One of the games that has inspired me to join Tuffcub in our Playback pursuit is Raven Software’s 2010 sci-fi shooter, Singularity. Despite receiving generally favourable reviews, retaining a Metacritic average of 77, the game failed to captivate the masses. When Singularity launched last June, there was little in the way of competition, even with Red Dead Redemption having released the previous month, which leads us to believe that gamers let it slip under the radar for a couple of reasons.[drop]The Singularity hype train never shifted into gear after the game’s original announcement; the first trailers and videos were crafted to emulate archive footage, depicting images of the fictional island Katorga-12 where the title is set. These clips were hard to follow, even for core gamers who were the only ones who had a clue what the game was about, similar to Resistance 2 and its “Project Abraham” live action mini series.
Secondly, as we progress through the current console generation cycle, there seems to be less acceptance for first person shooters which either stray from realm of contemporary warfare or aren’t part of an existing series. Bioshock is possibly the most notable exception; launching in the Summer of 2007, 2K’s tension-soaked masterpiece was followed months later by Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Infinity Ward’s ground-breaking success would transform the entire genre, changing gamers’ conceptions of what to expect from first person shooters of the future.
Singularity begins in 2010 with an American spy satellite being destroyed by an electromagnetic wave generated on a small Russian island near Kamchatka. A black ops team is sent in to investigate, but their chopper is swiftly brought down by another wave and crashes into the island.
Players assume the role of Nate Renko, one of the two survivors who crawls from the debris of the chopper. After wandering around Nate discovers a ruined building, cluttered with old video tapes and propaganda posters praising the power of E-99, a substance which has godly properties. It is also a substance which can only be found on this island, which the Russians christened Katorga-12 during the Cold War.
Before you can delve any further, another wave of energy engulfs the entire island and warps Renko back to the 1950s at the exact time in which the building is about to be destroyed in a sea of flames. Renko saves a man inside the building and props him up outside next to a statue of Stalin. Another wave sends Renko back to 2010, but now instead of being a statue of Stalin, it is a statue of Nikolai Demichev, the man Renko just saved.
With the pages of history thus rewritten, Demichev becomes one of the most powerful leaders in the world, and returns to Katargo-12 in search for the TMD, a device capable of time manipulation. The campaign properly begins with Renko on the run from Demichev and trying to discover the island’s secrets.
Singularity’s gameplay feels almost identical to that of the previously-mentioned Call of Duty. Weapons are incredibly light yet pack a punch, and character movements are agile and precise. The only differentiating factors between the two games is the actual weapons themselves and Singularity’s main attraction, the Time Manipulation Device (TMD.) Used both in and out of firefights, the TMD acts as a persistent, upgradable sidearm capable of reversing and quickening the effects of time.
When exploring Katorga-12 there will be a number of instances in which you will come across untraversable debris such as fallen staircases or dilapidated walls. Using the TMD, you will be able to “revert” fallen structures back to their original state within a concentrated time field, building new paths to follow. In combat, the TMD is by far the most deadly weapon in Renko’s arsenal. You will be able to control objects with telekinesis, unleash waves of destructive energy, and even age human targets. It may sound like a gimmick, but its implementation is succinct and makes for an enjoyable combat mechanic.
Possibly the most surprising aspect of Singularity is its multiplayer component. With only two game modes, a handful of maps and limited character customisation, it sounded like an ill-thought, disastrous tag-on. However, Singularity’s combination of class mechanics and the ability to play as the game’s monsters proves very enjoyable. Each class follows one of the main archetypes (tank, healer, stealth, damage) equipped with their own unique gallery of attacks/weapons and abilities. When playing as the monster faction, the camera switches to a third person view, allowing for greater peripheral awareness which makes up for their lack of ranged attacks.
The highlight of the experience has to be playing as the Tick, a small bug-like creatures capable of climbing walls and ceilings. Though the Tick doesn’t possess any regular attacks, it’s still undoubtedly the most deadly class in the game. When in range, the Tick can launch itself onto a human target in an attempt to possess them, though they can easily be killed with a few shots from another enemy. If a “hack” is successful you will have full control of the possessed character, an ideal tactical ability allowing for unexpected back/flank attacks that can turn the tables, especially in Singularity’s “Extermination” game mode.[buy]It’s very easy to be apprehensive towards games such as Singularity (I actually rented it to begin with), games which strive to be unique yet try hard not to stray from the safety zone. Though the online community has likely withered in numbers, the singleplayer is still definitely worth a look.
Sadly, with Raven Software hit by numerous lay-offs and now assigned to work on Modern Warfare 3’s online component, the chances of a Singularity follow-up or any sort of Activision-published unconventional first person shooter seem bleak if not altogether impossible.