Singularity – The PS3 Attitude Review
We’ve been talking about Singularity here at the Attitude Towers for quite some time. Since its reveal early last year, it’s been through a roller coaster of hype and publicity. In 2009, it seemed Activision was very eager to show this game off to any and all that would pay attention, but it the past 6 months or so the game seemed to fall off the face of the Earth.
Now, with little warning, it has finally hit shelves.
The story of Singularity starts in the late 1940’s in Soviet Russia, where scientists and engineers are searching desperately for an answer to America’s Atomic Bomb. In their search, they discover a compound they call ‘E-99’ on an island just off the east coast of Russia.
While the compound can be used to create very large amounts of energy at once, scientists begin specifically using it for the alteration of time.
After the better part of 10 years of research and development, an accident occurs on the island which forces the closure of the labs and the research of the compound.
Now, over 50 years later, large amounts of pulsing energy are coming from the island, and guess who’s going to check it out? You are. Unaware of the research that happened on the island so long ago, the United States sends in a team of Special Forces to scope out the situation… which is where the mayhem begins.
Upon crash-landing on the island, you’re separated from your team and must fight to not only reunite with them, but to survive some of the strange things that are happening around you. Aside from hideous beasts and mutated humans, there is also another evil on the island in the form of a nasty man that’s trying to gain control of the compound and all of its power. It’s up to you to stop him, meet up with your team and survive some of the dark secrets the island has to offer.
The story in Singularity is actually pretty decent and flows very well. Cut-scenes are a common thing but they never last so long that they interrupt the flow of the game. Similar to a game like Bioshock, there are many notes and audio logs lying around for you to investigate, and while these pieces of information do a great job of fleshing out the story, they’re not necessary to fully understand what’s happening.
There are bits and pieces of the game’s plt that feel a little hobbled together and there are definitely a few opportunities missed, but the voice acting is solid and we knew at all points in the game what was going on and why we were trying to complete the task at hand.
One of the impressive things about how the game plays out is Raven Studios’ use of set-piece moments. Unlike in so many other games, these moments are not used to try and make your jaw hit the floor, but rather to add small subtleties to the world and people around you as your character progresses. The additions of these moments are very cool to witness, especially early in the game.
While the game only lasts about 7-8 hours, the inclusion of many weapon/power upgrades that you can’t all afford in any single play-through, and the addition of multiple endings do give the game some replay value.
Another place the game strikes success is its atmosphere. Both the story and the game’s sounds play in to this, but you’re taken all the way up and down the range of emotions while struggling through the campaign.
There are times when you feel very tense and weary about walking around the next corner, but there are also times when you want to pump your fists in excitement after dispatching a large group of enemies with your powers.
Graphically speaking, the game is very impressive. The enviroments are large and pretty, the lighting work is above par and the animations – especially during those set piece moments – are down-right awesome.
Unfortunately, Singularity uses the Unreal Engine. Not that the Unreal Engine isn’t a very capable heart for a game, but it does bring a few glaring flaws with it. Most noticeable is the pop-up in some of the far items in an area, as well as some extremely slow texture draw-in at certain points.
Despite these flaws, the game still looks very good overall and was able to keep an acceptable frame rate under most circumstances.
The main draw to Singularity is the time manipulation device that you’re given early in the story – aka the TMD. The TMD has many uses and works just like the plasmids do in Bioshock, except its function is used exclusively for altering time. You upgrade the device throughout the game to make it more efficient and gain new powers.
One of its most basic functions allows you to instantly age someone/something, or to turn back time on a specific object and make it new again. You use this power not only against enemies but also to solve puzzles.
For instance, say there’s a rusty and decrepit stair case that you need to go up but can’t due to its condition. Use the TMD to turn back the clock on the staircase, and it’s good as new again.
When you’re ready to turn the TMD against your enemies, you’ll probably find the power of aging them in to dust very entertaining. Also fun is the ability to lock your enemies in to an energy time capsule and riddle their body full of bullets. After a few seconds when the time capsule expires, the actions of your ammunition all take their toll at the same time, which makes for quite a mess depending on how many bullets you decided to dedicate to that particular enemy.
We felt that Raven did a very good job balancing the TMD to be used for both puzzles and combat, but both of those uses drain the devices energy, which must be replaced as you progress through the game, so you’re forced to make choices concerning how you want to use it.
Speaking of puzzles, they’re a fairly normal occurrence in Singularity. From aging and renewing items to be used, or sometimes stopping time completely to get past a certain area, you run across many of these throughout the game. Unfortunately, most of the time the puzzles end up feeling a little unfledged since they’re so simple and repetitive.
The weapons you’re given to work with in Singularity are pretty standard with a couple of exceptions. You have your basic pistol, shotgun, machine gun, etc. but you also have weapons like the ‘seeker.’ The seeker is an experimental weapon that allows you to steer an explosive round after it has left the gun. You aim the bullet in slow motion and because of its explosive effect it’s a great choice for killing multiple enemies in a small area.
Another cool weapon was a gun called the Dethex launcher. On the surface it might just appear to be a standard grenade launcher, but it’s got an alternate fire that allows you to launch a grenade on to the ground in front of you, and then steer it towards a group of enemies for maximum effect. While the gun itself did not prove to be very valuable over the course of the game, it was used to help solve a couple of puzzles.
Singularity also comes with a multiplayer mode, although you’ll be quick to discover how shallow and tacked-on it is. It only has 2 different game-modes spanning across 8 different maps, and while it is very functional, it lacks any kind of real depth that makes you want to keep playing.
While some may find entertainment in the unique ‘Extermination’ game mode which allows you to control monsters and take over human opponents, there’s really not much that’s going to keep a strong community playing the game.
In the end, Singularity’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Everything you do in the game feels very familiar and comfortable, but we soon figured out that the reason it feels that way is because we’ve done it so many times before. There’s really nothing new to see here that you haven’t already tried several times over.
With that being said, that doesn’t mean that Singularity doesn’t have its own two legs to stand on. Almost every aspect of the single-player game is solid, and if you’re stuck in the middle of the post-E3 lull like most of the gaming world, this is a very fun and competent shooter that’s hard not to recommend. Just don’t go in to it thinking you’re going to have an experience you haven’t already had.
We have to wonder why Activision dropped this game off their radar after being so high on it early in the development cycle. The game does not appear to have any kind of marketing campaign, it was not featured at E3, and mum has been the word from Activision since its launch. It’s really a shame because there’s a lot of fun to be had with it and it’s the kind of title that could have some retail success, especially at a time like now when there’s not much competition to go up against.
If you’re a fan of FPS games, action/adventure games or 2K’s flagship under-sea adventure, Singularity is definitely worth some of your time. But at the end of the year, it’s doubtful you’ll look back and remember this game as anything more than a short burst of fun.