Singularity - A Stitch in Time Ends the World
Before they were forced into the labor camp that is developing Call of Duty games Raven software released Singularity, a time travel first person shooter/atmospheric horror hybrid. The story focuses on the Singularity, a rip in time that occurs when Russian scientists, experimenting with E-99, an element that allows the user to control time. In the beginning of the game, the player is unknowingly pulled back in time from 2010 to 1955 where you save a man from dying. This man of course goes onto be a complete tyrant and now it’s up to you to stop him and restore the timeline.
The plot actually takes a while to get moving and this works to its benefit. The player isn’t really sure about what’s going on, as they continue to fluctuate in time with little weaponry. There isn’t much shooting going on for the first quarter or so of the game as you instead slowly move through the aftermath of the explosion that caused the singularity. The atmosphere and pacing in this beginning part of the game is very well done. You’re simply trying to survive while encountering strange monsters with limited ammo and weapons. It’s a very engrossing opening, and while it almost feels like a walking simulator you barely even notice thanks to the drive to figure out what is going on and to escape.
Unfortunately the atmosphere eventually gives way to a more “standard” fps experience. Enter a new area, kill a wave or two of enemies, do set-piece activity, proceed to next area and repeat. The story itself is still engaging as you learn more about the timeline, however the shooting does not elevate much past a standard experience. There are time powers that you can use to rapidly age enemies, killing them, but it’s easier to just shoot them, effectively removing one of the “features” of the gameplay. Time powers can also be used on objects to repair destroyed bridges or staircases. There are not really any puzzles that incorporate this so it becomes an extra step in progression rather than an interesting mechanic.
The campaign of Singularity is fairly short, coming in under 5 hours, but it is an enjoyable experience. The shooting mechanics are nothing special but are adequate. The powers that you get seem cool but never end up being better than the assault rifle. Both powers and guns can be upgraded, but again the damage upgrades for the guns outweigh any time powers. Additionally, once you max out the health upgrades and damage reduction powers it becomes almost impossible to die, removing whatever tensity was left in the atmosphere of the game.
For all its shortcomings, Singularity is an overall positive experience. Taken as a long movie, it has a gripping narrative and atmosphere and is short enough that it never feels tedious to play through. The shooter gameplay works fine. It feels like a knock off Call of Duty, which seems fitting considering the future work of the developer. The game frequently goes on sale for under $10 and is a more than worthwhile purchase at that price point.
Value: Wait for a Sale.