Saturday, October 2, 2010

Singularity: I'm not sure what kind of singularity they're really talking about here.


I really enjoyed Singularity a lot more than I thought I would, considering I really hadn't heard any buzz about it. It's a first person shooter with a bit of a scifi twist. I'm definitely in the camp where shooters start to feel old without some sort of cover system, and this game certainly didn't change my thinking on that. Which is not to say that there aren't a lot of things that it does very well.

The premise is that back in the fifties, the USSR found a new element on some tiny island, and started experimenting with it. It held the potential for very large energy output, but after some horrible accident, the island was abandoned, and forgotten about, until in 2010 a spy plane passing overhead gets hit with a massive pulse of radiation. You play as Captain Renko, a member of a squad of US soldiers sent to investigate.

After an EMP takes down your helicopter, thinks kick off with you wandering through the abandoned facilites, reading notes and listening to recordings of the people that came before, as well as seeing the occasionally ghostly after image, of events in the past. There are also freaky mutated monsters that occasionally get the drop on you, and they take quite a bit of killing. I could be that I just played Dead Space too recently, but this opening part of the game really reminded me of it, lots of creepy atmosphere.

It's not long before you get caught in some kind of energy pulse, and you find yourself in the past, in a burning building. You save a man from falling through the floor, and then shortly after return to the present. Where you are ambushed by a whole bunch of Russian soldiers. Turns out that the guy you rescued in the past managed to use the technology they were developing on the island, to take over the USSR and eventually the world, but now he wants something else, and since you seem to have traveled through time, he thinks you've got it.

You manage to escape with the assistance of a rebellion that somehow managed to get your name, they lead you to a secret vault where you find the time manipulation device the ruler of the world is looking for. Here's where things become more than just a simple shooter. Using the TMD, you can age or revitalize objects and people. Things like crates and stairs that were collapsed and unusable, are made whole with the push of a button. Right before your eyes, it's a very neat effect, you can also cause concrete barriers that enemies are using as cover to to crumble to pieces, leaving them exposed. Over time, you get even more functions from the TMD, such as the ability to pick things up and throw them, or generate a sphere of slowed time, that you can use to pass through fast obstacles, or slow oncoming enemies.

Using the TMD, you open another door to the past, and save another Russian scientist, this one's less evil than the last rescuee, and once you return to the present, you find that he's been living on the island waiting for your return, so that he can support you setting the past right.

I love the setting in this game, I love the idea of going through past on assassination/rescue missions, and for the most part, this game does that very well. The problems come mostly in the present, where you have to fight all kinds of mutated monsters, all with their own freaky powers. I don't mind fighting guys that teleport, but the fact that they also can phase out of reality, so that they can hurt you and you can't hurt them, and run 3 times as fast as you is just ridiculous. Similarly the swarming explosive bugs are very difficult to defeat or get away from without burning through most of your health kids.

The other thing that I was a little disappointed in was the guns. For the most part, they're just normal guns, in spite of being odd futuristic Russian models, they don't really have any special functions, or alternate firing modes. I did finally get something abnormal, that they called a "rail gun" it fired a pitifully slow explosive round, with a painfully small amount of splash damage, I found that the shotgun was actually a much better weapon to use at range let alone up close.

Ultimately, I was really entertained by the setting and premise of the game, but the action was just too frustrating and unpolished.

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