One of the biggest video gaming mysteries in recent times is why Activision chose not to promote Singularity. Any other publisher would have been proud to have a first person shooter with many comparable elements to Bioshock in their catalogue, but Activision were quite happy to let it slip out on the quiet and vanish into obscurity. To think that they gave it less publicity that one of their yearly Cabela hunting games really is quite unbelievable.
While the abandoned wartime research facility in which Singularity is set isn’t quite as extravagant or fancy as Bioshock’s underwater city, the pacing, atmosphere and level design are pretty much on a par. It’s the small touches that draw you in at first, most notably the ability to interact with the decaying items left scattered around the facility, and also the chance to listen to recordings which explain what happened at the facility back in the ‘50s.
In short: everything went completely tits up. The Russians had discovered a new element and from this they had managed to construct a device able to alter time. We’re not just talking about Back to the Future shenanigans here but rather a way to restore broken items to an unbroken state and turn enemy soldiers into piles of dust.
The device – known as the TMD – is used often in puzzle solving too. One early example involves placing a crushed metal box under a jammed shutter door, then using the TMD on it so that it the door can be lifted up high enough to crawl under. It can also be used to pick up objects and then launch them through the air as projectiles – very handy for snatching away soldiers’ riot shields and then using them against them.
The highlight, at least for us, appears around half way into the game in which you’re ordered to retrieve a bomb from a ship known as The Pearl. There’s only one slight problem – the ship sunk many years ago. By this point the TMD has been upgraded a few times, and so with some extra power behind it, you’re able to raise the ship from the bottom of the ocean to a good-as-new state. Once on board it becomes evident that the ship isn’t going to stay shiny and new for long, and as you make your way to the cargo hold the walls and floors become coated in rust right before your very eyes. A new weapon becomes available on this mission too – a grenade launcher. The timing is genius – the grenades that it fires are spherical, so quite often they roll back towards you due to the ship rocking back and forth.
There’s rarely a dull moment – from boss fights against giant creatures, to sneaking through a cave full of vision-impaired mutants, Singularity’s variety is commendable.
If there is a problem, it’s that developers Raven tried to do a little bit too much with it, and as a result the controls have ended up not being quite as intuitive as other shooters out there. One tap of the LB button turns enemies into dust while double tapping turns them into a mutant that’ll attack anybody near by. Quite often you end up doing the opposite of what you intended.
As we may have mention on Games Asylum before, Raven are one of the least appreciated developers out there. It’s a shame that it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to create another fresh and new experience like this one after it bombed at retail. A quick look on their website suggests they now simply exist to work on whatever franchise or license Activision has in the pipeline.
If you’re looking for a first person shooter to play during the inevitable summer new release drought, then Singularity could very well surprise you.