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Score: 98%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Raven Software
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 2 - 12 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Shooter/ Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Singularity is a unique action/shooter game developed by Raven Software, the bright minds from last year's Wolfenstein. It's quite clear that the team learned plenty in developing Wolfenstein and perfected those techniques for Singularity.

Singularity takes place between the time periods of 1955 and the present, well, sort of. You play as Captain Nathaniel Renko, sent by the U.S. Government, along with your teammate, Devlin, to check out a radiation anomaly emanating from a Russian island that supposedly vanished many years before, Katorga-12. Back in the mid-1950's, Russian scientists were performing experiments on the island, after having discovered Element 99, or E99, something they were certain would turn the tide of power towards the Soviet Union and allow them to become vastly superior to the Western menace. But an accident happened - a singularity - and things went awry. The experiments and island were never spoken of again. But the island didn't vanish and has been there, with its mutated inhabitants, waiting for someone to come back.

The surroundings go from a burned out island shell and its decrepit compounds in the present time, to the bustling scientific research labs and offices of the 1950's, and it all looks great. Propaganda posters are everywhere, as are tidbits of Russian life on the island, whether they be notes, audio logs or old film reels. You'll mostly deal with the two main scientists, Dr. Barisov and Dr. Demichev, who are both appropriate characters, and, of course, you'll encounter their supporters/henchmen. The monsters you'll face are fairly horrifying and reminiscent of something from Resident Evil or Silent Hill and then you have your human soldiers as well, some of them pretty well equipped and armored. It all looks great.

Do be prepared for some gore since you'll see blood everywhere and some death animations involve bodies being blown apart. Singularity revels a bit in its Mature rating, but it works for the game and it never seems excessive.

Voice acting is great and never feels overdone, despite the Russian plotline and how easy it would have been to go all "Boris and Natasha" on the player. Everything sounds great, from the monsters vomiting acid on you, to the scientists, both evil and good, even the "ghosts" you may hear from time to time. The only annoyance was when you'd be up against Russian soldiers and they'd be shouting the same comments over and over, sometimes even when they were encased in ice, after having been frozen by a cryo-tank

Oh, how do I love thee, Singularity. Let me count the ways. Like I mentioned, Raven took what they learned from Wolfenstein and made it better and more bad-assed. Sure, you fought super-human creatures with lightning-type weapons in Wolfenstein. How about aging something until it turns to dust or blowing someone apart with a pulse of energy? You've got that here, and much more.

In Singularity's Single Player game, as Captain Renko, you'll be tasked with changing the course of history. Back in the 50's, Dr. Barisov wanted to use the power of E99 to make Russia a superior force but pulled back when he discovered a dangerous side to the element, but his counterpart, Dr. Demichev wanted to rule the world with an iron hand and carry on with the experiments, even though they were proving to be harmful. When things play out, it will be up to you to team up with Barisov to change history. You'll obtain a wonderful device called the TMD (Time Manipulation Device) and you'll use this to both fight enemies by aging them rapidly or to age and regenerate items in the world to solve puzzles and progress. You might find a beaten down and rusted box, but renew it and you can snag the goodies inside or even use it to reach a high place you couldn't previously reach. Maybe you've come upon a hive of E99-infused ticks. Destroy it with your TMD. Maybe there's a staircase that has fallen down and you can't access the rooms above. Regenerate it and go about your way. Finally, maybe there's a slew of enemies littering a hall, but the broken electrical box on the way might be a hall pass to victory. There are plenty of puzzles just like that littered throughout the game and I loved that they didn't just throw this cool mechanic in and just not use it.

Renko can only carry two guns at a time, so you'll have to find what works best for you. You'll have your choice between a pistol, shotgun, machine gun, sniper rifle, then later on an auto-cannon, a grenade launcher, a rocket launcher and occasionally you'll have access to an E99-powered sniper rifle that allows you to guide the bullet straight into an enemy and watch him explode from a front row, bullet-cam seat. It's truly awesome. As you progress through the story, you'll pick up Weapon Tech boxes which can be used to upgrade your weapons and there's also a Weapons Locker where you can swap out weapons if something isn't working for you. You'll also have an Augmenter for upgrading your TMD and you'll do this by spending the E99 tech pieces you find scattered all around the island. Eventually, the device can become so powerful that you can blast any enemy to bits with a wave of your hand. Nice!

During the story, you'll have to use rifts in time and your TMD to go back and forth between 1955 and the present to fix things in an attempt to stop Demichev. Sometimes you'll be able to pull items from the past to the present and other times, you'll experience what is called an Echo Event, where you will see a really creepy snippet of the past in the area you are traversing. It's all really effective stuff to help immerse you completely into the plot.

There's also a Multiplayer option. 6 by 6 players can compete in either Creatures vs. Soldiers, which is a Deathmatch Mode, or Extermination Mode, a battle for control of beacons. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to try a multiplayer game since I could never get in on a match. However, that being said, there is Quick Match, Public Match or Private Match, if you just want to play amongst friends.

You can choose to begin Singularity on either Easy, Normal or Hard mode. I played the game through to the end on Normal and it was just perfect. Yes, there were at least two parts of the game that induced a flurry of foul words and the strong potential for the Olympic sport of controller-tossing, but aside from those areas, I thought the level of difficulty was just perfect. It certainly isn't a walk in the part, but the game won't roll over for you either. For the curious, there's an area where you encounter hordes of E99-infused ticks and have to kill or be killed, only to run to the "safety" of a hall filled with more ticks. Argh! Then there was my first encounter with a really fast Zek that liked to turn invisible and slash you to ribbons. He had to be frozen in order to be killed and he was not fun. I enlisted StarScream and J.R. Nip on those two. Sometimes, I get by with a little help from my friends.

I also tried it on Easy and Hard and they are exactly what they say they are. On the Easy difficulty setting, expect to be able to run through the game with little to no resistance and on Hard, expect quite a fight.

Game Mechanics:
I found the controls to be spot-on for Singularity, but J.R. Nip, who is more accustomed to shooters on the 360, much preferred the 360 setup. Keep this in mind when making your choice in console. You'll use the Left Analog Stick to move about and the Right Analog Stick to aim. By pressing down using (R3), you can pick up an object using gravity or slow down time immensely by using ChronoStasis. You'll jump with (X), swap weapons with (Triangle), crouch with (Circle) and reload your weapon with (Square). Aiming with your iron sites is accomplished by holding down (L1) and you'll fire with (R1). (L2) is used to age or renew items and enemies and (R2) is your Impulse weapon (your best friend in battle). You can also use (R2) to change a standard soldier into a Revert, a blind monster who vomits acid. He will then attack anything that makes noise, so he is a great little sound-guided missile if you have a ton of enemies attacking you and you want to tear things up a bit, but from the comfort of a different room.

You can only hold so many health packs at a time, at least until you upgrade that option, and you'll have to press up on the D-pad to take a health pack. This is another pet peeve of mine with the game. Why do I have to stop fighting to wrap some health thingie around my wrist to heal? This sucked in the heat of battle and caused me to die more than a few times. Lastly, by pressing down on the D-pad, you can use ChronoPing, which shows you where you need to go next in a series of blue, ghostly footprints.

Overall, Singularity is a fantastic game that really uses some cool mechanics to make players think while they are having fun. I had a blast working my way through this game and I highly recommend it. There are three possible endings to the game and once you have gotten the first ending, you can continue your game right there at the end, choosing one of the other options to be able to see all three endings without replaying the entire game. Sure, you'll probably want to replay the game from the beginning, but it was nice to be able to see all three possible endings without having to replay it all. I do wish I could start a new game with my tricked out TMD and just blast every enemy in the game to hell with reckless abandon, but alas, you can't do that. Still, if you like shooters and action-packed games, you owe it to yourself to at least rent Singularity. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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