|Singularity | for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC | Rated M for Mature | Developed by Raven Software | Published by Activision|
If you haven't played any shooters for the past few years, Singularity
will blow your mind. If you have, you probably won't be impressed — "formulaic" doesn't begin to cover it. Still, in spite of copycatting its competitors, Singularity
has its charms.
It all starts in 1955, during the Cold War. The Russians discover a (fictional) element called E99 that has the power to do anything the story or game mechanics require: gravity manipulation, time travel, healing powers, bombs, monsters . . . seriously, anything.
The Russians planned to use E99 for world domination, and in some time lines, they succeed — with disastrous environmental consequences. For example, in one time line, the entire US is destroyed, and the world is overrun by irradiated monster men.
You play as American black ops soldier Nate Renko, and with the help of two dubiously aligned associates — a Russian mad scientist and a British spy — you try to protect your version of 2010 from going wrong. Yet the more you travel, the more problems you seem to cause.
The game is highly linear, so there's usually only one path to take and no alternate route. This dovetails nicely with the theme of time travel's futility. You'll start finding messages from the future saying, "Stop! You're ruining everything!", and you'll have no choice but to continue down the predetermined path.
Both Russian soldiers and radiation-infected monsters will be after you, and the game provides the usual weapons — pistol, shotgun, sniper, assault rifle — as well as E99-powered guns that allow you to bend bullets around corners. You'll get a glove called the TMD (Time Manipulation Device) that lets you age and renew objects. It also has the same powers as Half-Life 2's gravity gun — goodness knows why, but it's fun. Your melee attack gains E99 powers as well, making you similar to the bionic-soldier class in Mass Effect 2. You'll find pieces of E99 tech and weapon upgrades everywhere that you can use to improve your stats, powers, and guns.
The TMD glove's powers allow for some clever puzzle ideas. You can age a metal crate into a smaller rusted cube, push it through a crack, and then heal it back into a full box to open a door or use as a step to stand on. You can also renew decayed staircases and platforms to move forward. Unfortunately, there's always only one correct way to bypass each obstacle, so there's no chance for innovative puzzle solving. Also, only a few objects in the game can be moved or destroyed, and the puzzles don't get more complex as you go.
All shooters start to feel the same after a while, but Singularity takes imitation a little too far. The game has obviously been influenced by famous franchises like BioShock, Half-Life, and Fallout — there's even a knockoff of Fallout's famous Pipboy. There's also a multiplayer component that gets its inspiration from Left 4 Dead.