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Raven bounces back with 'Singularity'

August 11, 2010

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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SingularityLast year, Raven Software tried their hand at the classic videogame series 'Wolfenstein' with very mixed results. Giving the impression of a rushed production job, the final product had little shock and awe value.

inspired by their work on 'Wolfenstein', Raven has bounced back with 'Singularity', an exceptional sci-fi FPS unmistakably influenced by the very best elements of 'Bio-Shock' and the granddaddy of them all: 'Half-Life'.

Although in different timelines, all of Singularity's storyline takes place on a secret government research facility: Katorga-12. Located on an island, Katorga-12 was incinerated by an unknown accident in 1955.

SingularityWith its cover-up in place, the Russian government thought they had heard the last of Katorga-12. Fifty-five years later, a strange electromagnetic pulse from the island hits a spy satellite and then another brings down a reconnaissance team's copter. Something on that island has survived and it ain't friendly. Captain Nate Renko, a black ops soldier, survives the crash and continues the probe into what or who has been sending the deadly pulse blasts. That is the start of a exceedingly original adventure. Like a tennis ball, Renko is bounces from the past to the present and back again as he tries to uncover the mysteries of the island and Katorga-12.

Renko is able to travel back and forth in time once he finds the TMD - Time Manipulation Device. A bio-mechanical gauntlet (for lack of a better term) that attaches itself to his hand. The TMD gives Renko some distinctive abilities, gameplay features and can be upgraded.

SingularityOne of the things the TMD can do is renew or age interactive objects in the environment. You can reverse time on broken, rusted crates returning them to their previous pristine state so you can use them to climb or scale areas. One of the resourceful ways you can place an old crate under a sliding door, renew it so it expands and as it does so, pushes the door upwards. You can now climb under and through the door.

You can use renew on destroyed levers, controls or even on special crates so you can retrieve health packs or ammo from them. You can rebuild damaged bridges or catwalks with the TMD. If that wasn't enough, aging some foes can have very delightful results. Well, delightful for you, not them. During scripted moments in the games, the TMD will even renew gigantic objects like an ancient train.

Another TMD ability was inspired by Half-Life's revolutionary Gravity Gun. The TMD can pick up, carry and lift objects that are some distance away. As in 'Half-Life', the power is used mainly to solve environmental puzzles that act as roadblocks during your quest.

SingularityLastly, the TMD can produce special time-altering bubbles. Imagine a 'Halo' bubble shield, if you will, but the difference is that anything within the circumference of the bubble is temporarily frozen in time. Really an offensive weapon, the bubbles come in handy when you want to slow speedy or tough foes, sit back and fill them full of holes as they are paralyzed and helpless.

You will need all of these powers and more when you clash with exploding crawling spiders, assorted Russian soldiers, flesh-eating zombies, wraith-like beasts and other assorted mutant monsters who inhabit the island.

Like any other zany time jumping storyline, 'Singularity' ties plot events into incomprehensible knots sometimes but we are having too much fun to really care to sort things out. We understand the main objectives, so the smaller threads or inconsistencies don't really matter. The biggest lure is the TMD and all of its many wonders. Besides the storyline, it is the one hook that differentiates 'Singularity' from other first-person-shooters and will attract fans of both 'Half-Life' and 'Bio Shock'. 'Singularity' is not just a summer time-waster. Like 'Alan Wake', it is one of the most unique games published this year.


Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software
ESRB Rating: M For Mature

Rating: 8.5 / 10


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