t “indie” in the strictest sense, IE, anything from SNK before they bottomed out, Gradius V and anything from Konami in general, etc. Still, the genre has produced a lot of real winners.

    Adventure games, nah, I’ll stick to my guns there; while there are some really good games out there, there are also games like The Path and TWD getting the lions share of attention such that I’d say that people are PAYING ATTENTION to the genre, but about half of it is crap.

    Eh. Horror games generally fall into other genres such that you can say “this is also an adventure game” or “this is also an action game” or whatever, and also, still plenty of overhyped, underperforming games up in there (why hello Outlast).

  • Aaron Sirois

    The Walking Dead isn’t even an adventure game anymore.

  • MrMidstream

    Amen to that!

  • Mark B.

    I mean it’s not that AAA gaming doesn’t have problems either; there’s a definite lack of innovation in the top tier franchises that’s concerning, for example. But indie games aren’t going to save gaming, at least not while the sacred cows of the indies are ripping off Prince of Persia or Out of This World and calling it innovation anyway.

  • Mark B.

    Dude, I had to literally force myself to get through the first season, I don’t even KNOW where they are now.

  • Aaron Sirois

    It still has some interesting moments, but it’s completely taken out exploration and puzzle solving (apart from one bit where I needed to *gasp* turn a key). It’s just an interactive drama at this point. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be a part of the “adventure” conversation anymore. Telltale has pretty much abandoned that genre at this point.

  • MrMidstream

    Save gaming? Why would anything need to “save” gaming? Gaming is doing better than ever. Maybe you’re simply getting bored of gaming? Maybe you’re out growing it? The thing is, each year, there are millions more kids who have NEVER played a shooter (for example), and so YOU might be bored of games like CoD, but there are millions of kids each year who are not. You’re fighting a losing battle if you think gaming needs to change simply because older gamers like yourself have gotten bored of them. I’m 36 years old and I’ve been gaming since 1982 on my Dad’s Commodore Vic 20. Luckily for me, I still see video games as simply video games. It doesn’t matter to me if there were “plot holes” in games like Singularity. These games coming out now are more fun than ever before IMO!

  • Mark B.

    Which is fine, but given exactly how often people are starting to write articles and speculation pieces on how much worse gaming is going now than it was during the prior console cycle, or the one before that, I’m clearly not alone in the observation that AAA gaming needs work. I mean, good on you if you’re having more fun than ever, and I’m certainly enjoying the games I play, but whether or not we are enjoying ourselves is mutually exclusive from whether or not gaming is still as successful as it was when we were playing our NES’.

  • Alexander Lucard

    Don’t forget there are actually less games produced for consoles right now than ever before and that companies that used to turn a profit are actually no longer doing so. Konami, Sega, Capcom, Nintendo and more are making less games than they used to and having a harder time actually making a profit. If gaming was doing better than ever, we’d be seeing MORE AAA companies and/or games coming about, not less.

  • MrMidstream

    Gaming was successful with 10 year old boys when the NES came out. I remember my parents and friend’s parents could have cared less about Super Mario Bros 3 when it first came out. Today, I’m a parent and LOVE gaming. My son loves gaming. My friends and their kids mostly love gaming. And you’re definitely not alone with your opinion that triple A gaming needs work, but you’re part of a very small and very vocal minority. But I’m part of a very very very large majority/mainstream who simply loves video games. Triple A gaming is bigger than ever and the sales numbers of games like Call of Duty simply do not lie.

  • Mark B.

    To address the first point, I’m sure that you know a lot of people who love gaming, and I do too, but the majority of those people, even working in the IT sector as I do, are casual gamers; they buy one to three games a year, at most, and rarely (if ever) do any of the things that game publishers/developers want them to do, like preorder or invest in technology when it debuts. I mean, think about it this way: the Playstation 2 moved a colossal amount of units at launch and continued to do so for the entire first year of its existence despite there being practically no games available for it, and when Sony went back to that well with the PS3, it took them years to recover from the misstep. Microsoft is suffering major setbacks because of their posture that they could release the Xbox One as is because of the success of the 360, and even Sony and Nintendo aren’t doing great in the current generation; Sony took nearly two years to get the Vita to a point where anyone is going to pay attention to it, and the 3DS had to undergo a price drop before anyone but the most diehard gamers wanted to touch it. There are clearly problems, whether or not you and I love gaming, and if you’re of the mentality that those problems don’t matter that’s your decision; mine is that I love gaming, and want it to succeed, and want it to avoid the exact same problems comic books and wrestling went through when they got to this phase of their existence.

    Also, on the majority argument, nothing against you personally but I hate that argument, because

    1.) At various points in time Brittany Spears, N*Sync, BSB, NKOTB, the Spice Girls, Vanilla Ice, bell bottoms, Hypercolor shirts, slap bracelets, Justin Bieber, the war in Iraq and the Transformers films have been liked by the majority, but that doesn’t mean all or any of those things were actually GOOD,
    2.) Call of Duty actually lost sales between Black Ops 2 and Ghosts, as did ACIV compared to ACIII, and while 12 million to 11 million isn’t huge to you or me, it’s a sign of a downward trend,
    3.) Being in the position I’m in I try to take a more broad-scope perspective on things, whether I like them or not, and
    4.) Machiavelli, Galileo and Darwin were all minority speakers in their lifetime; I’m not saying I’m as great as any of them (OH GOD I AM SO NOT) but I am saying that the majority isn’t always right.

  • Mark B.

    Well there’s also the problem of moving the bar back relative to what “success” means; we’re officially seeing situations where something like Tomb Raider moves around five million units and the CEO of Squeenix had to step down because that wasn’t enough, or where something like LA Noire or Bioshock Infinite makes a relative killing (five million and six million units, respectively) and the development houses behind them were SHUT DOWN afterward due to various reasons, or where Konami releases four successful Silent Hill games, then shutters the development team and farms out the next few games to the cheapest bidder. That doesn’t even take into consideration the hemorrhaging all around the industry, where successful companies like CCP end up caning people ANYWAY, or where hot start-ups like Polygon look like they’re going to be the hot new journalistic thing and then lay off people two years or so later.

    I don’t WANT the industry to fail, but it’s sure not doing itself any favors.

  • Mark B.

    Oh so it’s a David Cage game series now. That’s incredibly depressing.

  • Aaron Sirois

    How DARE you besmirch the good name of the Spice Girls!

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