Singularity starts off by tossing you into the broken remnants of a once glorious scientific community secluded from the rest of the world with dystopian ideas and crazy technology that eventually led to said community’s demise. Oh, and there’s also mutated enemies that were once human, a scattering of audio logs that give you pieces of the events leading up the game, campy tutorial videos, you have a glove that gives you special abilities like telekinesis and shockwave style melee attacks, and E-99 that you have to search for because it upgrades said abilities.
It’s difficult not to flash back to 2007’s genetically engineered first person shooter, because around every corner you’ll find subtle (and not-so-subtle) elements taken from the game. So is Singularity worth checking out, or is it just a BioShock wannabe? The answer is yes, and yes. Singularity does seem to want to be this year’s BioShock, but it also manages to do some interesting things on its own. First off, the gameplay is solid, which is unsurprising for a game made by Raven Software.
The guns feel satisfying and the powers are occasionally cleverly implemented. For a game with such lofty ambitions, the weapons seem pretty uninspired. I found myself switching between the shotgun and assault rifle the entire game, rarely straying to try out the sniper rifle or horribly weak pistol. I’m not saying the game should have crazy tornado spewing rocket launchers, but a little creativity in the arsenal would’ve been a welcome addition.
Singularity has you traversing a Russian scientific facility called Katorga-12 where some crazy sciency stuff went horribly wrong killing or mutating the island’s inhabitants. You crash on this island and the next hour or so is not unlike a horror game. It’s eerie, foreboding, and you fight creepy monsters with a god-awful pee shooter of a pistol. Seriously, killing enemies with that gun was more of an endurance test than a fight. Maybe some extra balancing could’ve helped the game out a bit?
After a while you finally get the Time Manipulation Device, or as the cool people call it: the TMD, and the game gets a little more fun. Now you can revert broken down items to shiny newness or bring out your inner child and destroy items by sending them forward in time. But the real fun comes when you can revert enemies into mutated creatures or be a real bastard and send them forward in time transforming them into a skeleton.
This glove doubles as both a weapon and a way to solve puzzles, and for the most part it’s used well. I would’ve liked to be able to revert enemies into babies before punting their chubby little ass across the room, but that’s just me.
The music is surprisingly good and blends into the action and more exploratory sections of the game perfectly. Everything has a raw, unpolished industrial sound to it that works well with the game’s setting. The visuals, while far from stunning, look decent enough, and there are plenty of little details thrown about the world to satisfy the type of people who, like me, enjoy looking around when we aren’t being chased by hordes of ravenous creatures looking to sink their teeth into our firm, fleshy bums. Small details like the burned corpses of children huddled under their desks inside a school fill me with glee.
If the slow, painful deaths of innocent school children doesn’t tickle your fancy there’s still a reason to explore the environments since the game rewards you with achievements, hidden items, E-99 caches, and collectibles. Among the hidden items are weapon upgrades, which can be used to, you guessed it, upgrade your weapons. Sadly, upgrading your weapons doesn’t reward you with any changes to the look of the weapon, and you’re limited to increasing clip size, damage, and reload time.
The story is engaging enough to keep from getting terribly dull, and definitely wants to convey a message that sounds something like: “Don’t fuck with time machines, assholes!” or something along those lines. Unfortunately, it’s all far too predictable, with the betrayals of close friends that’s become far too prevalent in games these days. Oh, and there’s a multiplayer component but it’s all a bit of “Been there, done that”, that likely won’t keep you away from Halo or Call of Duty, so there’s little point in talking about it.
Singularity borrowed quite a bit from its gene-splicing predecessor, and while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, in this case I think it hurt the game more than it helped. You see, the idea of taking ideas from a game as great as BioShock may sound good on paper, it also tends to remind people they’re playing a game that just isn’t as good as the games that inspired it.