Saturday, April 9, 2011

IMPRESSIONS - Singularity.

In my head, Singularity was always a 7/10 game - very much worth playing, perhaps not so much paying the day-one price for - and as such, I've always had my eye out for it in the $40-or-less range (the same price I hope to one day pay for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow). I finally managed to pick it up for $25 the other day, and while I thought I would return to Majin last night, I instead tossed in Singularity to see if it was worth a fuss or not.

Well... yeah, it is. And yeah, I likely would've suffered buyer's remorse if I'd day-one'd it.

As it opens, I note the strong production values. Nolan North is doing some voice work - that's always a plus - art direction seems generally solid...
Activision presents
...shit. Now I'm doubly glad I didn't pay the release-day price - and it doesn't take long for Singularity to reveal its true nature.

It works very hard (often rather successfully) to build atmosphere with a long sequence of total silence at the beginning, as you slowly feel your way into island of Katorga-12.

There's a note pinned to that wall which you can read. Something bad went down here. There's a microphone you can activate, which plays a greeting message to the island's new arrivals, there's public service announcement-style film reels you can find and play, illustrating the political climate which energized the work being done here...

Yeah, it's very much like BioShock - or rather, it's very much in pursuit of BioShock's standard. A strange location full of sometimes-working, often-broken old(ish) technology where something has gone very wrong, with a great deal of attention paid to fleshing out the details of the world and its narrative.

Then you find a tape recorder, and it's like "well, now they're not even trying to separate themselves."

Presentation, therefor, feels very much ripped off. It's still above-par, but not as immersive as Rapture, the voice work is fine, and why does every Russian speak English? If you really want to sell me on this world of red science run amok, don't have a educational video for a class full of Russian children address its audience in Russian-accented English! That's just stupid.

So long, suspension of disbelief - nice knowin' ya.

The gameplay, likewise, is fine-just-fine but - unlike BioShock's satisfyingly strategic, option-heavy offerings - it's rather analog. There's mans. Shoot mans. Headshots kill mans faster.

At the same time, all this stuff blatantly ripped off from BioShock still manages to work. Raven Software stole it for a good reason - because it does do a good job of drawing the audience in, it does built a great sense of atmosphere, it does allow the player to feel invested and interested in this world.

So yeah, I'll probably keep playing Singularity too. At the very least, I do dig me some time-travellin' sci-fi.


  1. Whatevs. How much stuff did Bioshock ripoff from older games. Bioshock didn't make up having messages from the past and atmosphere in a video game. Bioshock 2 was the biggest ripoff of Bioshock ever and it was still good.

    It's art. That's how art works. A series of ripoffs with the occasional novel idea thrown in. The 10% stronger armour to work towards.

    The question is if it's fun to get into and play.

  2. I have no problem with something being unoriginal, as long as it does it really well (see: God of War) - but in this case, the game draws immediate comparisons to a much better title. And yeah, everything in BioShock came from System Shock - that's fine - but it was done so damn well in BioShock that it's the game we talk about, when we talk about atmosphere, world-building, immersion and audio diaries.

  3. Also, yes, Singularity is generally fun to play.