TBT Singularity – Let’s Do the Time-Warp Again
The Cold War was an escalating arms race by the World’s two biggest superpowers. With Black level operations, proxy wars, and a constant threat of nuclear holocaust the tension was palpable. Then in the 50’s, Russian miners looking for Uranium on the small island of Katorga-12 find something even greater, a volatile new element of unimaginable power, E-99. Study yields that the power of E-99 outclasses any form of nuclear energy. Stalin immediately puts together a team to study E-99. Unfortunately, during the test a horrible accident occurs, killing many of the researchers. Moscow buries the research and abandons the island. The year is now 2010, a US intelligence satellite is blinded by some sort of EMP as it passes over Katorga-12. The CIA assembles an insertion group to investigate the island. This group, headed by Captain Nathaniel Renko, sets out for Katorga-12, unaware the horrors that await them.
When Singularity released in 2010 many didn’t give the game a passing glance. With practically no marketing the game sat on shelves. Those that did play it drew many comparisons to Bioshock, not surprising as Bioshock 2 released the same year. But for those willing to look past slight similarities they found a game with tight gunplay, an interesting story, and cool time manipulation mechanics. Singularity may not have revolutionized the industry but the things it did well cannot be ignored.
Singularity is a first person shooter with RPG-lite elements. Powers, guns, and the character can all be upgraded to become even stronger. Once Renko, the player character, lands on Katorga-12 he sets off a series of events that changes the future. After passing through a time bubble Renko finds that a madman named Nikolai Demichev has taken over the world. Renko is rescued by the resistance, MIR-12, and finds the Time Manipulation Device, or TMD, which allows him to use temporal based abilities. After this point the game really opens up, where the beginning hour played very much like a standard FPS, the TMD creates new options on the battlefield. The player can age cover or items (destroying or rebuilding it) and enemies (either turning them to dust or reverting them into horrific blind monsters). The TMD also allows you to cast stasis fields, grab objects, phase blast, and open holes in time. These holes in time take the player back to 1950 where they have the ability to change the future. There are only a few of these time tears but they are a satisfying shake up to the story. After saving Dr. Barisov, another Katorga-12 scientist that Demichev killed in 1950, Renko fully joins MIR-12 in their fight against Demichev. The big mystery is how Demichev took over the world, what single event caused him to gain so much power? While observant players will no doubt figure it out early on, it’s still a very well written plot point.
The enemy variety is actually really well-rounded, with the standard soldiers, heavy soldiers, zombies (the designs for these ones still creep me out), phase mutants, phase ticks, and more. The game also has a few boss fights, but these are a pretty generic. One is a beefed up phase mutant who can only be damaged by shooting weak points on his chest and back, while the other is the tick brood mother whose fight has the same mechanics but is more visually interesting than the phase mutant boss. With so many monsters one would expect an entire arsenal to play with, and you’d be right. The game has a variety of weapons, from standards of the pistol, assault rifle, and shotgun, to the exotic like a temporal distortion sniper, chaingun, railgun, or the remote-controlled grenade launcher. On rare occasions in the campaign the player would be given access to on of the best sci-fi weapons ever made, the Seeker Rifle. This gun allows the user to control the trajectory of the bullet after it is fired from the weapon. After striking it’s target the bullet explodes, turning whatever it hit into mush. The combat is fun and engaging, my only complaint is that sometimes the firearms overshadow the TMD. But other than that the game has great systems.
When Singularity first released it had a multiplayer component, which eschewed certain multiplayer standards. While there was the standard deathmatch and team deathmatch the game allowed players to plays as either the Russian elites or the mutants, giving players two different gameplay styles. While I didn’t get to play it on my recent replay of the game, I remember that it was pretty fun, if you could find a lobby.
Singularity wasn’t a gaming revolution, but it was a great game. It’s a shame that it never quite got the audience it deserved, but hopefully for those reading this, what has been written here is incentive enough to pick up the game. A used copy on console is no doubt dirt cheap and on Steam it is frequently on sale. So make the plunge, fight the past, save the future, stop the Singularity. You are our only hope.