Now that the current generation is winding down and if not so much deceased as beginning to look for retirement accommodation in the coastal area, it’s the perfect chance to reassess some of the last generations plethora of titles which by now are cheaper than a glass of water. In this case, this (possibly) regular format will reappraise games that either; fell through the commercial cracks and didn’t sell much, were almost universally panned by gamers and critics alike, or in some cases both. No stone-cold widely accepted classics here; these are games living in the hinterland of critical and commercial failure craving retribution like a toddler carves Star Mix.

The aim of the discussion to see if the poor sales/poor reputation was deserved earning it a ‘Guilty’ judgment or if the game is actually worth your precious time resulting in a ‘Pleasure’ stamp.

For the inaugural game to face the jury of its peers, it’s Activision and Raven Software’s meaty sci-fi shooter Singularity.

At one stage Singularity looked to be a huge deal, with publisher Activision riding the wave of Call of Duty based popularity with a full scale PR offensive showing a promising looking viral campaign, trailers and screenshots. Then it all went quieter than the proverbial church mouse a few months before release date and by the time it reached the stores in 2010, it wasn’t so much with a bang as with a whimper quieter than a stoic, larynx-less hound. The end result, Singularity sold fewer copies than that weird reggae CD your uncle made a few years back.

I will start by making a bold claim, so gird your loins…Singularity is this generations Doom

I will start by making a bold claim, so gird your loins…Singularity is this generations Doom. Yes I said it, don’t phone the gaming police and have my console taken into custody, I shall elaborate.

Whilst Singularity obviously didn’t have the cultural impact which Doom did all those years ago, it isn’t particularly original or ground-breaking in its approach or execution, and relatively speaking it lacks some of the quality of ID’s efforts, it does represent one of the only, disc based examples (some download titles capture this magic also) of pure old-school first person shooter on the generation that’s any good.

Combining a well-trodden, yet also intriguing premise of an abandoned facility filled full of ghastly abortions created through a hideous scientific accident (see… like Doom), caused by tampering with the mega-MacGuffin Element 99.

single2Element 99 is the fuel source for the games USP of time manipulation mechanic. This uses the Time Manipulation Device (Or TMD as the game calls it), which is really just a mix of the Gravity Gun from Half Life combined with a weekend coach tour of the East Midlands looking at Tapestry’s, i.e. it can levitate / throw things but it also has the ability to capture and prematurely age someone. Although that in itself isn’t especially original and the aging mechanic is only partially successful as it can’t be used Carte blanche, it’s the use of the time within the storyline which is of most interest.

Call of Duty Black Ops 2 had a go at doing this multiple ending schtick and it was so contrived and silly it might as well have been left out

Singularity’s story dovetails two time-frames together in a fairly accomplished way, creating an elliptical narrative which feeds back on itself at a number of points. In a very basic way this means decisions that you make over the course of the 6-8 hour campaign have different consequences. Although the choices are simple and binary and it isn’t cumulative thing over the entire game like Bioshock, for a more lunk-headed blaster it works. Having played it through twice with a three year gap between and having tried both ways, in the vast mire of FPS currently jostling on the pre-owned shelves, it is actually one of the more interesting ones I have played. To put it into context, Call of Duty Black Ops 2 had a go at doing this multiple ending schtick and it was so contrived and silly it might as well have been left out.

In terms of gameplay Raven actually manage to mix an old-school circle strafe approach so beloved of the previous generation, with some weapon customisation and levelling-up of the current generation. Don’t feel like you can enjoy a shooter unless you are making some sort of statistical progress? Singularity has you covered, with simple leveling up and customisation akin to that of Dead Space 3.

The controls like many these days, cut and copy from Call of Duty and as a result anyone with a passing familiarity with a modern shooter will pick it up fairly easily. Plus the aforementioned TMD concept is rudimentary but adds a new layer of gameplay to what is already a good solid bit of gun-play. The result is a really playable title with a quality, if unoriginal FPS mechanic.

single1Add to the mix a soupçon of chunky weapons of the energy and bullet variety, from the sniper rifle with steerable bullets, the mine launcher with drive-able ammo, to the standard collection of assault rifles, mini-guns, shotguns and pistols and it’s a good sized arsenal which unlocks over the well-paced campaign. Once again, nothing hugely remarkable on show but they are balanced well and they feel good to fire. Compared to the guns in titles like Aliens: Colonial Marines, which feel weightless and unresponsive, its very favorable.

Graphically, the game which runs on the Unreal 3 engine, is unlikely to set your world on fire but it’s a decent enough, serviceable looking title sitting clearly within the lower middle of the pack. Of course as it is built on the ubiquitous Unreal 3 engine, it looks like a lot of other titles of that generation; browner than a former prime minister called Gordon with occasional green and grey wibbly-wobbly bits, but it suits the games aesthetic so this doesn’t grate too much. If Gears of War has been getting away with it for an entire franchise, surely it’s okay to let this off on the same account?

Add to that some slightly derivative but fun creature design and decent use of cold-war era soviet bunker design tropes with a handful of good quality set-pieces, some of which are dripping with an unsettling atmosphere and it’s actually a lot better than the sales reaction gave it credit for.

VERDICT: PLEASURE!
Singularity main flaw is that is by most accounts startlingly unoriginal, from its CoD-based combat mechanic to its often Unreal powered brown as a paper bag looks. That said, we are living in the age of the yearly franchise cycle and Singularity attempts to mix up the formula of ‘stoic troubled military man finds it within himself’ with a healthy dose of looped plot-line sci-fi intrigue.

The gameplay is shallow but enjoyable and the rudimentary choice mechanic and gun customisation adds some replay value. All in all, despite the fact Singularity is a dyed in the wool 7/10 effort, given its now about £3 and better than a lot of other (more famous) shooters, it’s definitely worth your time.

Feel free to share your thoughts below, did you play this? Is it Guilty or is it Pleasure?

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Ed F

I am a keen amateur gamer who has always found himself slightly behind the times. My interest in gaming piqued with jealous looks at my friends copy of Duck Hunt on the NES all the way back in the early 90’s. Since then I graduated to a Sega Mega Drive of my own, a late 90s obsession with PlayStation One and then an ill-advised GameCube phase in the early noughties. Since my relatively late introduction to the Xbox360 in early 2009, I have being playing catch up. Among my other interests are comics, movies and boring my wife to death with talk of ‘cinematic tropes’ and ‘narrative arcs’. I am currently gorging myself on the next gen whilst keeping one foot in the previous one.

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