May 27, 2011

Review: Singularity


This review is written for Singularity running on a high-powered Windows 7 PC.
 
Singularity is a fantastic game. I also despise it.

Bad things are afoot on Katorga-12
Let’s get the basics out of the way so I can explain. Singularity is a first-person shooter that takes place on a deserted island that was once home to a Russian facility that experimented on “Element 99”, a volatile but seemingly limitless substance that allows all sorts of crazy science to happen. You play as Nathan Renko, a US soldier sent to investigate the derelict island. Of course, everything goes completely sideways the second you show up. Your helicopter is suddenly downed, and before you can do any real exploring, a massive shockwave sends you back in time to the 1950s to a building that is currently on fire. Mind you, this is in the first ten minutes of the game. Soon you are transported back to the present day and, as with every instance of time travelling ever, your actions have apparently altered history. Now, there are both Russian commandos and time monsters crawling all over the island that you need to fight through to get to the giant swirling vortex that presumably is causing all the badness. On the way you encounter a few friendly NPCs and a number of audio and video logs that help explain what the hell is going on, plus there are a number of instances where you go back to the 50s to obtain information or weapons while slaughtering a bunch of poorly equipped mid-century Russian soldiers.

The TMD can be a lot of fun
The fact that E-99 is such McGuffin allows it to alter the gameplay along with the story in some significant ways. The game features the typical rifle-shotgun-sniper-rocket weapon sets, and these all feel nice and Call of Duty-esque in terms of how they operate, but there’s more to the shooting than just that. Many weapons have secondary fires, such as the sniper’s slow-motion zoom (which sounds minor but makes sniping fun for those of us who can’t aim) and a remote controlled grenade launcher that is rarely used but is interesting for a few puzzle sequences. On top of this is the Time Manipulation Device that is a sort of Gravity Gun/Plasmid/Insta-kill weapon. It’s used most prominently as a puzzle solving tool that can move items, age and de-age things like stairs and crates to make them passable, and fired at specific story points to alter massive structures or open rifts in time. It also can be used on enemies to either age them to death or turn them into “Reverts”, the aforementioned time monsters that will attack your enemies as well as you. Finally, E-99 itself can be collected throughout the game and used at upgrade stations to improve both the TMD and weapons. These upgrades are minor and amount to increases in damage, clips size, or basic perks, but it’s still nice to see some sort of character progression throughout the game.

Now, let’s talk about the ending. I’m not going to spoil anything, but it is complete and utter bullshit. The story up to the ending sequence is really intriguing and unique in a way that I was busting my way through the ending levels just to see how it was going to wrap up. I finally make it to the top of this giant vortex of doom, and the final gigantic twist is revealed. It’s something all of the characters, and the player realize within the first few minutes of the game, but the NPCs feel the need to slowly recap what happened, including a straight-up series of flashbacks to show you exactly what they mean. It’s not only pointless, but insulting that the game automatically assumes that you never put the pieces together. The game then offers you three choices for how to end the game. In the bad ending, you turn evil and the world is taken over. In the good ending, you save the world, and then it is taken over. In the third, ambiguous ending, there is a massive world war, and then you turn evil and it is taken over. It’s one thing to have a grey moral ending, but there way the game ends makes no sense. In the evil ending, you obviously do the “wrong” thing, but the fact that the good ending makes a certain character go against everything they stood for over the entire game makes no sense, and on top of that it defies the entire premise of the game. Finally, the middle-ground ending should alleviate these issues, but it just turns your character evil again, which defies logic since I, the player, am the one making the choice.

This had so much promise...
Singularity is a great game. If you are looking for a lengthy, atmospheric and fun shooter, it’s under $20 on Amazon which is a steal for the amount of content this title has. That said, the game disappointed me in a way that I don’t know anything else has. It would be one this if it was a mediocre game with a crappy ending, but the story shows so much promise and lays out such a solid foundation that it both shocked and disgusted me when it essentially called me an idiot and then disregarded my moral choices. People should probably play this game, if only to support Raven Software to make more great games instead of the Call of Duty maps that they’re currently tasked with. That said, if you want a game that you feel good about after the fact, or want a story that concludes in any sort of satisfying say, you should not buy Singularity.

Images courtesy of Giantbomb.com

11 comments:

  1. Damn i gotta try this game.

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  2. Hmmm maybe not, I like a good ending and plot in a game

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  3. Not my thing, but I'll keep an eye out for more of your great reviews.

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  4. This game looks awesome gonna go buy it right now.

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  5. Wish my PC was up to date enough to try it out =(

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  6. It's available for 360 and PS3 too. Hell, I played it with a 360 controller on PC.

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  7. Wish my computer could handle this.

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  8. I have not had a chance to play this but it looks sweet, thanks for the review!

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  9. based on your review - it looks like really good value. Might have to add it to cart

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  10. This looks good, I really appreciate a good review like this.

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