Developer: Raven Software
by: Sam Tyler
Original ideas are light on the ground in game development and publishers often direct their staff to look at what has been successful before. So if you are going to pay homage to a game, at least pay homage to the best. This is arguably what Raven Software have done with their latest game Singularity, with a mix of Bioshock, Half Life and bit of itself.
You play as Captain Nate Renko, part of a team of American soldiers sent to investigate an island off the coast of Russia that is giving off high levels of radiation. Upon arriving at the island, things start off badly when the helicopter is downed and get worse when you are swept up in a world of dangerous experiments, mutations and time manipulation. Using your military knowledge and newly acquired time powers you must assure that history turns out the way its meant to or allow an evil Russian scientist to take over the world.
With so many First Person Shooters on the market it is hard to stand out and most developers try to add something unique to their game, which often comes across a gimmicky. In the case of Singularity this is the time manipulation powers that you discover early on. The Time Manipulation Device (TMD) allows you to age or renew both objects and people. It can be used as a weapon, but also as a way to solve the numerous physics problems in the game. The TMD has the same feel as the plasmids from Bioshock, but it certainly a step up from similar time skills seen in Timeshift.
The similarities to Bioshock continue with various audio tapes to play and important objects that glow. However, to just compare Singularity to other games is a disservice as there is a lot to recommend it in its own right. The mix of shooting and time powers work really well. The weaponry itself packs a real punch with an eclectic selection that is dished out throughout the game. The story is also intriguing as you jump back and forwards in time in a way that effects the present and, for a genre known for a lack of narrative, its good to see that Raven have at least attempted character and story development. Graphically the game also stands up with some atmospheric set design and intelligent level layouts, which often lead onto epic set pieces.
If viewed in a vacuum Singularity is a highly impressive FPS that combines shooting with interesting abilities. However, the likes of Bioshock and Half Life have been and gone, and some of the ideas in Singularity are too close to feel fresh and innovative; especially in terms of tone and use of physics problems. Overall, the game is a very solid shooter that entertains from start to finish and is likely to be one of the better FPSs of the year, if not the most original.