Singularity – Xbox 360 review

Review by Johnus Maximus

During the 1950’s, in a bid to become the dominant global superpower, Russian scientists are forced to embark on pioneering research into newly discovered element “E-99”, the results of which cause a catastrophic rift in space and time.

Developed by Raven Software and published by Activision, Singularity is a first-person shooter that tells the story of a modern day American black-ops soldier thrown into the ensuing chaos. Also available on PC and PS3, this title is surprisingly good and worthy of more attention than it will recieve.

Beginning in the present day, Singularity puts you into the role of Captain Nate Renko, sent with a squad of similar gung-ho American soldiers to investigate a mysterious pulse which has knocked a US satellite out of orbit. As you fly past a giant submerged statue and approach the darkened island of Katorga-12, another pulse emanates, downing the choppers and separating you from your squad.

Almost everyone is dead, your only remaining ally has crashed elsewhere and so in order to meet him, you must find a path through the ruined buildings and pathways. There’s an eerie sense of dread as you explore, but soon enough another pulse occurs, this time sending Renko back to 1955, a popular year for time-travelling adventures.

A fire is sweeping through the building and on instinct, Renko helps carry a stranded scientist to safety. As the man thanks you, another pulse occurs, sending you once more to the present day. It seems your actions have had an effect on the events of the past, in the ruined building where previously stood a statue of Stalin there is now a statue of Demichev, the man you saved.

One of Katorga-12’s disgruntled residents decides to enter in style

Marching on through Katorga-12’s ruins, strange ghostly visions appear to you, like echoes of former events. Through obligatory audio-logs and typewritten notes you slowly come to realise that something went horribly wrong after your trip to the past, with scientists committing atrocities upon the unsuspecting men, women and children on the island in the name of research.

Not before long you find yourself armed and under attack by beastly mutated creatures, bearing little resemblance to the humans they once were. Combined with the eeriness of the visions, when the creatures attack there are plenty of jump out of your seat moments. After a rendezvous with Devlin, your only ally, you then take part in a futile stand off against Russian special forces who have arrived by helicopter.

After being captured, Demichev realises the soldier kneeling in front of him is the same that saved him fifty years ago. Commenting on the fact that you have not aged a day since he last saw you, he demands you hand over something called “the TMD” and then kills Devlin. A surprise attack by an unknown person allows you to escape, and it turns out that monsters and Russians aren’t the only ones looking for you.

As well fighting you, the soldiers and creatures will often fight each other

Your mysterious saviour is a young woman named Kathryn, who bears a passing resemblance to Half Life 2’s Alyx Vance as well as occupying a similar role in the story. She’s a member of MIR-12, a secret organisation who are dedicated to helping Renko, whom they believe with the help of the aforementioned TMD (Time Manipulation Device) is the only person who can save everyone from the time-related shenanigans.

Locating this device and securing it to your left arm allows you a range of new abilities to compliment your generic weaponry, much in the way Bioshock’s plasmids work. You can use the device to rapidly advance or regress the aging process, making enemy soldiers decay before your very eyes or restoring a destroyed platform to proceed to your next objective.

You can use it to attract distant items to you and if desired repel them, useful for removing enemies shields or firing explosive red barrels at them. It can be used to project a blast of energy that pushes back nearby foes, useful when surrounded by hordes of small, explosive spider-like creatures. As well as this you can use it to create a temporal bubble which can be used as a shield or to paralyse enemies inside allowing you to kill them with ease.

Using the TMD to repair broken bridges is one of it’s many uses.

Armed with such power you change the course of history, rescuing and becoming allies with Barisov, the original “E-99” research scientist whom Demichev bumped off in order to sieze power. Seeing as how he’s a clever scientist and you’re just a gung-ho grunt, he comes up with a solution to the problem and you get to implement it.

Travelling backwards and forwards in time through rifts, or whenever another pulse is emitted from the singularity, you must face insurmountable number of soldiers, mutants, more soldiers, giant mutants and some relatively simple time-based puzzles, before ultimately resolving the crisis and choosing one of three final outcomes. Plastered throughout are world are hidden messages left by another time traveller and plenty of tributes to popular film, television and video game culture.

Looking at the elements that form the bulk of the Singularity experience, it’s extremely easy to write it off as being a cobbled together knock off of concepts from popular sci-fi shooters such as Half Life, Bioshock and Dead Space. However, as the sum of its parts it offers an enjoyable and exciting shooter experience that will have you on the edge of your seat.

In contrast to their 1950’s counterparts, present day soldiers are equipped with advanced weaponry

In addition to the campaign, the game comes with two multiplayer modes which see opposing teams of soldiers and monsters duking it out – in Extermination, teams must recover a series of waypoints that are under the control of the monsters and in Creatures vs Soldiers, it’s a straight out deathmatch.

Both game types take place over two rounds, that way both teams get the opportunity to play as both soldiers and monsters. Each team has four different class of character with their own inate special abilities, in addition to this each player can customise their character with a range of weapons and perks or in the case of the monsters, a larger choice of perks as their weapons are determined by the class.

Despite a limited number of game modes, the online multiplayer is a lot of fun and combined with some achievements offers a small extension to the life of this game, but I’m doubtful the online community will be substantial after a few months, given the niche category this game seems to have placed in.

The Zek have a nasty mutation which gives them a conjoined head, as well as the power to phase in and out of reality

Like the mutated inhabitants of Katorga-12, Singularity is a strange creature. The shameless derivation of other titles is something that should offend, but somehow Raven Software have managed to succeed with the creation of a short, yet satisfying, shooter experience.

It’s certainly not going to be as revered as the games it pays tribute to, but it’s a fitting tribute nonetheless and I can heartily recommend this game for any shooter fan, especially those who like the occasional monster-fuelled science fiction romp.

Singularity scores four shiny wormholes out of five.