Singularity

Singularity

Russians? Check. Zombie things? Check. Awesomeness? Check.
Author: Brian Albert
Published: July 21, 2010
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More so than with any other recent game, Singularity has me eagerly awaiting an improved sequel. What Raven Software has given us is a title that delivers adequately on all fronts, yet fails to realize its own tremendous potential. Don't get me wrong, however. The solid shooter controls, a fun, yet slightly hackneyed story, and nifty time alteration mechanics make this an enjoyable game that is absolutely worth your time.


What if World War II hadn't ended like it did? What if the U.S.S.R. didn't eventually disband and relinquish its position as one of the world's few superpowers? Singularity explores these questions and substitutes its own alternate reality in the place of true history. This time around, things aren't looking too hot for the United States.

The Russians have discovered a vast deposit of Element-99 (E99) deep within the island of Katorga-12. This highly unstable mineral warps time, converts men into mindless monsters, and generally causes issues for those foolish enough to experiment with it. Eventually Soviet scientists learned to successfully harvest E99 and implemented it into their current weapons. With their newfound tools of destruction, the U.S.S.R. easily conquered and overran the remainder of the world.

Here's where it gets crazy; none of this actually happened.

In 2010, American satellites detect an anomaly off the coast of Russia. As usual, a small squad is sent to investigate and report on their findings. Players fill the shoes of Nate Renko, one of soldiers along for the ride. Just as the troops reach their destination, a large blast destroys their helicopter and strands the unit on Katorga-12. From then on, several time rifts constantly transport the player back-and-forth between 2010 and 1955. During his warped travels, Renko makes a decision that alters the course of history, leading to the dismal, Soviet-dominated future mentioned earlier. As the game progresses, the player basically sets out to fix the biggest "My bad, guys." ever.

Singularity is, at its core, a first-person shooter. Unlike many others of its kind, the gunplay actually feels very solid. Weapons possess appropriate weight, and aiming is smooth and precise. The arsenal is generally pretty basic (pistol, assault rifle, shotgun), but there are a few exotic weapons that can really turn the tide against overwhelming odds. My personal favorite is the "Seeker," a rifle that fires explosive rounds that can be steered mid-flight right into enemies' noggins. Weapons can be upgraded at stations randomly scattered throughout the environments. Though it's satisfying and effective to improve a weapon's damage, reload speed, or round capacity, it would've been interesting to see unique upgrades for every weapon rather than having the same three options available for each one.

Singularity's main hitch, however, isn't the powerful weaponry or the wacky story; it's the Time Manipulation Device (TMD). This arm-mounted gizmo is acquired early on and grants the player some fantastic powers. These abilities keep the gameplay fresh and allow the player to tackle challenges in a variety of ways. Running low on ammo? Simply accelerate a foe's natural aging process until he turns into dust. Too many enemies charging toward you at once? Fire a stasis bubble that slows anybody or anything caught inside to a grinding halt. Inventive gamers can combine these powers to create destructive recipes.

For example, if a foe is ready to toss a grenade your way, a well-placed bubble can slow his movement while the live grenade is still in his hand. If that's not twisted enough for you, line up headshots on the motionless foes and fire away. As the bubble collapses, the suspended rounds will all impact their target at once resulting in some ridiculously gory explosions. Later on, an upgrade to the TMD allows it to manipulate gravity in a manner identical to the gravity gun found in Half-Life 2. Enemy grenades or rockets can be captured and pushed back. Explosive barrels can be launched at groups of enemies to take several of them out, or tanks of liquid nitrogen can be used to freeze particularly fast or resilient foes. Each individual ability is fun and effective, and can be upgraded using supplies of E99 littered throughout the various levels.
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