STAFF REVIEW of Singularity (Xbox 360)

Monday, July 26, 2010.
by Adam Dileva

Singularity Box art What happens when you mix one part Bioshock, one part Half-Life, and one part Time Shift? You get Singularity from Raven Software. Raven Software are the people that brought us the last Wolfenstein game and after realizing this, I was a little apprehensive about Singularity as Wolfenstein simply didnt do anything for me.

Since Singularity is almost a mash-up of different games, they had the ability to pick and choose the best parts from the games they wanted to use and get the most out of. For example, you control a device that is basically the gravity gun from Hal-Life 2, there is a very Bioshock feel and development feel about it, and of course the ability to manipulate time comes from titles like Time Shift. I was hoping that with all the great reference material that they could take form, that they could basically piece together something that is a best-of of all the titles. While they may have done it with the gimmicks and abilities, I found the rest of the journey to be dull and daunting.

Singularity was a catastrophic event that changed the world as we know it and the massive cover-up needs to be blown wide open by you the player. To aid your journey youll be given many different types of weaponry and even a Time Manipulation Device (TMD) to help fight all the enemies from the past, present, and mutations between.

You are Captain Nathaniel Renko, part of an American black-ops team that crash lands on an island called Katorga-12 deep behind Russian enemy lines thats been abandoned since the 1950s. Turns out that in the 50s, Russian scientists discovered a powerful new element aptly called E99 and those that control this amazing power substance could very well change the world. E99 is almost infinitely more powerful than the atom bomb and this island is the only source in the world for this ultra rare element which is why the Russians made a stronghold here for all their experiments. This was before the events come to be known as Singularity and your team was sent to find out more.

Evil experiments caused the event to take place but it also left a wake of formers soldiers and inhabitants to turn into vicious mutants. As you make your way from one end of the island to the other, youll be using your black-ops training with your weapons, but your true weapon will be your newly founded TMD that was created over 50 years ago. As you progress, youll also time shift yourself between modern day and back in the 1950s, thus altering the worlds history.

Renkos mission soon turns into keeping historys timeline intact by having to help people along the way, which means having to trust them if you want to or not. While you will travel through time to learn more of the story, the bulk of all the information you receive is sadly through hidden audio logs and recorders throughout the island. If this sounds all too familiar, this is where youll see much of Bioshocks inspiration shine. Sadly the audio logs arent usually interesting enough to hold your attention and if you venture too far from the recorder, you cant even hear it any longer. This means youre going to miss a bulk of the back story unless you stand in place listening to every single audio log that seems to almost always end in the persons demise being recorded at their last moment. Yea, its that cliché.

Youll have access to the standard set of weapons; shotguns, machine guns, pistols, rifles and more, but there are a few specialty weapons that do stand out. What makes some of these weapons stand out? Well, they are usually infused with E99 technology which gives them a huge kick in firepower or other interesting secondary abilities. The Seeker is one of these weapons that essentially shoot exploding bullets that can be steered by the player. An explosion from one of these will cause limbs and large amounts of blood to be splattered nearby. There are other specialty weapons in the game as well, but they come far and few in between and dont come with much ammunition to keep the awesome moments continuing.

While these weapons are the standard, the TMD you get somewhat early on is what youll be using the most often in the latter half of the game. I say somewhat early because you dont know or obtain the TMD until and hour or two in which seems way too long to get one of the main devices in the game. When you first obtain it, its main use is to repair or revert objects that havent done so well against the test of time. This means that staircases that have collapsed can be repaired to their working state so you can progress or fixing a broken down power box so you can use a lever to open a door. There are some puzzles that makes use of these tricks such as placing a crushed box under a broken gate then repairing it to its full size to push the gate up so you can crawl in underneath. Sadly, many of the puzzle aspects dont get much more complicated than this aside from stopping time to get by moving fan blades. The puzzles are repeated again and again and never really become challenging or something youll have to figure out.

As you gain upgrades to your TMD you also gain new abilities and skills to help you along your way. Eventually you are able to turn enemies into skeletons instantly, shoot a close range shockwave pulse, and even shoot an orb that stops time for anything that it touches. This orb can be used to stop bullets or even enemies in their tracks leaving them free to be destroyed by you. The problem with this is that you dont really know when an enemy is dead until the orb wears off and they collapse or not. Eventually you can turn soldiers into mutants to attack other soldiers which is always entertaining to watch as you conserve ammo.

These TMD powers are very much like Plasmids in Bioshock and the E99 vials you find throughout can be used to upgrade certain abilities also just like Bioshock as well. You are able to upgrade your powers and weapons in any order or way you wish to fit your play style and near the end of the game youll feel incredibly more powerful than when you crash landed on the island.

The issue I had with the TMD abilities is that very few objects in the game can manipulated. The lore says that only items that were infused with E99 are the only objects that can be altered by the TMD. This is great and all, but why are cinder blocks and other random items experimented on with E99? Because of this, it feels very forced and almost gimmicky since you can never use it when you really want to. Sure, decaying the cinder block the enemy is shooting from is great to make him targetable, but why cant the one that the other enemy beside him is hiding behind do the same thing? It is small things like this that eventually turn Singularity into another shooter even though you have this awesome TMD that should make you super-human.

I wasnt expecting Singularity to have a real kind of multiplayer as it seemed like a more single player narrative than anything. Sure enough, multiplayer is included, but its also nothing to write home about. Two teams take turns playing Humans and Mutants. There are other modes other than Team Deathmatch, but every single game I played seemed to eventually just turn into a frag-fest and no one cared about the objectives.

Each team has different classes that can be customized to their load-out and abilities (like perks). The mutant side is far more interesting to play as the different classes play completely uniquely from the others. You can be a ticker-like creature that is super weak but able to scale walls and ceilings to be used a scout, or a giant beast that takes a lot of firepower to take down which is great for defending areas. Playing the mutants will feel much like versus mode in Left 4 Dead since you are able to bite, scratch, and puke on other players, but it is fun for a short while. Its very imbalanced and even though every type of game just turns into a Deathmatch, it is fun for a short while, but it wont keep you playing for more than a few weeks at best.

It took me awhile to figure out why Singularity simply wasnt clicking with me and there were a few things that stood out for me. The biggest peeve I had was the audio logs. There is so much story that is placed in these logs that you need to hear or youll simply miss out. This doesnt even take into account that you need to find all of them, but you need to stand around twiddling your thumbs as you listen to them. Nine times out of ten the log will always end in a horrifying scream of the person getting killed; havent characters learned yet that recording a message always means certain death?

The second part of this gripe is that there is no option for subtitles in the game. While not everyone uses them, I usually do for those times you cant hear everything or cant have the TV turned up loud. If was I was able to read the audio logs as I wandered away, this may have helped, but I know I missed out on quite a lot of narrative because of the lack of this. I couldnt imagine someone that was deaf trying to figure out what was going on and why.

Youll get the average eight to twelve hours of single player depending on the difficulty, but it does drag on as the pacing just seems very off. Some sequences are very cool and creative like the boss fights, and then you need to traverse hallways filled with mutants for the remainder. There are some neat ideas and Im sure other people will enjoy Singularity for what it is, but it just simply didnt click for me in any way. Its not a bad game by any means, but it felt very mediocre for me that could have been something more considering they took the best part from multiple games.

Overall: 6.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10



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