Singularity First Look

9 Jun 2009  by   Paul Younger
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It’s hard to distinguish yourself in the world of first-person shooters, these days. Wherever you look, there are outstanding examples of pretty much whatever you were trying to do. First-person shooter/horror? FEAR. First-person shooter with special powers? BioShock. Classic first-person shooter? Serious Sam. Just plain fantastic? Half-Life.

Singularity is going down the BioShock route. Main character Nate Renko finds himself on an island with a Time Manipulation Device strapped to his arm. Skipping over the interesting part of that for a moment, this island is known as Katorga-12, and the Russians did some experiments there back in the 1950s, using Element 99. There was a “Chernobyl-like event” which has since been covered up, and for whatever reason this has seriously messed up the island. In 2010, a Russian politician is trying to unearth everything that went on there. The island is now flitting between its states in 1950 and 2010, and the US sends a squad in to investigate. Nate Renko is a member of this squad.

So, that Time Manipulation Device, or TMD as it’s helpfully referred to. This is a fairly cool little tool, with the ability to move things back or forward through time, in addition to acting like Half-Life’s gravity gun, albeit with a neat twist – objects it grabs are suspended in time. If someone lobs a grenade or fires a rocket, you can pick it up and hold onto it for as long as you like before hurling it back. Moving objects back and forwards through time is also fairly neat, as excluding the puzzle-based possibilities, it lets you age soldiers into skeletons. Puzzle-wise, it’s third-dimensional thinking, but nowhere near the level of Braid – you might pull a power cell forward in time so that it can open a door in the present, or revert a broken bridge to its intact state, and I suspect these will be heavily signposted rather than having any sort of brain-bending required, with no emergent gameplay.

It goes a bit BioShock following that, with tape decks and the like being time manipulated for backstory, or “echo events” showing what are essentially ghosts locked into replaying the same actions over and over again. There’s plenty of biological weirdness going on, too, with semi-transparent glowing orange plants all over certain areas, and weird time-shifted creatures floating around.

All of this seems a bit of a novelty, to be honest, so it’s a good thing that the shooter combat appears to hold up. Weapons range through the usual shotguns and machine guns to one rather cool weapon that fires controllable bullets. Time is slowed when you launch them, giving you plenty of time to home in on an errant sniper or rocket trooper. Our preview was too brief to say how it’s all going to hold up, but it certainly looks entertaining.

Novelty or not, though, the time manipulation has some neat features, such as at the end of our preview, when Nate uses a power generator in order to revert an entire crumbled building to its previous state. As he entered, it was roughly patched together, with parts crumbling. It was a very cool look.

So yes. The time manipulation appears to be a bit of a novelty, but if it can produce the sort of environments we saw towards the end of the preview and proves to be fun, then I’m all for it. If all else fails, though, it’s being developed by Raven, so the shooter portion should certainly hold up nicely. We’ll find out more nearer the release date this autumn.

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