It's clear bad stuff is going down there, because after a pretty brutal helicopter crash, you find yourself warped from the ruined propaganda-laden halls of the island in the present day, to the pristine Soviet base of the 1950's. As you spend time in the past, your actions manage to change the global situation of the present — and thus begins the dubious task of putting things back to normal.
Singularity is an adventure focused first-person shooter akin to Bioshock. Here your simple surroundings are detailed enough to further the narrative, with audio-logs and messages scattered throughout the world, enhancing the game's sense of mystery.
Singularity's single player campaign will take roughly eight hours to see through, but there's an interesting Aliens vs Predator-inspired multiplayer component on offer to round out the package.
Singularity's jumps between the present day and the 1950's are among some of the game's strongest moments. Despite being completely binary, these jumps between past and present have interesting affects on each other that are enjoyable to observe. Singularity's time manipulation doesn't end there though. The game's biggest hook is the TMD — an advanced piece of wrist-worn technology developed by the Russians during the game's interpretation of the Cold War. The device is picked up by the game's protagonist, and gives you a whole manner of unique abilities. The TMD's biggest function is its ability to age or restore objects. This plays into many of the game's puzzles. For example — if there's a door you can't quite fit under, you can slide a rusted, weathered container beneath it, then restore it to its former state. This pushes the door open, allowing you to squeeze under it. Singularity is littered with these kind of puzzles, many of which play into the TMD's full range of abilities. You are able to lift objects and throw them with a gravity attachment, aswell as slow time and create shields with a rift inducer. Interestingly, the TMD's sole use isn't for puzzles. It's a useful part of combat too. Aging enemies allows you to kill them with a single attack, but other uses are just as interesting. The gravity components can be used to reverse the direction of missiles and grenades, likewise time manipulation can be used to crumble enemies' cover. As you near the end of the game, and you gain a grasp on the combat, you'll wish for more enemies to fight. Just because the combat's that fun.
Among Singularity's mix of machine guns and pistols, are a few standout weapons in Renko's aresenal. The Seeker allows you to control the direction of bullets after they've left the gun barrel, enabling you to hit targets not necessarily in the direct line of sight. Likewise, the game's grenade launcher interpretation allows you to roll the explosives - Metroid style - into dangerous positions, and wipe out entire rooms with ease. It's a shame that some of the game's best weapons - the Seeker for example - are not available at all times. The gun never becomes a firm part of your inventory, and only becomes available at choice moments in the campaign. Fair enough, the gun would completely unbalance the game, but it's so fun to use we wanted to see more of it.
We got completely sucked into Singularity's setting. Some exemplary use of the Unreal Engine (yes, this game uses Unreal and looks good!), alongside some quality level design make the setting of Katorga-12 eerie, foreboding and thoroughly engaging. While it uses many of the same techniques popularised by Bioshock, it's an effective technique. With each corridor littered by interesting letters, notes, audio-logs and messages.
Singularity's campaign is peppered with variety. There are several locations that prevent the campaign from getting tedious. Our favourite mission saw us restore a massive cruise ship and board it. The effects of our restoration were limited, however. As we navigated the ship's tight corridors, the restoration effects began to reverse, causing the ship to change around us. Mmm... set pieces.
There's only one stand-out boss fight in Singularity, but man is it an awesome one. While it settles for the basic "shoot the glowing spot" formula, the spectacle is still enjoyable.
We're sure time manipulation in a video game is a hard thing to do. Even so, you can't help but feel that Singularity could have gone further with its concepts. Why not take me to different eras rather than simply the 1950s? Sure, for narrative reasons everything that happens in Singularity makes sense, but how cool would it have been to go way back to the 1500s or something? Likewise, as cool as the TMD device is, it feels a bit binary. It boils down to whether something is broken or not broken, and it's a shame there's no middle ground. Obviously, none of this affects the game experience that's been crafted in any way — but you can't help but feel that Raven could have gone further with the ideas.
For the most part, Singularity does a pretty good job of playing out through the eyes of the character from start to finish. Y'know, like Half-Life. There are no pauses, no load-screens (unless you die) — the game just flows. That makes it super jarring when the game does decide to stop and say, "Hey, we're just loading up this next part, hang on a second". And it usually happens at some of the most key parts in the game's campaign. It just takes you out of the action.
Singularity takes advantage of health packs to restore your health. These can be used by pressing the up button on the d-pad. This feels like a terrible place to map this command, because you're required to take your thumb off the analogue stick to use it. This leaves you completely static and open to fire during combat, which is when you're going to need the health packs in the first place.
Singularity borrows heavily from the likes of Bioshock, but it has enough personality to carve out an identity of its own. While it's destined to be overlooked, Singularity's atmospheric campaign is certain to last in the memory of those who experience it. It's definitely one of the best shooters of the year.