Activision – Singularity review

possibly the first person shooter that the world wrongly forgot about
Photo of Activision – Singularity

There are lots of old-fashioned little gaming mechanics in Singularity, the ilk of which have been bred out of first person shooters in recent times. Having to press ‘H’ to activate a health kit, for instance, is something of a culture shock when for years we’ve been hiding behind walls waiting for our energy to replenish. Old-fashioned boss battles are then inserted in the game in a particularly irritating way. And the monster design doesn’t offer a lot that’s fresh, either.

Perhaps as a consequence, this is a game that has been allowed to slip under the radar. That shouldn’t have happened, as we’ll explain, but you can understand why it has.

Singularity is a first person shooter that hinges on experiments being done that have created strange creatures which want to kill you. Said creatures have an increasingly diverse range of talents, and vary in appearance. And before you can say Wolfenstein, you’re up against limited ammo clips as you try to defeat them.

For much of the first hour of the game, that’s just how things are. While graphically terrific, and while boasting some outstanding audio work, there simply didn’t seem much to be excited about where Singularity was concerned.

And then we found the TMD, the time manipulation device that turns the game into something far more interesting. For using this – and it gets attached to your arm – you can age objects by decades, or take a similar amount of time off their life. Thus, if there’s an old decrepit set of stairs, a blast of the TMD can take it back to an earlier time in its existence where it was all fine and dandy. Or if you need to wedge open a shutter door, then age a crate, wedge it under the open part, and make it young again. Voilà, door open. Then there’s the impulse charge of the TMD that you can fire at nearby enemies to get you breathing room. Or the fact that you can wield big objects around with it. It’s immense fun.

Furthermore, as the game progresses, the TMD becomes more and more powerful. As such, you can age entire buildings if you want to, and even though the game itself isn’t very long, it does offer lots of fun moments like that to make it more memorable than you may first give it credit for.

A pity, then, that its core conventions are so ordinary. Why do we need more boss battles, just to prolong a game? Is it just us who would prefer a room full of strong AI enemies to battle, rather than spending ages killing one creature that you have to shoot in a very specific way? And it really does get quite annoying remembering that you have to bash the ‘H’ button when the game suddenly throws a lot of foes at you.

However, the good still far outweighs the bad where Singularity is concerned, and it’s thus surprising that it’s endured such a quiet release. In a year when the likes of Alan Wake have proven to be slight disappointments, here’s a game that punches above its weight, has snuck up unnoticed, yet still succeeds in spite of hobbling itself with some odd gaming decisions.

Maybe the sequel could be bolder, bigger, and just a bit more modern? Whatever, don’t make the mistake of writing Singularity off.

Company: Activision

At its best, this is an insanely entertaining first person shooter. It takes too long to get going, and lacks ideas sometimes where it needs them the most. But when it hits its stride it's genuinely first class gaming at its peak.