Singularity: Die You Commie Ghost Mutants Die

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Here’s my pet peeve about video games set in Russia. So you know that letter they always use as an R, to make things look all Russian? This one — Я?

That is not an R. It is pronounced “ya.” So if you know any Russian, and you’re playing a game like Singulaяity, set on the secret island of Katoяga, it starts to get on your nerves.

Same goes for И, which is not a backwards N. It’s a Russian letter ‘i’.

Whatever, spelling is the least of your problems on Katorga. See, back in the day the Soviets found a secret power source there called Element 99. But their efforts to use it went horribly awry, and mutated the hell out of everything on Katorga. In 2010 you — an American Black Ops type — crash-land there. Mutants start comin’ atcha, but you also start ping-ponging around in time, back and forth between 2010 and 1955, when some terrible event happened on Katorga.

Apparently a dude — a Soviet dude — used the Element 99 to invent time travel. You have to explore the ruins of Katorga, fight off the mutants, and pre-mutated Soviets in 1955, and try to head off that catastrophe.

It’s all quite BioShocky, down to the fact that the Katorgans were in the habit of recording their daily lives on audiotape and then leaving said tapes around for you to find and play. In fact you recognize the reanimated body parts of a lot of games being recycled in Singularity: the breach-and-clear mechanic of Modern Warfare 2, the staggery, dismemberable mutants of Dead Space, the gravity gun from Half-Life 2. It’s not a game bursting with innovation.

The showpiece weapon of the game, and its most innovative mechanic, is the TMD, or Time Manipulation Device, which is powered by element 99, and which you can use to age or de-age objects and beings. Aging an object can have useful practical consequences, and also produces a cool animation as the object rusts into nothing or reassembles itself from rusted scraps. Aging a being causes that being to stop being.

Singularity is not a triple-A shooter. You never quite feel like you’re fully in the space of the game — objects and bodies skate around a bit too smoothly, and you don’t ever have a powerful sense that you’re connecting with the world around you physically, even when you use a melee attack. And there’s a few too many cheap-o bits around the edges. Like when your AI buddy shows up, you have to wait for him to open doors for you, because only he’s allowed to do it. That kind of thing.

But it might be a double-A title. If you like shooters, and you need something to get you through till Halo: Reach, you could do a lot worse.

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