Review: Singularity (PS3)

Title: Singularity
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: June 29, 2010
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software
Original MSRP: $59.99

I feel a certain amount of loyalty to Raven Software seeing as how their base camp of operations is housed within the capital city of this fine state of Wisconsin.  They impressed me with their efforts of reinvigorating the Wolfenstein franchise and delivered one of the best videogame movie tie-ins with X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Unfortunately for them Singularity was released in a year that was ripe with AAA titles and was subsequently lost in the shuffle.  Now that my backlog of titles has subsided (yea right, who am I kidding) and the last few weeks of 2010 were a bit lean with new releases I found myself finally finding the time to give this title a shot and, as it turns out, one it most assuredly deserved.

Gameplay:
A short 1950’s style news real provides the back story of the Soviet Empire’s rise and fall at the discovery of a new element, E-99.  Overconfident with controlling the power of this new element the research island of Katorga 12 is destroyed in a Chernobyl-like disaster.  Cut to modern day and your character, Captain Nathaniel Renko, is being flown via helicopter to investigate the once dormant and abandoned island that has shown new and unnatural life.

At its heart Singularity is a first person military-based shooter through and through.  Your helicopter encounters a massive energy surge and crashes into the ocean on the shores of the island.  As one might guess, as a result of the crash, you are separated from your team and left to fend for yourself – armed only with a knife.  As you make your way through the various island research facilities long since destroyed you begin to unravel the mystery – and history – of the island through scattered recordings, notes, ledgers and wall markings ala Bioshock.

The overall atmosphere of the game is also reminiscent of the F.E.A.R series in that it was considerably more supernatural than I was expecting and included its fair share of shock and spook value.  While I eagerly await the release of Dead Space 2 this was a welcome surprise.

As one would expect with any FPS the player eventually starts assembling a small arsenal of weaponry as you progress through the game.  The usual fare becomes readily available: hand guns, shotguns, high powered sniper rifles and heavy load automatics.  Nothing really new or exciting but they definitely come in handy as you battle your way through various enemies – human or otherwise.  Things really don’t begin to get interesting until Captain Renko gets his hands on the TMD – or Time Manipulation Device; a weapon based on the extraordinary power of E-99, the very element that may have destroyed Katorga 12 more than half a century earlier.

The TMD, strapped snugly onto your left hand and wrist, provides for and engaging source for puzzle solving, defensive measures  and incredible weaponry – based almost solely on the idea of manipulation through rapid time regeneration and/or degeneration.  Stairways, fallen from years of rust and decay, that once blocked your linear path through the story can now be reshaped and restructured like new for safe passage.  Wall safes, once a time tested representation of strength and durability can easily be gained access to by turning it to near dust.  The greatest thing about the TMD is that it isn’t limited to inanimate objects alone as you soon find out that flesh and bone can just as easily (and graphically) be rendered to a pile of dust and fragments.  It’s a beautiful feeling of god-like power.

Visuals:
There isn’t anything special about the visuals that Singularity has to offer.  The environments, although varied, tend to be a bit flat and the characters you encounter during this interesting time-traveling ride fall well short of anything life-like.  What Singularity does excel at is the graphic nature of some of the more intense battle sequences.  Heads are blown from the neck while arms and legs are torn from the torso – all in a rather gruesome shower of blood.  The end result was less shock value while providing just enough gratuitous violence to keep things interesting.

Worse than the character models was the presentation of the other half of Singularity’s enemy forces – the creatures.  Typically, the freedom associated with creature modeling should result in unique and unforgettable experiences for the gamer – Dead Space (once again) comes to mind.  That which jumps out at you from the shadows should both terrify and, if all goes well, haunt your dreams.  Unfortunately, the creatures that stalk the corridors of Singularity’s alternate reality come up short on the terror scale.  Quite the contrary.  By the mid point of the game I was more interested in facing persistent waves of Russian forces rather than submit myself to another non-threatening humanoid, mutated spider or wraith.

Audio:
As there wasn’t much to comment about the visuals of Singularity there is even less to say about the audio component of the game.  It was certainly presented with surround sound qualities but, from some of the “creepier” moments of the game, it should have ramped up the levels.  It’s unfortunate but seems like another missed opportunity to promote this game to higher levels than what was actually developed.  With that said the voice acting was somewhat better than average and provided a fair amount of variety.  Because a large part of the game was story driven it helped to have a better than average cast of actors.

Online/Multiplayer:
There isn’t much in the way of online multiplayer that Singularity has to offer – but it is available.  To my utter shock I was surprised to find people online to play a few rounds of Team Death Match.  With the more recent multiplayer competition of Call of Duty Black Ops and Battlefield Bad Company 2, searching for and obtaining the necessary players online took a little longer but, once located, everything seemed to run smoothly from one match to the next.

More interesting and much more to my online multiplayer taste, Singularity offers the Extermination mode: essentially a creatures versus soldier mode with a slight twist.  The Russian soldiers are required to work together to renew the aged beacons with their TMD devices while fighting off the opposing creature forces.  When one beacon is restored long enough, and within a preset amount of time, it will open a door to the next area and the next beacon.  Renew all 3 of the beacons within the time established match and your team wins.  Playing as a member of the creature force your job is to stop those pesky humans at all cost.  Win or lose simply playing online provides for ample opportunities to level up and unlock additional combat features for both man and beast alike.

Conclusion:
I desperately wanted to give Singularity a high mark.  At a bare minimum they deserve an A for effort but, alas, there just wasn’t enough about this game to warrant the same grade.  There’s no question about it, I was entertained from beginning to end and was surprisingly enthusiastic by the rather limited online options.  Perhaps, just perhaps, providing a more adequate advertising campaign Singularity may have finally been “the game” for hometown heroes Raven Software.  I continue to have high hopes for Raven Software and look forward to the day PSNation sends me on assignment to their front doors (hint hint – nudge nudge) for that exclusive interview.  In the meantime the best I can do is recommend this game for a later date as the current asking price may still be a tad on the high side.

Score:
6.5

Written by Bill Braun

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  • All the media I’d seen of this game reminded me a lot of Bioshock. Too bad the experience wasn’t quite up to par.

    Also: according to recent rumours Raven Software are going to work on the next Modern Warfare. After playing this and Wolfenstein how do you feel about that?

    • Anonymous

      I too have heard those same rumors. All I can say is that I would fully support them but feel they would have to really step up their efforts – especially in light of the high quality that was delivered with Black Ops. Those would be some big shoes to fill. Still, if they were able to pull it off it would be a huge step in the right direction.

  • Anonymous

    The purpose of these “retro-reviews” is not to relive the greatest games from our childhood but to provide reviews of games that may have slipped through the cracks from the last year – this happens to be one of those titles. So sorry to have disappointed you – again.