Review: Singularity

John Funk | 15 Jul 2010 13:00
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The E99 upgrades aren't the only thing in Singularity that make it feel like the developers were more than a little fond of BioShock. The story itself feels similar in quite a few ways, what with the whole "groundbreaking new technology causes a disaster and mutates the local inhabitants while granting them superpowers" theme and all, and it's told in a similar way, too. You'll find tape recordings and personal notes scattered through the island that help piece together the mystery of Katorga-12 and the Singularity, and there were more than a few moments where I found myself scratching my head and thinking, "Wow, this is BioShock with a less imaginative setting and worse writing."

Of course, that feels like I'm being unfair to the game. Saying that the TMD is less versatile than the Half-Life 2 gravity gun and saying that the setting and writing aren't as good as they were in BioShock is like criticizing a novel for not being as long as Proust's "In Search of Lost Time." There's no shame in not being as great as something truly stellar, and judged on its own merits Singularity holds up well.

The story isn't a work of great literature, but it's paced well and told in a way that makes you want to keep playing to find out what happens next. The TMD's function to pulse the area and see mysterious time-lost footprints leading the way is one of the best "breadcrumb" features I've seen in a game in a while, and the TMD itself is just a ton of fun to use. The weapons feel great and work well, the island of Katorga-12 is a well-realized and atmospheric setting with a heap of optional information lying around to help flesh out the image of life in a secret Soviet installation ... there's a lot to like here.

Occasionally the game stumbles, and occasionally you realize that it just isn't very original - and that it's also very short, with a playthough of the campaign taking between 6-8 hours depending on how meticulous you are (and how easily you get scared in the early sections). It's not perfect, but it's a damn good effort from Raven that borrows some great ideas from some of the most beloved shooters of our time. If they quite aren't as good in Singularity as they are elsewhere, that doesn't suddenly make them bad ideas.

If Singularity has slipped under your radar - as it has that of so many others - you might want to look again. This could be a gem lying hidden in plain sight.

Bottom Line: What Singularity does, it does well. It has some nifty weapons, an intriguing story that keeps you wanting to find out what happens next, and some great puzzles and firefights. The TMD is one of the most fantastic "gimmick gadgets" in a game this side of Half-Life 2's gravity gun. It's not particularly original, occasionally gets repetitive, and the main storyline is fairly short, but it's a solid and entertaining effort that you'll probably enjoy more than you think you will.

Recommendation: Give it a look - a rental if nothing else. If you like shooters, consider picking this up, since it's almost certainly one of the better ones this summer.

Check out what our review scores mean here.

Game: Singularity
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Raven Software
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: June 29th, 2010
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Available from: Amazon

This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.

John Funk would have so much fun with the Roly-Poly Grenade gun in real life. Please don't ask how.

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