Author Topic: Singularity [2010 -- Raven Software]  (Read 41 times)

Offline Starfox

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Singularity [2010 -- Raven Software]
« on: November 03, 2019, 05:22:27 PM »
I never properly reviewed Singularity when I first played it all those years ago which is a shame. Singularity is one of those games that passed under most radars and never scored high on any chart despite being good due to its own publisher, Activision, that treated this title like a second class citizen first by not marketing it enough and properly and second by not supporting it as they should have. I don't know what beef Activision had with Singularity and/or Raven Software but it was pretty damaging to the game. They acted like if they just wanted to sweep it under the carpet and call it a day. Maybe they were simply too afraid of the possible impact it could have on their star franchise Call of Duty.

Because here's the thing, as Call of Duty is suffocating more and more with each new iteration, becoming ultimately that gigantic live service with monetization everywhere Singularity by comparison was like a breath of fresh air. I wouldn't say it reinvented the wheel because indeed it borrows a lot of things to other games but borrowing is not bad if done correctly.

The story of Singularity focuses around the discovery by the Soviet Union in the 50s of a new element, E99, which scientists assure the Politburo will give USSR the upper hand in its arm race against the evil powers of the West. E99 is only found in the soil of little island south east of the coast of USSR and promptly installations are built for the extraction, refinement, study and research and development around E99. The island is renamed Katorga-12. Two top Russian scientists are involved in the E99 leading research effort, Nikolai Demichev and his right hand man, Victor Barisov. In 1955 though, an accident occurs and Demichev is killed in a fire. Barisov takes his place but after a while Moscow deems the E99 line of research too dangerous and decides to stop Katorga-12 activities. Half a century later, a US spy satellite while on its normal course of operation is suddenly blinded by an explosion while it passes above Katorga-12. Afraid of a new Chernobyl and doubtful of Moscow explanations, the US government decides to sent a recon team to investigate. The player's avatar, Captain Nathaniel Renko, is part of this team.

Hence the game itself begins as the two helicopters of Renko recon team are flying toward Katorga-12. Suddenly an EMP explosion send everything to hell and Renko ends up wounded not too far from his crashed helicopter on the civilian docks of Katorga-12 near the village that previously housed the many scientists, workers and soldiers who worked on the island. Exploring, Renko finally enters a complex were something weird happens. A shockwave sends him back in 1955 where he needs to save himself from the raging fire. On the way, he rescues a man that is about to die. This man is none other than Nikolai Demichev. Saving him, Renko involuntarily changed the past... and the present to which he immediately come back to realize that the bust of Stalin in the reception room was replaced by a statue of Demichev... Oops. From there the rest of the game will find Renko switching between the present and 1955 trying to rectify this "chronological error" he introduced.

Along the way he will find some unlikely allies like Katryn (a member of a group called Mir-12 actively fighting against the dictator Demichev) and a weird little device called a TMD (for Time Manipulation Device) allowing him to make things and even people fast forward to the future (hence aging) or fast reward to the past (hence becoming newer or younger).

Singularity, as I said, borrows from several other games but most prominently Half-Life. The themes are definitely there, mad scientist, an experiment going wrong, unforeseen consequences, tortured creatures created by the experiment and all that. The TMD is the Singularity equivalent of the Gravity gun from Half-Life 2 and will be even more useful. The TMD allows Renko to restore objects and equipment eroded by time to a pristine condition or to degrade them if needed. As such, it is an essential device to navigate the game. It can also be used in combat by making the enemies age up to the point of killing them naturally. Of course to balance the power of the TMD, the device needs energy cells of E99 to work properly. This energy can be found in the world but is not infinite and can also be quickly discharged especially if Renko use the TMD on enemies.

Renko doesn't only have the TMD to fight anyway, he also has the normal military hardware, pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, (only two of them can be part of the loadout at anytime but Renko can exchange a weapon for another at special points in the game -- each weapon already discovered remaining available for later use, even if discarded) all of them can be upgraded in term of capabilities and performances at certain point throughout the game. Singularity also features a special weapon, a rifle that shot only one bullet at a time but this bullet, coated in E99 technology can be manually guided throughout its path in slow motion by Renko allowing him with a little practice to take down even the most concealed enemy. This rifle is a very powerful one-shot one-kill type of weapon. Unfortunately, it's also a weapon that unlike the others Renko cannot bring with him and is only available at specific locations in the game in 1955.

The game narrative is supported by notes that one can read, audio recorder one can activate or some other features like the island map Renko find at the very beginning for which you can activate various commentaries regarding locations that Renko will visit later. Overall the background narrative is more akin to games like System Shock 2 rather than Half-life.

Sure the elements composing the game have been seen before (even at the time of the original release in 2010) but it's not a fault in this case because when you take the good from other games that you tie it into a neat package with a good story and a suitable atmosphere, the end result can only be good fun. The game gave me the good old feeling I had when I first played Half-Life and Half-Life 2 (you know, before Valve decided to delay Half-Life 3 to 2098) and some other games like System Shock 2 and Bioshock and to me that's certainly not an indication of failure, quite the contrary.

But Singularity has also flaws possibly due to the desire of Activision to rush the release of the game. First, there are no subtitles to speak of. Not a very big problem in the big scheme of things (I'm fluent in English, I can take a game, a movie or a series without subtitles as long as the actors are intelligible) but we are speaking of a game that is supposed to occur on Russian territory and that makes subtitles kind of important because guess what... everything is supposed to be written in Russian. Instead, to counter the lack of subtitles, Raven chose a mid-solution that I wouldn't qualify as deeply satisfying from an immersion point of view. All the text Renko reads and audio he hears are in English but I don't mind as that can be explained by the fact that Renko is a special operative who most probably speaks Russian (after all his name originates from Eastern countries and he wouldn't be on a recon mission in Russian territory if he didn't speak Russian) so I can imagine he's translating on the fly. Most posters and signs are in Russian which is normal but the parts that the player needs to comprehend are in plain English (with some letters inverted to make you think its Russian, I guess -- although an inverted R is not a Russian R. R in Cyrillic is P. CCCP actually meant SSSR) and that's a breach of immersion and the reason why subtitles should be there. Having a poster in plain Russian and subtitles telling you what it means would have made more sense. Some signs are put in both languages, Russian first then the English translation and there I tell myself "if I was Russian, why would I put English signs in a super top secret facility that I want to conceal from the West?". Maybe a single "Forbidden to imperialists. Trespassers will be shot." for good measure but "Reception is this way"... Really? This whole Russian melted with English thing is certainly the gravest breach of immersion in this game. But once again, some people will possibly not mind at all. I do but that's my nitpicking side.

Singularity is also a console port and suffer from the primary deficiency of most console ports from 2010, no manual save system replaced by a checkpoint system. Other than that, the control keys can be edited which is good. Amusingly enough, even though the game was available on Xbox 360 and even though the PC version can be played with a controller the prompts are generic "button pad #" instead of the proper ABYX.. etc. prompts. Not a big deal but it still needs to be mentioned as it is in line with the "rush the game out of the door" that was apparently Activision motto at the time. On today systems equipped with Windows 10 there might be sounds issues but they do not appear with all systems and can be generally fixed when they appear. The graphics are from 2010 and adapted from console of the same period but still, they are surprisingly acceptable considering their age (if you're not one of those wanting the absolute best graphics from the moment and nothing else).

With that being said, Singularity is a surprisingly good game that was well received by both game critics and gamers on release and it's definitely a shame that it didn't get the representation and support it deserved from its publisher. There was definitely some room for a Singularity 2 although I don't see how that could happen now with Activision so stuck up with its baby doll that whines and goes nowhere (but makes a lot of money and that's what counts, right) Call of Duty. In particular, Singularity was the last original IP developed by Raven Software before Activision reassigned them to the said Call of Duty because who needs to be creative, right?

But Activision has been a lost cause to me for quite a long time so let's leave it at that.

Regarding Singularity though I can only recommend it for any FPS enthusiast liking their game with a side of Half-Life. I wouldn't say that the game is dirt cheap now (even after almost 10 years) because Activision are a bunch of greedy *** liable to sell any decade old product for $20, but I still recommend the game itself, especially if you can get it during a sale. If you haven't played it yet, do.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2019, 08:29:51 PM by Starfox »


Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -- A. Einstein

Offline bobdog

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Re: Singularity [2010 -- Raven Software]
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2019, 11:34:48 AM »
Agreed - this was an original and enjoyable game, and it has a surprise ending, if I recall.

Offline Starfox

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Re: Singularity [2010 -- Raven Software]
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2019, 10:42:58 AM »
There was, sort of. It was after the end credits when one realizes who instructed Mir-12 in the past to prepare for and assist Renko 50 years later. It was more of the classical time paradox "I wrote that before being born because I witnessed the events happening hence I couldn't have possibly wrote that" more commonly known as "what was first, the chicken or the egg" paradox.

One needs a good time paradox when writing a story around time travel :lol:

Myself I was always more perplexed by all the messages (those written in light blue) that Renko kept running across "Don't trust the girl", "Barisov got it wrong", "The girl has to die" and such... obviously they were written neither by Katryn nor Barisov and I never could tell how they fit in the story. Demichev trying to throw Renko false affirmations? If so, why? And how could he know that Renko would be there to read the messages.

But Singularity as originally planned by Raven was a much bigger game in which those questions might have been answered. What we got in fact was a game based on what could be salvaged from the original idea given the amount of time Acivision left Raven with. Considering the end result, it's quite an achievement already. I always wondered what the full product as envisioned by Raven could have been.


Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -- A. Einstein

 

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