Time travel. It’s pretty confusing. For anyone that’s ever watched Lost, Back to the Future, Terminator or, most confusingly of all, Primer, you’ll realise how complicated time travel is. So many paradoxes, loop holes and rules to make sure you don’t break time itself. Unfortunately for Nathaniel Renko, he manages to break time itself and sets about trying to fix things but is Singularity a game you want to play until the end of time or one where you want to rewind time to where you never played it?
The answer is neither. Singularity is not the greatest FPS but it’s a damn lot of fun. The powers you can get to manipulate time alongside the kooky story are enough to keep you interested, but it’s nothing mind blowing. It takes a lot of inspiration from Bioshock and Half Life but there’s enough originality here to make it stand out.
You play as Nathaniel Renko who, whilst on a routine pass over Katorga-12, manages to mess up time. See, Katorga-12 is an island on which a huge complex built by the Russians sit. Here, in the 50s, they used to mine an extremely powerful element known as E99. The island was essentially the research and testing base for the properties of E99 but an experiment in 1955 goes terribly wrong and the entire island is shut down and erased from all databases. The US send troops over in 2010 to discover what happened. Renko, whilst on the island after his helicopter crashed, is sucked into 1955 through a Singularity and, whilst there, changes the course of history forever so that the 2010 he comes back to is not the 2010 he left. It’s all very Twilight Zone-esque and things only get weirder when you start hopping between the two time periods.
All of this becomes even more interesting when you manage to get hold of the awesome Time Manipulation Device, which does exactly what it says on the tin; manipulates time. With this, you can drop a bubble which slows down time, bring crazy time shifting monsters into the present so they’re easier to kill, slow these monsters down or age soldiers so much they crumble to dust and use time to restore decaying objects to their original state. These powers are sometimes used for “puzzles”, which mainly consist of restoring a decayed box and using it to climb somewhere, but they’re much more fun when used in combat. It really mixes things up when you have, not only your weapons, but time on your side too. The TMD has limited use at first but, as you progress through the game and find more stations, you can upgrade the device until you end up with the all powerful super TMD that lays waste to anything in its path.
Some aspects of Singularity are not entirely original, with many features from other games borrowed. There are audio files scattered around which are very similar to those in Bioshock, with the TMD working in a similar way to the plasmids too. There are hints of Half Life 2 with a few physics based puzzles and some levels feeling a lot like Black Mesa in Half Life. But despite this, there are things that really set Singularity apart. For starters, it is paced brilliantly. It isn’t firefight after firefight, although many of these are a lot of fun. The most fun comes from the build up to said firefights in which you’re just exploring the complex, reading the notes scattered around and experiencing some brilliant jump scares (one section when underwater really shook me up). It moves seamlessly from puzzles, to combat to huge boss battles (which may seem tough but are very Lost Planet-like in their weaknesses i.e. BIG GLOWING THING TO SHOOT AT!)
You really do need to mix up how you play, which adds nice variety, with certain enemies not affected by your TMD or some that will end up exploding if you use your TMD. There’s one whole section which, it’s advised, that you just walk through seeing as the enemies respond to sound and are blind. It is extremely tense and was a nice break from the constant shooting. Some of the set pieces are fantastic too. One area involves you rebuilding a ship which has been decaying over 55 years and having to escape it as it slowly decays again. Water begins to flood in, walls crack open and screams of others on the boat can be heard throughout.
But not every firefight is fun, there are times during which you can find yourself with no ammo, no TMD juice and overwhelmed with enemies which don’t always drop the ammo you need. Many a time I found myself without ammo and very few healthpacks left which became a constant frustration. One of which I have found that others playing the game have shared. The little tick things are also the most annoying enemies I have ever experienced. They come en masse with their suicidal explosion tendencies and knock off a great chunk of health and, due to their large group, are extremely difficult to take out. Many times I have died due to those bloody ticks.
Running on, frankly, a dated engine now, Singularity doesn’t look too great. Raven’s previous game, Wolfenstein, used the same engine at the end of it’s lifespan and looked just OK. Unfortunately, Raven haven’t decided to update their engine so it all looks very bland and boring. It seems that Singularity takes a leaf out of the “brown is good” book of Gears of War et al. The gore, however, is just wonderful. Take a shotgun to a soldiers head and it will explode, with blood flying everywhere. Use a special weapon known as the Seeker, which has guided bullets, and you can target specific body parts and watch them fly. Red is pretty much the only vibrant colour you will see here, however.
If you get bored of the single player, there is multiplayer which is a class based team deathmatch split into Humans and Creatures. Each class has a different ability, with some able to heal and being able to slow down time. It’s all very standard fare but there’s just very few people actually playing it, which makes it highly difficult to get into a game. Unfortunately, it isn’t too exciting. It’s standard FPS online deathmatch fare. The creatures, although cool at first, add very little to the gameplay. It’ll be fun if you get a few friends together but, as it stands, not enough people are playing it.
Singularity is definitely not mindblowing. The story is very B-Movie like (although the multiple endings are pretty interesting), it borrows a lot from other games but there’s just enough here, especially with the time manipulation, to set it apart. As Louis Armstrong once said, “We have all the time in the world,” and in Singularity, you most certainly do.