Raven Software comes from a solid pedigree of recently released titles. Their latest outing Singularity looks to bring a unique twist to the first person shooter genre. Does this title manipulate the way we see games, or does it amount to nothing more than a cheap gimmick?
Singularity takes place on an island known as Katorga- 12, where Russian Cold War experiments with Element 99 didn’t quite go as planned. The year is 2010 and the United States has detected an unusual radiation surge off the coast of Russia. In response, a U.S Special Forces unit is sent to assess the situation, and it just so happens that upon arrival you are greeted by an unpleasant shockwave forcing you to crash land.
After playing the first twenty minutes of Singularity it’s entirely fair to accuse it of being nothing more than a Bioshock clone. It’s incredibly atmospheric, and features all of the same tools used from Bioshock. Flashbacks, audio diaries, and notes are just a few of the items Raven Software use in making Singularity one of the most immersive games I have played this year. It’s certainly a familiar formula; however it manages to do it well. For instance, the flash-backs are done correctly, helping to build tension and atmosphere; however, I feel that they were over-used throughout the course of the game. This helps lead to Singularity’s biggest problem, which is its reliance on rehashed gameplay mechanics. Singularity is like Bioshock, Half-life 2, and Call of Duty all getting together and having a baby. Genetically, Singularity has traits from all of these games, but has very little that stands out by itself.
The atmosphere is supported by instances heavily used in titles such as Bioshock and the TMD, otherwise known as the Time Manipulation Device feels similar to the gravity gun in Half-Life 2. That is not to say that the TMD is completely unoriginal, because it features a good selection of abilities and it’s wickedly fun. Singularity handles time-manipulation far better than most of the poorly received titles attempting to cash in on this gimmick. Time is an important theme in both the story and gameplay; making it a cohesive part of the experience, rather than a gimmick. Singularity is paced surprising well, featuring tense stealth sections and frantic shoot-outs. Never once did I tire of playing Singularity and that’s a testament to the fine job Raven Software has done. The gameplay meets the grade, but what of the other aspects?
It’s apparent at first glance that graphically Singularity is in the back of the line, or being picked last for a basketball game. It’s struggling to keep up with most titles on the market. Textures are low-resolution and virtually everything struggles to stand out graphically. The same can not be said for the art-style which happens to be one of the bright spots. It’s moody, creepy, and intriguing, and it’s a shame that the graphics were not better, because it could have added another layer of atmosphere.
The sound design also suffers from some nasty pitfalls; like repetitive sound effects and re-used voice actors. Some more variety could have gone a long way into improving the game as a whole. The voice acting that is there is done well, however at times it’s hard to understand them and the exclusion of subtitles makes this issue even more pressing. Not including subtitles was a huge mistake for a game that relies on heavy accents and for the most part comes off as being lazy.
Singularity also features two competitive multiplayer modes. Essentially these modes allow you to play as the creatures from the single-player against class based TMD wielders. The Soldier and Creature classes feature four variants, such as Healer, and the Revert. Frankly, the multiplayer modes feels tacked on, and I would have preferred the developers to work on the single-player more, or even add a cooperative mode, seeing as the game lends itself better to that. It’s not that the multiplayer is awful, but rather completely uninspiring and boring.
If you are fan of Bioshock then Singularity is an easy recommendation. It’s a direct imitation in so many ways; however it manages to squeeze enough originality when it needs to. It’s a charming title with a solid single-player and a multiplayer that unfortunately feels tacked on. It’s a title full of a lot of surprises, and by the end of the single-player I’m confident that you’ll feel your money was well spent.