What’s this? The reviewer is writing about a game? Blimey. Am I ill? Maybe. Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. I don’t even know any more. Regardless, what I do know is that I played Singularity recently and want to review it. Warning: Contains plot spoilers.
So, what is Singularity? Well, if you think of it as a cross between Crysis and Half-Life, you’d be very close. There’s a lot of emphasis on character development, through upgrades, a lá Crysis, but the vast majority of the game is 3rd person and science based, a lá Half Life. It’s an elegant system, if I may say so myself.
You are Captain Renko, of the US Military, visiting the secret and deserted Russian Island of Katorga-12, which has been kept secret for years. As you pass by, an EMP hits you and you crash into the docks, with your friend-with-a-gun falling out of the chopper as you descend, and your pilot dying on the ground. Luckily, your friend-with-a-gun has survived and you get messaged to meet up with him. On the way, you find a welcome centre, which you traverse through, when a sudden impulse hits you from afar. You end up in the past, unbeknown to you at the time, as the building you are in catches fire.
Being a good man, you save someone’s life, despite being told not to, by a man trapped in some fire. You manage to save the first man, then return to the unburning building, noticing a few subtle changes, like the statue you rest him against, changing from being about Joseph Stalin, to being about Nikolai Demichev. You carry on wandering around, as you do, when you come across some sort of village area, which you explore and suddenly get attacked by some sort of humanoid monster, shortly after you find a gun.
You come across a school where you find your friend, before you both decide to travel to a radio tower, where you expect to pick up a friendly signal. Once there, you get attacked by none other than a Mr Nikolai Demichev, who kills your friend. You manage to escape and find out that all kinds of crazy shit is going on, or rather, has gone on, at Katorga-12. You carry on, trying to fix it, all the while meeting some new people, killing mutated humanoids and Russian special forces, travelling throughout most of the island as well as frequently hopping between 2010 and 1955, whilst using the TMD, or Time-Manipulation-Device…
SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!
At the end of the game you find out that the island was originally deserted after the death of a Mr Nikolai Demichev, in a fire, back in 1955. Having saved his life, you single-handedly caused the horrifying events of the rest of the game, including the deaths of hundreds of people on the island, and, given that Demichev became the ruler of the world, millions of people who died in war against him. Turns out it ISN’T always good to be a good person!
So, that’s a crazy plot, right? Well, I like it. It’s confusing, but clever as well. I think it’s quite possibly the best storyline for an FPS that I’ve played in a LONG LONG time. It is, for want of a better comparison, very similar to Half-Life. In fact, think the Half-Life style of gaming, mixed with the later Fall-Out games, and a hint of Crysis thrown in the as well. That’s a good game. Heck, that’s a damn near perfect game. If it hadn’t been linear, it’d have been, quite possibly, the greatest game in existence. No lies.
So, what about the gameplay? Well, it is, as said, an FPS, which makes it pretty hard to take seriously, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve played a lot of FPS games in my time, and so few of them have wow’d me. I mean, sure, the Half-Life series did, as did the latter Fall-Out games, Deus Ex (ONLY THE FIRST ONE!) and the Star Trek Elite Force games, all of which had in-depth story line and character development, all in their own way. With Singularity they’ve decided to do the Half-Life thing where you ARE the character, but have given him a bit of a persona as well, with the occasional 3rd person element there to show you who you are and what you’re doing.
I don’t like this. It’s an FPS game, where you are the character. Unless there’s a mirror, I don’t need to see me. Simple as. That is just ONE negative point though.
The game was exciting, puzzling and scary. It wasn’t as simple as find the button, it was ‘find a way to the button we’ve shown you’, which to me, is harder and more enjoyable. The fear factor, though… Blimey! Here’s an example. Be warned, the guy playing is a bit… pants.
There are multiple ways of making fear within a game, a few of which I can think of… Atmosphere development, ambient sounds, enemies that jumps out at you and enemies that are seemingly impossible to beat, because you can never see them, yet they can always see you… Oh, an isolation.
The first time I played, I was creeped out more by the lack of enemy for the first 15 minutes of gameplay, rather than the sudden bunch of enemies attacking me. True story. The backing sounds and the combination of isolation and scenery was magnificent and made me fear for my life, especially since I was playing alone, in a dark room, in an empty house…
There are cleverer ways that fear was induced, though. For example, there is a section where you swim through some pipes to sort something out, when you turn a corner and there, right in front of you, is a skeleton. As you see it, BAM, scary surprise music. It made me, Captain Fearless, jump, but even that wasn’t the biggest scare I got. Oh no.
There’s a section of the game where you need to find a secret lab. I knew where it was, having seen a flash-back thing, showing me where it was. Me, being a man of infinite jest and wisdom, chose to explore the room. I had secured it and I was safe. I had a look at a camera on the shelf and it let me use it. Being made in the 50’s, at the latest, it had a big flash on it. I forgot this and I was caught out by it, blinding both Renko and whiting out the screen. Then the music played again and BAM, claw marks to the back, like the last time I spent a night at my Russian Mistress’ house. I was ambushed by a random enemy who had hidden until I used the camera. Either that, or my timing was impeccable. I could even see the enemy’s arm in the picture the camera took. Now THAT is what I call good programming.
So, it has great atmosphere, catches you off your guard and is puzzling, but does it give you bat-shit crazy super-enemies to fight. Yes. It does. There are two that I recall – a big spider-like monster that ambushes you on a bridge and a large blue one that can teleport about, which you need to attack with barrels. In retrospect, they’re pretty easy to kill, but when you fight them, all you can do is try to recite the Lord’s Prayer and hope for the best.
It’s scary, puzzling and entertaining – who’d have thought it’d be so much fun to shoot at Russians, especially those that have mutated beyond recognition. It’s almost relaxing, killing them. I mean, I like the Russians, especially the accent. I love the names. I love the attitude towards vodka and I especially love their ability to take shitloads of bullets before dropping to the group, Who’d have thunk it, eh?
The graphics are great. There’s a bit where a ship un-sinks… I know… And you watch it fly out of the water and there’s a huge tidal wave thing. The water looks crap, but the rest of the scene… Superb! All sorts of stuff age and youthen throughout the game and each of them, especially the people, do so with great graphical expertise. It’s almost perfect. Shame about the exploding bodies effect, to be honest…
The characters are like-able enough. I mean, the friend-with-a-gun is a bit… reckless. He got himself killed twice whilst I was playing, as did a woman in the game, both of whom needed to survive in order to progress the game. Shame on them. The scientists of the game are both a laugh, if not for their persona, then for their accents. You know what I’m talking about. I think the only character I didn’t actually like was the one that asked me to kill myself, a lá Red Dwarf’s “Tikka To Ride”. It was kind of funny,watching him try to convince me to kill myself… I did, of course. That’s how you get the good ending… Woops. Spoiler alert.
That’s something that annoys me. The game boasts three different endings, which is true. However, the way you change the ending to one of those three, occurs at a single moment – right before the ending. You either kill yourself, one person, or two people. Simple as. That’s how this game works. The three endings all rely on your murder of someone or suicide. Also, there is no particularly good ending, as two of them result in chaos/cold war, and the third has an implied world domination attempt. It’s radically absurd. Heck, what am I gonna do?
The weapons are neat. There’s like, 7 guns, in the whole game. Pistol, assault rifle, sniper rifle, and a magic sniper rifle, among others. I like the magic sniper rifle, which fires controllable explosive bullets. Yes. You heard me. Controllable explosive bullets. You fire this baby and you can kill damn near anyone in sight, with ease. Why ease? Time slows down and they all stop shooting at you whilst you control it. They cannot kill you whilst you get an explosive headshot on them. Brilliant gun… There are other neat guns as well, but that is EASILY the best.
I found something funny whilst playing. You have to pick up a bomb, a big bomb, that’s maybe, oooh, spherical head shaped/sized. Think Karl Pilkington. There you go.
This bomb is quite big, yet you manage to carry it around with you as you run away from all sorts of enemies. Where am I hiding it? I mean, seriously. Where?
Overall, it’s a great game. It’s got all the makings of a perfect game. I know I didn’t mention the TMD much, but that’s a surprise for those of you that play the game, rather than just those of you that read this… Get the game, play it, see what the hype is about.
Had it had a better ending system, or been non-linear, it’d have been a nine. Had it stayed in first-person for the whole game, it’d have been a 10.