Singularity Review, A shooter about time travel stuck in the past. How ironic.
Posted 01 March 2013 - 03:53 PM
Time travel. We've all dreamed about it at one point or another. What would we do if we could change the past. Would we use it to fix our mistakes, and rewrite history to suit our need, or would we seize the chance at power, and use it to make ourselves immortal throughout time? Or, would we find ourselves part of a higher calling, destined to do something incredible? Singularity from Raven software (creators of action RPGs like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance) casts you in the shoes of one such individual. Faced with unlimited power, it's up to you to decide the worlds fate. Except it's not, as Singularity is quick to put restraints on just about everything you can do. What remains is a shooter with a lot of ideas and potential, but winds up completely average by it's own design.
As part of a military recon team, you play as Captain Nathaniel Renko, on a mission to investigate strange occurrences on a remote island name Katorga-12. It becomes immediately apparent though that things are not in the least bit ordinary, and after narrowly surviving a crash landing in the ocean, you find yourself in the middle of a time warp. It only gets more insane from there, as you find yourself beset upon by Russian soldiers, and terrifying mutants. This is all because of an element unique to the island, simply named Element-99. You meet up with members of a resistance movement, and are then task with traveling back in time, and destroying the singularity that has caused so much mess.
While it starts off strong, Singularity almost immediately goes completely off the rails, getting way to complicated. The game tries to explain so much in the first hour or two that I became completely lost, and had to keep reminding myself why I was doing something or going somewhere. There is also very little in the way of character development. The good guys are good, bad guys are bad. That's about as deep as it gets. You encounter strange writings on the wall throughout your journey, but these never add up to much, and mostly serve to put questions in your head that have no answers. It's pointless, and I don't see why they were included. One thing I did like was reading the notes left by the destroyed residents of the island. This helped flesh out the world a lot more, but it's annoying that they almost completely disappear in the later half of the game. I wanted to know more, but the game just stopped letting me in. It's definitely an interesting story, but it could have been so much more.
The time shifting mechanic is the main hook in Singularity. With a device called the DMV, you can age object back and forth in time. It's a cool idea, but it winds up being really shallow. You can only age select few items, and these are mostly all used for the same puzzle over and over again. The explanation the game gives for this is that only things that have been touched by Element-99 can be manipulated. It then completely contradicts this by allowing you to age virtually every enemy in the game. I find it hard to imagine that every human being on the island is contaminated, but whole rooms that were used to experiment on the substance are not. It creates a disconnect between the gameplay and the game world, and doesn't ever pan out to more than a gimmick.
Raven has actually done decent job with the shooting in Singularity. It feels rather old school, but in a good way. The weapons are all rather unique and fun to use, but it's a pity that they make it so annoying to change them. Rarely do enemies actually drop the weapon they're using, allowing you to pick it up. The only way to really change weapons is to use the weapon chest placed around levels. These are often so far apart though that you can't really experiment if you find a particular spot better suit to a different firearm. Not that the levels lend themselves well to experimentation. The game consists mostly of tight corridors or offices, with little room to maneuver, let alone strategize. It's pretty much go from point A to B, shooting up anything in your path. But the shooting is a lot of fun. The controls are tight, and enemies give a realistic response to fire, which helps somewhat given how similar enemies AI is. You can count on them either rushing you or hiding in vain behind cover, without much thought for their own safety. It makes for an easy game, but it surprisingly enjoyable nonetheless.
I was really surprised by how good Singularity looks at time. There is a ton of detail put into scenes, and the environments do a good job of feeling unique. Trudging through the sewers feels suitably unsettling, and storming a rail site is very exciting. These changes don't always make sense in the grand scheme of things, but it leads to some interesting locales so I say it's a plus. What I could have lived without though is the game horrible pop in. Almost every level suffers from it at times. Even cutscenes can't get there act together, looking super blurry and bland. The framerate also isn't the most stable, dropping a few times when things hit the fan and particle effects are going everywhere. But when it does work right, Singularity can really impress, and really improves the game.
The sound effects are really good, with the guns sounding as you'd expect, and explosions having a good kick to them. The voice acting is good generally speaking. Unexpectedly, but not unsurprisingly, Nolan North once again shows up to put everyone to shame. I almost wish he'd had more lines, just because he's so darn good. But the rest of the cast turns in an respectable performance, and make even some horrible lines sound good. The music never stuck out to me, so much that I can hardly remember it at all. The game ops for more atmospheric sounds than blockbuster score, and it works rather well.
Singularity is yet another shooter that tries a lot of cool things, but doesn't come together in the end. The time travel is cool on paper, but it's so underused it just becomes annoying. It's old school design helps distinguish it from other shooters on the market, but leave you wanting for all the innovation that has occurred over the years. The story is OK, but leaves a lot unanswered, and the ending is rather disappointing. It's not a bad game, but it by no means represents a pinnacle of the genre. If you like the idea, I'd give it a look. It's fun for a rental, but don't come in expecting the next Bioshock. Try as it might, Singularity just isn't there.
Final Opinion: 7.5/10 Good
Note: This review was of the Xbox 360 version of the game. Any differences found in the PS3 or PC versions are not accounted for, and do not reflect the opinion of this review.
Posted 08 June 2013 - 11:38 AM
Good review. It's been awhile since I played Singularity, but from what I remember you're review is right on. I bought it on the cheap anyway because I wasn't expecting much...but yes, this game was average at best.
Posted 14 June 2013 - 06:20 PM
Thanks, it's always nice to get some feedback on these reviews
Posted 17 June 2013 - 05:43 PM
Posted 17 June 2013 - 06:16 PM
You know what I went into the without expecting much from it. But I surprisingly end up liking it more than Wolfenstein. I agree with everything you had to say, If the story wasn't so compress in the first few hours of gameplay the game could have better, at least storywise. Singularity is one of my all time mediocre games of this generation. It's a decent pick up for $10 or less
I'd agree with that. I got it through a rental, but for $10 I'd have picked it up. It's not a bad game by any means, just a decidedly average one that had a lot of wasted potential. Those looking for a quick shooter fix could do a lot worse. Also, thanks for taking the time to read my review, I'm surprised something so old keeps getting bumped
Posted 26 August 2013 - 12:19 AM
Pretty fun game, but like you said, starts off awesome then just kind of blows it after the first few hours. The game tries to do everything and ends up becoming a jack of all trades and master of none. I also felt that the game turned into much more of a mindless run and gun at the end compared to the more suspenseful and scary sections in the very beginning of the game.
And oh, my save data got corrupted with only 30 minutes left till the ending. (PS3) I was upset, had to watch the ending on youtube. lol. In the end, I agree with your score, probably would give it a 7/10.
- MrNinjaSquirrel likes this