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Singularity 360 Review

15/09/2010 Thinking Considered Gamer Review
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Singularity 360

Singularity

Format:
360

Genre:
Shooting

Style:
Firstperson

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Singularity 360 couldn't match its mature and disturbing subject matter with coherent game play. Time travel, storytelling and shooting never quite get in step as I was buffeted from one to the other.

Singularity had all the markings of a game that would be ideal to look at from a Considered approach. But after a promising start, it left me feeling distinctly cold and as if I'd played an imitation of superior FPS games.

I hadn't really paid any attention to Singularity before its release. It had somehow passed me by. That is until a number of friends started telling me how I'd love it, how it was much like BioShock and it was just my sort of thing.

So I borrowed it off a friend with high hopes. Its beginning was just like BioShock. Scarily similar it in fact, right down to the starting out in the sea, having been trapped on a mysterious island by your helicopter crashing. It was all a little too familiar. I hoped that would be the end of the borderline plagiarism for fear of it ruining the chances of an immersive story. Unfortunately it wasn't to be.

Singularity offers numerous audio diaries and notes that can be picked up in order to offer more details of what occurred on Kataorga-12. It's all reminiscent of BioShock or Alan Wake's manuscript pages.

There are no subtitles available for the audio diaries. Although I have no hearing impairment, I prefer being able to read dialogue and diary pieces. While some people may argue that this ruins the immersion, I find it benefits it as otherwise I have to stand still in the game just to wait for the audio diary to finish playing in a crackly, distorted fashion.

From what I could gather of the storyline, Singularity could have genuinely interesting if more effort had been put into the writing. Information is drip fed as you progress. And some of these snippets are curiously compelling.

Rather than being told exactly what's going on, many of the notes and letters simply make suggestions. It was down to me to piece together exactly what was going on which felt much more intriguing than simply being told what was happening. Unfortunately, once I was told exactly what was going on by a scientist, it lost its magic. The mystery was gone and Singularity became just like any FPS.

Every now and then though, the room would look untouched as if the people had simply stepped out for a moment, it was clever and chilling.

Early on, I found myself wandering around an abandoned school and family home. The school classrooms were littered with overturned chairs and desks. Every now and then though, the room would look untouched as if the people had simply stepped out for a moment, it was clever and chilling.

It was distinctly sinister and finally made me feel unsettled. The family home showed signs of struggle, as if people were rushing to escape. I reached one particularly unnerving room with an overturned cot and a decaying corpse. To compound things, a selection of notes and audio diaries hinted at the horrors that had happened to these poor people. Someone had been experimenting on the children by adding supplements to their food and milk. This went on to turn the residents into vicious mutants which you inevitably have to fight against.

It's something that could have been deeply disturbing. Fighting against children who had been mutated by some dark plan. But because there's no sign of any humanity in the mutants it felt morally fine to kill them. If there had still been a glimmer of humanity, I'm not sure I could have gone through with it - it would have felt more like I was killing people that still had a chance of being restored to normal. As it stood, it was obviously just a game, and I felt like I was putting them out of their misery.

It was distinctly sinister and finally made me feel unsettled.

The island also keeps switching time periods - between the present and 1955. Although I enjoyed the originality here, the complexity rather undid the charm that more direct story telling offers in games like Bioshock.

Once I passed the familiar sights of schools and homes, it felt like I was playing any old school first person shooter rather than a modern game. I'd was struggling to keep my connection to the action as game play swung from story telling, to sharp shooting, to solving odd time based puzzles.

Without being grounded in the experience, the time devices (which in themselves worked well) were unable to generate any genuine emotional sense of moral dilemma. While the game was all too happy to tell me that I could side with the 'good' guy and fix everything, or I could rule the world alongside the 'bad' guy. It all felt too juvenile, too predictable. Even the greyer third option didn't really pique my interest.

Singularity offers some good ideas and demonstrates a glimmer of an emotive storyline. It all too quickly resorts to borrowing the majority of its good ideas from other, superior titles. Ultimately, its storytelling just isn't strong enough to make me feel anything for the characters.

Singularity offers some good ideas and demonstrates a glimmer of an emotive storyline.

With so many games I'd like to play, I felt a bit cheated by Singularity. I'd devoted the 12 hours or so to it in the hope that it would improve. But it felt as if every time it offered something to keep me interested, it would then go on to disappoint. I persevered in the hope that things would settle down but it never quite got there. A waste of an excellent idea.

Written by Jen Rawles

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Jen Rawles writes the Considered Gamer column.

"For as long as I can remember I've been fascinated by games that can provoke an emotional reaction. I enjoy a game that can tell me a strong, emotive story even if sometimes the game mechanics behind it are weak."


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