Back to the Future
Inventive time manipulation powers; creative weapons; intense levels; fun story.
Hot Tub Time Machine
Simple, primarily crate-based puzzles; slow start; limited multiplayer options.
The world is full of mysteries. What killed the dinosaurs? What is stored in Area 51? Why—oh dear goodness, why—does anyone think Dane Cook is funny? And now, there’s a new head-scratcher for that list: Why didn’t Activision give Singularity, easily its best new IP in years, a promotional push to match? After all, it’s a fantastic game. It’s the Mega Man to modern shooters’ robot masters, absorbing the best bits of games like Half-Life, BioShock, and F.E.A.R., and mixing in just enough of its own unique ideas to keep things fresh.
So, what makes Singularity tick? Well, clocks, actually, when you get right down to it. See, Singularity’s all about time travel, and while that makes for an entertaining—though not exactly revolutionary—plot about an alternate timeline in which Russia takes over the world, for once it’s the game itself that benefits most from humanity’s ill-advised canonball into the time stream.
No, no, no! It's left foot, right foot, left foot, and then lose your hands in a gory gunfight! Let's take it from the top.
Using a glove called the TMD, you’re able to manipulate time and poor saps in a number of gruesome ways. Too many enemies? Put them in time-out with a slow-mo bubble and then deal with them at your leisure. Don’t feel like getting your hands dirty? Press rewind on a nearby soldier and de-age him into a hideous “revert,” which will proceed to vomit corrosive acid on everything that falls within its eyeless gaze. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
There are, however, a couple places where the promise of magical time mittens isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For one, Singularity’s a bit of a slow starter, and after its first hour, you’ll probably look down at your TMD-less arm and feel a bit ticked off. Also, the game’s puzzles are—for the most part—a missed opportunity, and usually involve aging and de-aging crates. The potential’s there for some truly ingenious brain-teasing, but instead, we found ourselves taken out of the experience when all-powerful wooden doors were immune to our time powers simply because the developers didn’t want us to step off the beaten path.
If you hadn’t guessed it already, Singularity’s extremely linear. In many cases, though, this is just as much to the game’s advantage as it is its detriment. After the first hour wheezes by and the game finds its footing, it’s brilliantly paced. Just as madcap, beautifully orchestrated action sections crescendo, suspenseful, heart-pounding horror sections begin. Basically, no matter what you’re doing, there’s never a dull moment. By the same token, however, the developers keep you on a sometimes perplexingly tight leash, even going so far as to take away some of the game’s coolest weapons right after you pick them up.
Singularity’s multiplayer, meanwhile, is a nice diversion but lacks longevity. For one, it has only two modes—deathmatch and territories—that are kept interesting by the inclusion of multiple classes for both soldiers and creatures. There’s a tremendous amount of variety there at first—what with abilities like teleportation and wall-crawling in the mix—but the lack of modes really hurts it in the long run.
Ultimately, then, some might view Singularity as a spirited swing followed by a sobering miss. But they’d be wrong. Taken on its own merits, Singularity’s a downright fun shooter that’ll take the edge off the summer gaming doldrums. Does it live up to its full potential? Not quite. But it’s still one hell of an awesome ride.