Singularity (Xbox 360) PAL  Singularity (PS3) PAL Singularity (PC) PAL
Version Tested: Xbox 360

There aren’t a lot of games made about the Cold War. That’s probably because the two sides were actively participating in a game of “sibling rivalry”. Instead of making troops shoot each other, they instead decided to try and one-up each other; ranging from space exploration to weapons technology and spies. Many authors and film-makers have tried to paint the Cold War as an era full of conspiracies and betrayal. Its portrayal in video games is limited at best, with (to date) only the fantastic Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater even coming close to the subject. There are others down the line, mostly awful or in the future. So where does this leave Singularity, a game that explores an alternative version of events during the Cold War? Is it condemned to remain locked away in the past?

Katorga 12 is a research facility manned by the Soviets in the 1950s. As events transpired, a fatal accident resulted in the island’s closure, but the base remains in a derelict state. In the present day, an American satellite becomes victim of an electromagnetic shock that seems to come from this island. As Cpt Renko is drafted into the island, his plane crashes because of an EMP. Deciding to explore the island, he uncovers evidence that the Soviets were experimenting with a substance known as “E99”. As another surge quakes, he suddenly finds himself in the past surrounded by fire. The man he saves somehow changes history when time reverts itself. As mutants scurry around the island looking for their next meal, the two Americans are captured by an apparently Soviet based army. While his partner is executed by the man he once saved, Renko is saved by an operative from a secret organisation who explains the consequences of his paradox. Somehow he must find a way to return history to the timeframe he knows; otherwise Dr Demichev will still remain president of the world.

Some of the haunting images you see are disturbing. One wonders where this man is being dragged off to for example...

The deserted island with lots of Soviet artefacts and structures presents us with yet another dystopian setting. The only difference with this and the likes of Rapture is that the back-story behind it is one of war from the start rather than unity turning into chaos. While the technically unimpressive visuals make you wonder if this game came from three years ago, the feeling of solidarity really hits home when faced with the horrors of E99 due to some atmospheric design choices. Take for example when you obtain your first weapon; the Centurion (a pistol). Seconds after thinking “I’m safe now, I have a gun”, you’ll probably think, “Ahhh! I’m dying!!!” This is because the game wishes to remind you that just because you have a gun, that doesn’t mean the game can’t try to surprise you. Should it tweak that this cut-scene is fully interactive, then you’ll begin to realise that the game isn’t really all that fair in the beginning. After the initial stages, there is a rather mundane part where you only wield standard weapons and perform rather generic tasks associated with most other first person shooters.

After the revelation of the past, things begin to get very interesting. Amongst the standard Sniper Rifle, Shotgun and Machine Gun combination, there are also some unique arms such as “The Seeker”, a rifle that allows you to control the bullet in mid-flight, or the TMD (Time Manipulation Device) which not only has the power to return things to their previous state, but also degenerate stuff. Prime example, use it on an enemy soldier. Seriously, it’s just plain funny. There is even a gravity gun style command with the TMD, proving that stealing an idea from another company is justified when combined with your own creation. Other weapons in the game border on the completely ridiculous, and it’s better for it. Like Bioshock before it, there are upgrade stations for your weapons which can be used to use weapon tech or even spend hard searched for “E99 Tech”. It doesn’t really explain that for some of these perks you need to physically equip them, but knowing they’re there is a huge bonus. It’s nice to have all of this, but the ability to wield more than two weapons at a time would have made things better. Since ammunition is somewhat sparser than the availability of Christmas present options on Christmas Eve in certain areas; another slot for a gun would have improved things greatly. The powers towards the end of the game are just plain fun and ones that need to be seen to be believed. Surrounded by enemies? Turn one into a monster and then set him to detonate!

AHHH!!! MY FACE!!! MY BEAUTIFUL FACE!!!!

While there are one or two areas that will prove to be a challenge, the vast majority of the game is alarmingly simple. It is possible to clear the entire single player campaign in less than a day. But despite its rather rushed conclusion sequence where more room for a level could easily be inserted, the main campaign is worth experiencing, purely because of how well it flows. Some iconic encounters with big monsters, like the gargantuan on the train are well surrounded by sections that feature intense paranoia or an insane amount of firepower. One section that featured both these elements is a sewer sequence where opening the door to the next area unleashes a whole swarm of tickers which you need to flee from. The tools you obtain are helpful in most situations, but when faced with overwhelming odds such as this; the old strategy of run ’n’ gun will indeed save your bacon.

Multiplayer is limited to only two co-operative game types with fairly similar styles and goals. The first one is a variant on numerous territory game modes in other first person shooters, while the other is your standard Team Deathmatch. What is interesting is that players are split into Creatures vs Soldiers teams. Each side has its own four classes. The humans get the Blitzer, who can teleport through time; the Bruiser, who can generate impulse energy like some kind of Soviet Jedi Knight; the Healer, whose name should be self-explanatory to his power; and the Lurker, who can create a shield that damages foes upon impact. Then there are the Creatures, who move in a third person perspective that is a little odd, but seems to work well. The Zek can shift time and summon barrels to chuck at anyone in need of flammable oil dowsing; the Revert can puke on enemies to damage, friend to heal, the Radion who acts like a massive mutated tank; and finally the Phase Tick who can blow the sack on his back or possess enemy soldiers. All these creatures are balanced very well with the rest, so while there is a levelling system it only serves as status recording rather than upgrading. Stability in connections is an issue, as host timeouts happen often. Multiplayer in most FPS games isn’t a big priority, so this is a nice diversion that is worth a look at.

Lasting little more than a few hours, it is hard to justify the full retail price for Singularity. But think about it this way. Multiplayer will keep you interested for a good amount of time, despite only having two types, and what you experience in the single player campaign is so good that you probably wish it had not rushed its conclusion. It could easily have milked the plot for another level. It could easily have another epic boss encounter or disturbingly quiet level where you are stalked by something. I certainly didn’t want it to end at the point where it did. There is also a new inclusion to the armoury that I never would have thought of in my wildest dreams; the TMD. It can make biological matter turn into dust; mutate into a killer monster or slow it down enough for you to shoot it. It can progress or reverse the aging process on material objects or send things flying with a burst of energy. If like me you want utter mayhem and destruction from your FPS tools; I highly recommend the Deadlock. It just screams pain.