Thursday, 2 September 2010


This FPS from Raven flew under the radar a couple of months ago but has been bubbling under the surface of anonymity and gaining an almost cult status. Should it be your next purchase?

I hadn't heard much of Singularity and when games like this aren't marketed enough (or in this case it seemed not at all), it's a dangerous game. Mainly because the market is full of FPS (first person shooters) and it's hard for the average gamer to know if a game is any good without seeing either some footage, a demo, or a preview article. None of which was easily available or advertised for this game.

This is another aspect where films and games differ. With a film you know who is going to be in it, what it's about, who is making it and the budget with trailers and posters everywhere. It's enough material to make a judgement before you go in, but with a game there's only a few recognisable names in the industry and you're also forking out a lot more money than a cinema ticket. All you have sometimes is the artwork and the back of the box. That's unless it's a franchise or a big game with a massive company behind it like Rockstar with Red Dead Redemption.

So what of this latest offering from Raven/Activision? Well the story is that you are sent to check out some strange activity coming from a hidden island, but once you get there all hell breaks loose. It starts as a horror story where horrible creatures walk around these abandoned schools but as soon as you pick up your TMD device it goes full-pelt into action. The TMD is a hand device that allows you to control time where you can fizzle away enemies into dust, open up time portals, rejuvenate ammo crates and by the end you can pretty much do anything. Along the way you pick up items that allow you to upgrade your TMD and the various weapons so you can personalise the gameplay to your style to a degree. As you progress in the plot, you see messages scrawled on walls and then time starts to go a bit ... well ... funny.

The first thing people will notice once they start playing for a while is that this is very similar to Bioshock. Just like your plasmids, you acquire different 'powers' as you progress that work alongside your weapons, but just like Bioshock these powers are fucking cool. Whether it's using the TMD to pick up oil barrels and throw them at your enemies, turn them into monsters, create a time 'shield' around you or more, the TMD has been well thought out and structured. The weapons are somewhat okay, once I had found an 'Autogunner' it was basically game over - I upgraded the hell out of it and nothing could stop me. This was an issue because after a while the game does get easy.

At first, the monsters are difficult to kill and the horror element is amazing, but where Bioshock kept this atmosphere going, Singularity settles for more explosions and such. They know the TMD makes you powerful, so perhaps they realised it was worthless creating tension when you're so badass - and you really are badass. The gameplay has a decent variety to an FPS, whether it's swimming underwater, trying to solve puzzles while you're in a gas mask running out of air, moving quietly amongst the blind monsters or just trying to pull boxes through time so you can stand on them to reach places, it does enough.

Picking up E99 tech and upgrading worked, but often they're everywhere and I had almost completely tech'd myself out. The tape players (similar to the diaries in Bioshock) fill in gaps of narrative as well as notes left around the place but I quickly got bored of just standing there and hearing them rattle on and unfortunately, if you move away from them, you can't hear them. Yawn.

The monsters were okay, a boss on top of a train was a good laugh but by the end you're killing more soldiers than anything. It's as if the monsters just gave up and the soldiers are far easier. The graphics looked great and the dialogue was okay. The actual island (with some references to Lost) had a geography that I just didn't understand, I never knew where I was or what exactly I was doing. The common problem with most FPS's, they tend to have a fleshy story but have trouble communicating it to you efficiently and unfortunately the same applies.

The plot is a good one, lots of twists and turns with multiple endings (and an ending after the credits if you hold out), but essentially you're getting from A to B, doing something like flicking a switch or using your TMD then moving on - which I guess is the same as any FPS perhaps. Strangely it doesn't feel repetitive though and the set pieces are fun but there just feels like there is something missing...

Overall, this game was a pleasant surprise. The TMD element was new, fun, adventurous and a great idea but the weapon element was not utilised enough and the monsters became more and more scarce and less and less fierce.The story was good and had much more depth than a lot of other FPS' and was a unique, well-devised plan - you can never really go wrong with time travel stories. The graphics and gameplay were good so why isn't it perfect? Firstly, it was too easy, secondly you become frustrated that there isn't something more solid here in terms of stand-out moments and real drama or tension, it just lacks huge set pieces that can sometimes make or break a game, you also can't help but stand it up next to Bioshock where it pales only slightly in comparison. It feels like something that's a bit too little too late. It was a great time but it's something I'm not going to come back to but definitely glad I played it. If you loved Bioshock and are on the lookout for something similar, or to keep you quenched for Infinite, then this will do nicely. It's just a shame it couldn't be so much more.

Rating: 7/10

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