Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Singularity Review

In this day and age of gaming we look to games to offer us engaging story lines, thrilling moral dilemmas and immense emotional consequences that force us to dwell deeper and deeper into the roots of the game’s message and its purpose. Shooting games like Halo and Gears of War tell tales of heroes and fallen soldiers, of war trodden worlds and species fighting for survival. Singularity ignores all that boring nonsense, throws a heap of cool weapons on your lap and unleashes hordes of mutants and monsters at you expecting havoc to ensue. While indeed this game does not go much deeper than that, Activision offer a very fun and fast paced shooter with pleasant surprises along the way, a game that doesn’t take itself to seriously and as a result, is bags full of fun. A few technical hitches here and there alongside quite dated graphics make you wish a little bit more time was spent on Singularity, but this rarely gets in the way of all the awesome action you’re going to be involved in.

The premise of Singularity is very cheesy but does well to set the mood for a Sci-Fi Shooter; the game’s whereabouts are situated on the island of Katorga-12 where Russian scientists were experimenting with a substance known as E99 during the Cold War. This substance had the power to manifest and control time resulting in a catastrophic accident that forced the entire existence of the island and the project to be covered up by Russia. You play the role of Nate Renko, a soldier assigned to go and investigate strange emissions surrounding the island and obviously end up crash landing. From here you learn the islands dark, time travelling secrets, which I won’t give away otherwise there won’t be any story left! What I will discuss is Singularity’s awesome game mechanic, the Time Manipulation Device.

Indeed Singularity is more than just blasting enemies away with really cool shotguns and automatics, rather the addition of the TMD allows for some very fun and inventive ways to keep the combat fresh and exciting. On top of that the game also uses the following abilities to create puzzles to vary the game play, which serves as a welcome break from the action.

The TMD has many powers and uses, the first being the Age Revert. This power allows you to take objects and humans backwards and forwards in time. This offers many awesome advantages, allowing broken staircases to be fixed, fences to rust, humans to age turning to dust or attack each other in a primitive state and many more. The Deadlock power allows you to throw a time manipulating energy ball into the field of battle that slows down or stops completely everything inside it. Aside from slowing down enemies and bullets this once again is used in the environments to slow down speeding fans etc to allow safe passage. The next power is Impulse, which is a time shockwave that can knock enemies off their feet but more importantly if used on enemies that are floating between time dimensions, they become visible and allow you to kill them with your weaponry. Another power available is Gravity, which reminds me of the Gravity Gun from Half Life games and Portal, allowing you to move items and suspend them in time, so grenades won’t explode and so forth until you release them. The Chronolight is the final ability learned and is arguably the most interesting, allowing players to view their surroundings in different time periods. Accompanied by the Gravity ability, players can for example, take objects out of other time periods to solve puzzles in their current situation, providing some thrilling puzzle pieces throughout the game.

The TMD really helps transform this game from just simple shooter into an engaging and pretty complex experience. The need to constantly change abilities and combine with different weapons depending on what enemy you face makes Singularity a whole load of frantic fun. This isn’t to say that the TMD is the only cool weapon you get as the game offers some pretty terrific actual weapons for you to handle as well. When using the Sniper Rifle for example, time slows down allowing for some absolutely epic bombardment from distance. Another long-range weapon allows you to guide the bullet directly into the enemy yourself, providing some pretty sick yet awesome satisfaction. You will at first notice that the game feels too familiar with other such Sci-Fi shooters, yet as the game progresses and the TMD’s abilities are unlocked side by side with these cool weapons, you will begin to characterize Singularity as an FPS game in its own right, deservedly so at that.

The game continues to impress through its online multiplayer experience. Singularity takes the approach that less is good in this instance and only offers two game modes, an assault and defends game-type called Extermination and Deathmatch called Creatures vs. Soldiers. Both modes are terrific fun, especially the latter where you are given the opportunity to play as the enemies you encounter in the campaign. This segment definitely takes a leaf out of Left 4 Dead’s book, but it offers an engaging and variable game mode with lots of different powers available for each type of creature alongside the soldiers also getting access to the TMD’s special multiplayer abilities.

From a technical perspective unfortunately Singularity is a bit of a let down. While sound design is done very well, do not expect to be looking at this year’s best-designed game. The Unreal 3 Engine is implemented here, but the game’s resolution is lacklustre, graphics are quite dull and textures aren’t the greatest. Enemies do look quite nice, but are plagued by pretty dumb AI, more consistently noticeable on human enemies who just do not know how to hide and cover. The game doesn’t look bad, but it’s just not mesmerizing. Fortunately, the fluidity of the action helps keep this problem to a minimum.

Overall, Singularity is definitely a game that you can pick up for its fun factor. It does what it needs to do and does it really well, lots of action, great pacing, varied weaponry and mechanics alongside some great enemies and boss battles. Yes it has its problems, but you are not buying this game to marvel at its technical beauty, this game is all out action and excitement and is a winner in my book.

Technical presentation – 5.0

Graphics – 6.0

Game-play – 9.0

Replay value – 8.0

Final score – 7 / 10

CeX (UK) Contributor

Igor Kharin

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