I’ve played through a few hours of Raven’s everything-old-is-new again First Person Thing, Singularity. I am now prepared to tell you exactly what you need to know about it.
Q: Is it pretty?
A: Yes, it is quite pretty, with the kind of predictable Unreal Engine prettiness that we — or me at least — are starting to get a little weary of. There’s glowy bits and impressive vistas and water that wiggles relatively convincingly, and people almost kinda look like people if you squint at them right. It’s not so much Unreal as the all-too-real duct tape of this generation of shooters, the default choice because ol’ Carmack got interested in rockets on iPhones or something and dropped the ball. Oh well.
Q: Does it sound cool?
A: Well, not so, to be honest. Guns in particular — and this being a shooter, guns going off is something you hear an awful lot — aren’t meaty, beaty big or bouncy as one might like. Ambient scary noises are suitably scaryish, though, and the voice acting isn’t bad at all.
Q: Do things go whoosh bang kaboom in satisfyingly dramatic ways?
A: Shooting stuff, despite the slightly weak sauce sound design, is fun and exciting for the whole family. There are an amusing array of The Standard Projectile Weapons, all upgradable and supplemented with a wide variety of amusing also-upgradable off-hand time distortion power glove woo effects, implemented intelligently in terms of controls whose default keymappings are, for WASD people, pretty damned natural. The last game that I played for about 15 minutes total that used a time-dilation gimmick — the name of which I no longer recall, much to the point — did not. Yay! Raven learned from others’ mistakes!
Q: Is there a captivating story written by adults for adults or at least relatively clever children?
A: Well, yes and no. There’s a reasonably interesting back story with alternate timelines and evil Russian dudes with predictable scars on their faces and stuff, but the exposition is pretty damned clumsy. Film projectors and reel-to-reel tape players scattered around, with notes to pick up and read and wonder why you bothered, and long in-game cutsceney stuff that gets a little tedious a little fast. It’s old school, and not in what you’d call a good way. It’s not bad, it’s just a little unoriginal in terms of the way it’s presented.
Q: If I like rubbing mango chutney on my nipples, will I like this game?
A: For various values of mango chutney, sure. The feel of the thing is astonishingly similar to Raven’s last effort, 2009’s current-gen Wolfenstein game. Which had a similar, old-school-game in a sexy bumpmapped bustier feel to it. I liked that game, and I quite like this one. If you liked Bioshock, this is going to rub similar condiments on similar areas for you. Throw in a healthy dollop of Half Life 2 (the more uninspired bits), and it’s fun times in lunch lady land!
Q: What are the inevitable Annoying Bits?
A: Textures don’t stream in properly at higher resolutions, a known issue with the Unreal Engine 3 that has plagued other games. Field of view is set at a gut-churningly low angle, typical for the increasingly lazy console ports these days, and just as typically, there’s no way in the interface to fix it, if, like me, it makes you want to barf after playing for more than a few minutes.
Now normally, this wouldn’t be a huge issue, because games that are built on Unreal technology have the customary text ini files that are easily tweakable. In the case of this one, though, I imagine the following scenario. A dimwitted executive, terrified of PC piracy and only grudgingly having signed off on a PC release at all, somehow finds out completely by accident that the ini files, like other game assets, are not encrypted. ‘Not encrypted! Oh my goodness no!’ he ululates as he dashes down the hall to the engineering pens with his expensive stupid hair on fire, not really understanding what he’s wailing about, but bound and determined that Nothing Will Be Fiddled With By Those PC People. So he orders the engineers to lock off those useful text files inside totally not useful binary files, and PC users’ level of control gets dumbed down another notch into the console swamp. So it goes.
Q: Is it fun?
A: Hell, yeah. The game walks a nice line between complexity and simplicity, doesn’t compromise its roots in good grunty shootery, introduces all manner of craziness with time dilation effects, and, as far as I’ve played through at least, keeps things interesting. It’s polished and feels like few compromises were made, even if it’s a bit uninspired and shows its influences a bit too clearly on its sleeve. If you like old-school, mostly brainless shootery, like I do, then it’ll be right up your alley. Not a classic; not crappy.
And so ends this installament of my important internet opinions.
The Bottom Line on Singularity
- $29.99 on Steam