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New South Wales, Australia
Game Developer, Composer & Gamer.

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My upcoming reviews are subject to change & availability, so i won't be listing them anymore

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review #3: Singularity


Platform: PC    
Type of controller: Mouse+KB    
Install time: Approx 14mins  
Dependancies (Included in installation): PhysX, DirectX 9c 

Notes about installation: Installer was laggy, heard windows error sound early during installation, no progress shown until after waiting 7mins on a black screen.   

Game website: http://www.singularity-game.com    
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singularity_(video_game) ----------------------------------------------------------------

First and foremost, why do games these days insist on installing pre-requisites when i already have them? (PhysX, DirectX), surely the developers could easily code something to check and see if i have the latest version, therefore skipping that part of the installation....

My thoughts about the game;

This is another recent-ish game that i've steered clear of trailers & previews not because i was looking forward to it, simply because i had a hunch that it wasn't going to be very good, and surprise surprise, that hunch was spot on.

This game is trying so hard to be scary that some parts are actually laughable, "BOO" scares may have worked 10 or 15 years ago, but these days i can't help but laugh when a game tries to be scary by doing this.
It also tries to make the player care about the 2 main characters aswell, by dropping (less than) subtle hints to the player about these 2 persons life before the game story starts...

Basically, this game is like TimeShift + Fallout 3 + Half Life 2 + S.T.A.L.K.E.R + F.E.A.R...
I know what you're thinking, but i loved those games (or at least some), why is that a bad thing?
Well it wouldn't be so bad if the whole plot and mechanics were different from those games, but the game manages to rip off ideas from F.E.A.R within about 5mins of playtime.
When F.E.A.R first came out, the whole switching from one dimension to another, usually with Alma being in the room and with a heavily colour corrected overlay, was infact scary... it was a fresh idea on setting atmosphere to be frightening and fearful.
Now that i and most other gamers have at least played F.E.A.R once, you won't be really frightened or scared by this tactic anymore, because in this game, that mechanic doesn't work as well as F.E.A.R did and therefore isn't scary and comes across as a direct rip off.

So basically the plot is the US military spots a electro magnetic disturbance over some part of Russia (yeah i know, yet another sci fi/horror game set in Russia),
You and your team are sent in (actually just 2 of you) to investigate... i'm probably missing central plot points at the moment but to be honest i was kind of bored with the opening cutscene because it's filled with scientific inaccuracy. That would be ok if the game was more Sci-Fi than anything else, which i would normally let slide and just enjoy the fiction, but they try so hard to be a horror game that the Sci-Fi elements come across as them trying to make it sound real, which ruins the whole "Fi" part of "Sci-Fi".

So your helicopter crashes near the disturbance, you wake up with the whole surrounding area covered in flames, which i must add was quite a cheap and tacky effect, i've seen better fire FX in games that this game is ripping off.. at least have the decency to create some different or better than what you are ripping off, anyway this is where i started to really get an idea of how non-original this game was going to be, and i haven't even got a weapon yet!.

One thing that really really annoyed me about this game, and so many other games before this, is clipping.
Yes those invisible walls that are in painfully obvious places, that restrict the players ability to actually explore anywhere, are littered throughout this game.
Near the start, while i was walking around trying to find what to do, i came across at least 3 major clips that are so obvious they might aswell not be invisible. The developers should at least try and cover up every clip with some sort of obstacle... instead of going for "Looks > Gameplay".

The clipping wouldn't be so bad if this game wasn't so linear... I don't mind linear games, take HL2 for example, which has the same level of linearity but is executed much better, the clipping is much cleaner and less noticeable and over all a much better story and characters aswell.

The characters is this game were quite strange aswell, after 2 hours of playing i still wasn't sure if i was rooting for the good guys or bad guys or what... the game struggles to establish any real relationship with the 2 other lead characters, one being your team-mate who you meet up with shortly after the crash, and the other being the scientist who invented all this technology that you slowly start to learn about and using during the course of the game. I can't really mention the main antagonist because he is only seen once within the first 90mins of the game or so, and therefore i'm only assuming he is the antagonist because *spoiler alert* he executes your team-mate in front of you, and is a typical cliché Russian general, who replies to the line your team-mate says "What about the Geneva convention?" and the general shoots him execution style in the forehead and says afterwards "I threw that book away years ago" or something to that effect. Which pretty much established his character as the antagonist and actually one of the only characters i was actually interested in, which is unusual because he had no setup and no mention prior to that point, or maybe once in one of the hundreds of pointless "notes" you find on the ground.

That's another important part i should mention i was pissed off with, these so called item pickups...
Seriously game, if you're going to copy something else like Fallout 3, at least have the balls to be different, there were times when i would of liked to explore around for some of these items, but the game is so linear and some parts are filled with AI enemies that you don't have the time or health to wonder around and collect these much needed pickups (there is a cash type system in the game too and that's the pickups i'm talking about, the notes are 99% useless and some were just downright stupid).

Developer standpoint;

This game's difficulty is not something i have much to say about, if you've played any Unreal Engine 3 game before, you should have a general idea of what difficult means in that engine.
There are really bad hitboxes for enemies, the weapons you use have a drastically different effect depending on what weapon it is, what distance you are from them and if the game feels like giving you a headshot kill or not, when you've aimed for their head with 5 shots, and 4 have hit their legs or something silly like that.

Overall in the 2 hours or so that i played this game, enemies were defeatable, but some were challenging which is a good thing when it's set on "easy", some of the puzzles were quite easy and the direction of the game well that's a whole other paragraphed rant!

Animations and visual effects
The character animation in this game was quite good, however some other things, like the animated fire effects was quite dodgy and overall looked very dated amongst the rest. There isn't much more to say about the animations, they are good but not great.

Level design
The level design is probably the strongest point of this game, and considering i know some of the level designers from my days back at a certain unnamed mapping forum, i would say that this game has had the most attention put into the level design.
Unfortunately, this game is just another inclusion to the list of games that have great level design but the rest of the game is poorly designed or in this game's case, just not up to the same level of detail as the level design is.

Sound design
This is a hard one to judge, if i was commenting on just the clarity and volume of the game's sound, this would get a 0/10 because i had to turn my 5.1 Home Theatre speakers to double what they normally are, and take it from me, that's very loud. It was still a bit low even after cranking the system right up, which annoyed the hell out of me because whenever i would get a message on Steam the sound would be very very loud.
The actual sound design though i suppose is pretty average, there isn't really anything bad about it, just that i had a bad first impression by it and struggle to praise it at all.

Story and character development
As mentioned a few paragraphs ago, the character development is barely non existent... Like i said previously, the game is trying too hard to make you care about the characters but it just doesn't work for me... Maybe if i wasn't going to review the game, and i was drunk i might not have cared and just played it for fun, but i can tell this is one of those games that you're supposed to take seriously, and it struggled to really pull me into the story of the game at all.

Closing statement
Overall, the game tries too hard to be something it's not, it tries too hard to immerse the player in a beautifully crafted environment but has nothing to keep the player interested once in that environment, as a level designer myself, i was kept interested by the level design alone, but once the novelty of that wore off as the copy-pasta effect started to become obvious, but that is not enough for any other non-designer player to be interested enough to play this game.
It had alot of potential from what i can see, especially with the almost Modern Warfare quality of the level design, but is held back by obvious clipping, inconsistent visual effects & generally a forced atmosphere with no real character development or relationship with the player.
I applaud Raven Software for their attempt to stop into the AAA market with this title, it was an ambitious move, and one that i hope they learn from, that is of course if the game is a flop, and they lose money from, or else just like EA, they think the success of their first mainstream title means they have made something worth basing all future games off, which would be very bad for their company but especially bad for all us gamers out there, which we will suffer from the same cliché gameplay and design from them for years to come.

Story: 3/10  
AI: 3/10
Sound: 2/10
Voice: 4/10    
Controls: 6/10    
Models: 6/10  
Level Design: 9/10  
Textures: 5/10  
Technical Complexity: 6/10    
Replayability: 1/10    

Total: 45/100


  1. Damn nice review man, stuff is very well described and from reading this I agree on the points you gave it!