Monday, July 5, 2010


Bought it yesterday, completed it today. Want the short version? Don't buy it at full price. It's competent, even cool, but in no way worth $50. Want the long version? Here we go:
First thing's first, for all you eye-candy lovers: this game looks pretty good. Usually. It's pretty much on par with any good title made after Bioshock. The effects are pretty, the lighting's good, and the atmosphere is pretty creepy. There is a huge problem though. Texture load-in is pathetic. I don't know if it's just hugely delayed, or if there was a failure altogether, but in pretty much every area there was at least one texture that didn't load in 15-20 seconds of me looking directly at it. I gave up waiting shortly thereafter.

Sound use is pretty good. Music's never intrusive during regular play, enemies shout (though a little repetitively by the end), it's not terrible. Except that I had my system volume at 100%, and my speakers at 100%, and I *still* had trouble making out actual dialogue. And when the plot and backstory are advanced mostly through audio logs, not being able to clearly make out dialogue is a bit of a problem. The only audio options available were Background Music and Sound Effects, so playing with those didn't help. Headphones might have, so if you play in a noisy environment, keep that in mind.

Controls are... remappable for the most part. Standard WASD + mouse look set up, but for some reason, use health kit is mapped to h, way out in the boonies. And then there's the upgrade stations, which use q, e, enter, and the arrow keys, and do not seem to be remappable. I must assume that's a legacy of the console version, and it's a minor irritation, but it's still an irritation. Also, the inability to quit the game easily. In order to quit to desktop, you need to hit escape, pick "Quit to main menu," hit enter, hit escape, select "quit game," then hit enter, representing the fact that there's the "title menu" and the "main menu," and the title menu only has "Play Game" and "Quit Game" on it, and the main menu only has "go to title menu." It's sloppy design, and I wish developers would stop it.

It feels weird to say this about a time-travel plot, but it's fairly standard. I won't say much about it, I'll just summarize thusly: You screw up the past, and you need to fix it. Kooky* time adventures follow.

*Kookiness not guaranteed

Then we get to the meat-and-potatoes of a first-person-shooter. The gameplay. The main gimmick of this game is the Time Manipulation Device (TMD), and its various powers and ways of manipulating your surroundings. Basic powers are "make things old/new," "gravity gun," and "force push." The "force push," what the game calls "Impulse," is your melee attack, though it has use beyond simply smacking enemies that get too close. You get a variety of different weapons, though only one of each "type." A pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, sniper rifle, grenade launcher, an explosive spike shooter (?!), and a minigun are all available for you to switch between from the weapons lockers scattered around the maps, since you can only carry two weapons at a time. You can also upgrade the weapons at the weapons lockers. Each gun has the same upgrades and amount of upgrades. You can increase by two levels the clip size, reload speed, and damage. Extreme weapon customizability this ain't. You'll most likely find a pair of weapons you like best and stick with those, except for once or twice you'll be required to use a specific weapon, which you'll always be provided. In addition to the weapons available from the lockers, there are a couple special weapons that you can play with on occasion. One of those is my favourite weapon in the game, and one of the better weapons of its kind I've ever used in a shooter. In addition to the weapon upgrades, there's several upgrades for you. Equipment (more like abilities), which you can equip a limited number of, upgrades for your TMD, and then upgrades to your gauges. The TMD's aging mechanic has different effects on different enemies, which are rather fun, though some effects are poorly explained. The gravity gun function allows you to manipulate objects pretty much like in Half-Life 2, and you can even catch rockets and grenades and toss them back. Singularity also includes a breadcrumb mechanic very much similar to Dead Space, however instead of it fading instantly, it's a pulse that's sent out, and highlights footsteps for a short while. I found it most useful for telling me where not to go. At least, not to go yet. For you see, this game operates on triggers. Blatant triggers. And it railroads you. Once you pass a point, a door behind you closes, or you're forced down a broken staircase you can't go back up. No backtracking for you. As for the triggers, I'd like to state I've no problem with them, usually. But these are blatant. Are you familiar with the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, where you could see what was background, and what would be moving because it was obviously a different colour than the rest of the bricks/bookcases/etc.? A lot of the event triggers are like that. Before you go in to an area, you can see what/where things will happen. It improves as time goes on, but it's really laughable at the start. And a lot of the event triggers tend to take control away from you for a short time. Or worse, partial control. Anyone who plays this, I'll tell you something the game won't. There are several events where time slows down, and all you can do is shoot. You can't use the TMD, or do anything fancy, like move. You can get a game over though. So keep that in mind. In addition to the railroading/triggers is the saving system. It uses the checkpoint system. No manual saving, no going back to old saves. Sorry.

Lastly, is the length. This game has multiple endings, but all three are reachable from the last checkpoint. Actually, if you click on "Continue" after you've beaten the game once, you'll be taken back about three minutes before the decision. So it doesn't add any replayability. My first time through, on normal difficulty, it took me a little under eight hours. Any replayability is pretty much going to come from trying out different weapons and upgrades, and playing around with the TMD abilities, and locating the blueprints for the upgrades.

Since this game is so short, and has technical issues like the texture loading and the oft-inaudible vocals, I can't recommend an immediate purchase, but the weapons and mechanics are enjoyable enough that I really think you should give it a shot, so either rent the console version, or wait for it to hit the bargain bins. I also really hope there's a sequel that builds on this, and takes the opportunity to correct the flaws found in here. A well-done sequel to this would be an amazing game worthy of unqualified recommendation. Too bad it's not here yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment