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Sadly, Singularity is a typical game of this day and age.  From a strictly technical standpoint, it's a perfectly serviceable first-person shooter in the mode of Half-Life 2.  In terms of story, art design, and gameplay elements, it bears the marks of editorial autocracy.

The premise is certainly innocuous enough.  Around the late 1940s, Soviet miners working on Katorga-12, an island off the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula discover E99, a weird transuranic element with temporal properties.  An sizable industrial/research complex is built up on the island, but problems with construction and personnel eventually result in the whole project being shut down by 1960.  You make an appearance on the scene in 2010 as American marine Nate Renko, sent to investigate some strange energy readings coming from the island.  After getting sucked back in time briefly, you end up stuck in an alternate universe where Moscow used E99-based temporal weapons to devastate the United States in the 1960s and create a nasty world socialist state.  Naturally, your job is to undo all this while dodging snarly time mutants and equally snarly spetsnaz.

Probably the biggest problem with this game is that it doesn't really have an identity of its own.  In all likelihood, this is probably due to the influence of Activision, a publisher which has a notorious habit of focus-grouping games into oblivion.  Probably the biggest influence here is Bioshock; Katorga-12 is littered with audio diaries, weapons-upgrade stations, and other mildly-RPG elements, all seemingly implemented without much understanding of why those elements worked in Bioshock.  The art design of the island seems to resemble developer Raven Software's 2009 entry Wolfenstein far more than it should.  Much of the "Soviet" styling seems sadly slapdash, with the always-irritating use of English with random Cyrillic letters, propaganda posters that are far too "formalist" for the period, and propaganda movies that owe more to American sources than Soviet ones.  Indeed, while the island is named after a type of tsarist-era penal colony, nothing is made of this, despite the Soviet Union's history of using penal colonies in scientific research.

Still, if you just want a simple on-rails gimmick shooter, Singularity will satisfy.  The gimmick this time around is a device called a Temporal Manipulation Device (TMD), a machine that can age and revert enemies and various E99-infused objects, which allows for some simple yet enjoyable puzzles.  There is a nice variation in firearms, though a moderately skilled player can easily make it through the game with just the standard Soviet assault rifle.  There are a few nice set-pieces, particularly on a reverted freighter that is slowly crumbling back to rust, as well as the handful set back in 1955.  The plot isn't gripping, but it does succeed in creating a more muddled depiction of the effects of time travel than most media do.  Overall, it's a fun way to kill a few evenings, but it's not what it could have been.


Tags: 1950s, Soviet, alternate history, time travel, video game

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I'm always wary of games that let you affect the environment so drastically.

On paper it sounds like a good concept, but then the developers realize that players can break the game. Then, they're forced so that only certain objects can be affected, which waters down the original concept completely.

Based on your synopsis, it sounds like the whole game got watered down. Or, like watercolors, when you mix too many colors together, everything just turns into a bland brown.

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