Playing through the opening sections of Singularity brings up some strong comparisons to BioShock; the foreboding feeling left by a once glorious scientific community where something went horribly wrong, killing (or mutating) the island’s inhabitants. Then there’s the always prevalent search for E-99, which can be used similarly to BioShock’s ADAM, to upgrade your abilities. There’s also the unexpected crash landing on said island that also happens to be filled with audio logs and campy video tutorials.
Yes, Singularity took a good amount of inspiration from 2K’s “genetically enhanced shooter” series, but it also manages to do a few new and interesting things when it’s not borrowing from one of this console generations best new franchises. Oh, and you also get a glove that gives you special abilities that can be used, like Plasmids, to attack enemies or solve puzzles. While I was walking through the empty, eroded halls of Katorga-12 (the island you’re exploring) switching between my guns and TMD (your superpower glove), there was always a strong sense of Déjà vu, like I had experienced all this before.
In a way, this hurts Singularity, because even though it’s a solid action game with satisfying gunplay, occasionally clever puzzles, and good level design, I already played all this game has to offer. Yes, it’s cool to use my TMD on an unsuspecting enemy, turning him into a skeleton that quickly degrades into a pile of ashes. You can also revert some enemies into mutated creatures that will then go on to attack the other enemies. This is great, I used it often, but I always wished in the back of my mind that I could revert my enemies into babies. Why can’t I do that? It makes sense since you can manipulate time, and what would make for a better distraction then a crying baby?
One of my favorite features in the game is its music, which blends perfectly into the action of the game. The music has a raw, industrial element to it that reminded me of a remixed Silent Hill score. When it wants to, the music sits in the background giving you a strong backdrop to the creepy environments, but when the bad guys come out to play its in your face. The voice acting is also pretty good, though it’s definitely held back by the predictable story and uninspired dialogue. You’ll hear a lot of panicked voices, mostly from people telling you what to do.
I like little details, things hidden in the environment that most gamers probably won’t notice the first time through. Lucky for me, there’s a lot of that here. Singularity rewards you for exploring its environments with hidden collectibles, E-99, weapon upgrades, and bits of the story (like the burned corpses of children huddled under their desks in a school).
Singularity definitely isn’t the best looking game out there (I’ll admit I could be a little jaded with all the games, this one included, that use the Unreal 3 Engine), but it’s never ugly. You’ll want to look around the levels, that is, when you aren’t being bombarded by waves of enemies.
For a shooter, the guns are pretty important to the overall experience. The guns in this game feel good, like they have the weight of a real gun, but when it comes to unique weapons this game is a little lacking. The weapon upgrading isn’t nearly as noticeable as BioShock’s, and you’ll probably just end up using either the shotgun or assault rifle for most of the game. Some extra balancing could’ve helped here too; the pistol is essentially useless since it has a shallow clip and deals little damage, but the sniper rifle gives you the ability to temporarily slow down time, allowing you just enough time to headshot a few guys before they even know you’re there.
Singularity is a good game. It looks good, plays great, has an above average story, but never manages to be better than the game(s) that inspired it. Raven Software is a great developer that almost always gives us excellent games, it’s just that this time they played it a little too safe, when it would’ve been best to take some leaps and think outside the box. If you’re looking for a good game with a satisfying single-player story and decent competitive multiplayer, Singularity might just be the game to hold you over until Halo: Reach ships out next month.