The story and gameplay of Singularity center around the Time Manipulation Device, or TMD, which allows you to age enemies to dust or revert them to mere powerless embryos, as well as interact with your environment in a variety of ways. This intriguing concept is married to a deep plot and immersive game world, but is not without its flaws. See what this reviewer thinks of Singularity after the break.
Combat in Singularity is very ordinary before you receive the ability to manipulate time. The controls are standard for a first-person shooter, and combat consists solely of shooting enemies before they can manage to maim or shoot you. After acquiring the TMD, you gradually unlock new powers that you can use in combat and to solve puzzles, such as the ability to stop time within a certain radius, or to apply antigravity to objects. This spices up the combat significantly by presenting you with alternatives which are both functional and amusing, due to how certain enemies react to being aged - for example, one type of enemy will explode if aged, killing other nearby foes.
The puzzles in the game attempt to take advantage of the time-manipulation aspect to add an interesting tweak, but are seriously hampered by the fact that there are only four types of puzzles:
1. There is a crate. It may or may not be broken down. If it is, revert it, then use it to climb somewhere; otherwise, just use it to climb somewhere.
2. There is a crate. It may or may not be broken down, and it's on the other side of a gap that you can't fit through. Age it, pull it through the gap, revert it, and use it to climb somewhere.
3. There's what looks like a path, but something is blocking it. You can age this thing. Age the thing.
4. There’s some stairs you need to climb but they’ve been destroyed. Revert them and climb them.
This may seem like an oversimplification, but this is essentially all of the puzzles in the game. (There is a single other puzzle I didn't describe, because if you solve that one, you actually feel genuinely clever, and I don't want to rob anyone. Suffice to say that it, too, involves a crate.) Now, I don’t typically mind a lack of puzzles in an FPS – that isn’t the point of the genre. However, when you introduce such an interesting device as the TMD, and when you interweave it into the plot and combat seamlessly, I feel entitled to a certain degree of freedom to use it in the world at large. Its use in the world is rather limited – only certain predetermined objects can be aged/reverted, which ends up feeling very intrusive eventually. Many of the puzzles tend to be repeated, which means that something which was interesting – if uncomplicated – the first time quickly becomes a boring obstacle designed to waste your time.
However, it’s not difficult to see why Singularity has to waste your time on puzzles – the campaign is easily completed in under ten hours. I explored as much of the game world as I could manage to access, listened to every audio diary, and experimented with every weapon, power and tactic, and still finished it this quickly. Somebody actually attempting a speed run could do under 4 hours with ease. This is a major problem due to the fact that Singularity’s multiplayer is rather lacking, and even if it weren’t, it’s very much underpopulated.
However, don’t let all of these negatives fool you. Behind the façade of simplistic puzzles and limited environments lies a world which will pull you in and show you a spectacular time. Where Singularity fails as a puzzle game, it makes up for it with action, providing a variety of enemies, weapons and tactics for you to entertain yourself with. Despite the presence of perhaps only 10 enemy types, combat never suffered, because gameplay was well-paced with the addition of new TMD powers and weapons to experiment with. Singularity also contains a well-conceived, well-executed plot and an attention to detail that leaves its universe rich with answers to any questions you may consider, provided you’re willing to look a little. The game’s world is very reminiscent of Bioshock’s Rapture, as it is peppered with audio logs and messages written on the walls, and has a similar aesthetic. This is one area in which the game excels, and it is worth playing on this basis alone.
Overall, Singularity is a game to rent, not to own. Its immersive world cannot overcome its incredibly short campaign, in the end. However, if you own one of its platforms (PS3, 360 or PC) and are even a moderate fan of FPS gaming, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try for its rich story and interesting mechanics. I guarantee that when it’s over – with one of its (like Bioshock) three endings – you’ll be wishing it had gone on longer.