Do not let Activision bury Singularity. It's fantastic and you need to play it

The chances are you’ve already forgotten that Raven Software's Singularity exists. To honest, I’ve only remained aware of it because a notorious press demo last year, which portrayed it as a BioShock rip-off so shameless that myself and a colleague nearly passed out with disbelief.

Since then, every screenshot has seemed to confirm my incredulous reaction, and Activision has done a grand slice of bugger all to promote the game to us. No preview events. No preview code sent to the office. Barely a peep about it at all. It’s not even on the front page of Activision’s website. And it’s out today in Europe and on Tuesday in the US. Naturally, I assumed it was a clunker.

But then earlier this week I got to play it, and found out that it’s fantastic, inventive, refreshing, brutal, and frankly, the most fun I’ve had with an FPS in a long time. You need to know about it. So I'm telling you about it.

Why you don’t know about it

Above: Ignore this screenshot. Please

I don’t blame you if you’re not aware of the game. Like I said, it’s had nothing in the way of promotion, and images like the one above make it look like a me-too BioShock clone too cynical for even God himself to imagine. With no direct experience of the game, we were left with that (deeply false) impression right up until this week. But it’s an impression that only relates to the tiniest bit of Singularity’s surface gloss. There’s immensely more going on in this game, and it’s all very, very good.

Why it’s brilliant

There’s a massive irony with Singularity that I have to get out of the way right now. The fact is that while it doesn’t play like BioShock at all, it absolutely is a game made up of borrowed elements. But the ideas it chooses to take, and the skill and imagination with which they’re combined, make it not a shameless retread, but a gleefully fresh cocktail of the FPS genre’s disparate best bits, blended to a brand new, incredibly tasty flavour.

A small dash of BioShock’s visuals and faded ‘50s kitsch. A big splash of Half-Life 2’s fast-flowing, creative combat and savvy environmental puzzling. Squeeze in a wedge of F.E.A.R.’s time-bending spectacle and crush in some breathlessly paced variety and set-pieces, and you have not only an incredibly hackneyed games journalism cliché, but a game that simultaneously pays tribute to and adds to the best moments in first-person shooting to date.

In this age of increasingly dull pseudo-realistic military shooters and overly-orchestrated, plodding, shooting-gallery-style combat, Raven’s game is an exhilarating kick up the arse to the days before Call of Duty became everyone’s standard shooter model. It has a monstrously infectious ‘more is more’ philosophy to gameplay mechanics.  It’s the kind of game that lets you kill 20 different enemies 20 different ways in under a minute, via creative combinations of its cleverly complimenting weapons and gadgets.

You can slow down time for individual enemies, leaving everything else (including yourself) running at full speed. You can throw time dilation bubbles into the combat area, turning bad guys into frozen sitting ducks. You can pump them full of bullets, then deactivate the bubble and watch as every shot catches up at the same time. You can use that same bubble as a shield, to slow down incoming fire.

You can rapidly age enemies to death. You can devolve them into zombies and let them do the work for you. You can shockwave them into the air. You can shockwave them into the air, freeze them in time, then devolve them into zombies, and unfreeze them just as one of their friends gets close. Oh, and did I mention that you also have a gravity gun? And a sniper rifle with bullets you can steer manually? And a railgun that works like Gears of War’s Torque Bow? And that every skirmish area is a wide, multi-levelled playground of tactical angles of attack, designed to bring out every ounce of creative violence in your body?

Above: Yes, this should remind you of H-L2. No, that's not a problem

If you’re feverishly thinking ‘Half-Life 2’ here, you’re right. Singularity is the first non-Valve FPS in years that has come close to evoking that particular brand of clever, inventive, fast-flowing brutality known as ‘Going Gordon Freeman on someone’s ass’. And it has a remarkably good, time-zone-hopping storyline as well, which manages to be high-concept and engaging, while remaining pacey and fun. Even if it does shamelessly borrow a couple of H-L2’s character archetypes along the way.

But the shamelessness of Singularity’s influences really doesn’t matter, however obvious they are to a genre-savvy FPS  player. In fact they’re part of the fun. It’s one big mega-mix love-in that brings together the previously separated elements of so many games you love and makes them work cohesively together for the first time. So well in fact, that it almost makes them feel completely new. Don’t let mystifying lack of fanfare put you off. It’s an absolute stormer and you need to give it your time. 

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  • Scipi - July 3, 2013 9:47 p.m.

    We're still up and kicking on the Xbox. The multiplayer was a very well done component of the game as well, despite few maps/gametypes. We still hope for a sequel, many fans do.
  • cart00n - July 8, 2011 1:18 p.m.

    Instant classic I've never been able to let go of...
  • seinVerstand - July 1, 2010 5:37 a.m.

    I didn't forget about this game! In fact I picked up my pre-order a few hours ago and have been playing it since :)
  • Bateman666666 - June 30, 2010 11:18 a.m.

  • Bateman666666 - June 29, 2010 1:08 p.m.

    got it today. GUYS BUY IT!!!! looks pretty and lots of fun...
  • Visual217 - June 29, 2010 12:28 a.m.

    I heard of it right after I got Tranformers:War for Cybertron, and I'm all like "FFFFFFFUUUUUUUU-" because I spent half my mony on that and now I really want this game, and I saw a multiplayer gameplay vid on youtube from some guy near Europe (cause it already came out over there)and I really want it now, the best thing I could possibly think about it not being promoted is that less likely of a chance it will be sold out when I get to gamestop or wherever the first day >:)
  • lemmy21 - June 28, 2010 8:29 p.m.

    Great article and I have now ordered the game Cheers,
  • quincytheodore - June 28, 2010 12:28 p.m.

    Why not made this a review? I heard this game before, but it somehow lost due lack or marketing. I just found one review of it. I think it's need more exposure.
  • JayLin22 - June 28, 2010 7:57 a.m.

    I've been keen on this for a while, and saw it on the shelf at my local games shop on Saturday - but the lack of reviews left me cautious. Will GamesRadar be doing a review on this? If not, what score would you give it Mr. Houghton?
  • TheVoid - June 28, 2010 4:51 a.m.

    It has to be extremely frustrating to Raven that Activision is dumping this on an unsuspecting public with zero fanfare. And it's Raven, for crying out loud, not some lame-o development team that pushes out crap on a regular basis that isn't worth mentioning but still somehow turns a profit. Raven have worked long and hard to make a reputible name for themselves, in no small part due to their deft handling of (and adherence to) licensed properties, whereas this is truly the product of their own imagination. Is Activision so brazen that they do not think any of this worthy of note? What a bunch of dirtbags. But likely word will spread, much like the initially unassuming Half Life (the first - not the overhyped sequel) and Activision will make their money thanks to the word of mouth of passionate gamers (like GR's dear old David here), and probably bully Raven into cranking out a sequel within a mega-aggressive timeline. Although I must ask - will GR be posting a proper review come Tuesday? For me this article is review enough, but I would hope GR would give this seemingly overlooked diamond the full treatment considering many GR visitors likely go straight to the reviews rather than scanning the features (sad as that may be).
  • The_Tingler - June 28, 2010 3:08 a.m.

    Sold... if Activision release the damn thing on PC. It IS coming on PC, but it's disappeared from GAME's page and Steam shows a perplexing "June 2010 release" page.
  • Smeggs - June 28, 2010 12:50 a.m.

    It's times like these that I'm glad I always keep a spae $10 bucks lying around, rental store here I come...On Tuesday or Wednesday...
  • mmeaden - June 27, 2010 8:45 p.m.

    I was looking at the box all day at work. (I work at BlockBuster) I may get it. Depending on my financial situation come this friday. It best be worth it Games Radar. You let me down now, and I shall become more peeved than you could possibly imagine.
  • Samael - June 27, 2010 4:56 a.m.

    @Limbo "I haven't played either of those games" Remedy that. ASAP. I hadn't forgotten about Singularity, but I had written it off as a 6 or 7 out of 10. Not anymore.
  • Triscuitable - June 26, 2010 4:35 p.m.

    I've been excited about this game before I bought a 360, before I owned ANY of the consoles you could play it on. (Craptastic PC HO!) To hear how good this game is brings joy to my heart. So now the big question. Is the multiplayer tacked on?
  • Im2awesome - June 26, 2010 4:35 p.m.

    I've been excited for this ever since there was a preview for it in GI LAST YEAR. I didnt know it released yet! Rental time, then if it's as good as you say, purchase!
  • mentalityljs - June 26, 2010 3:56 p.m.

    Trailer looks pretty cool. Not sure about the multiplayer tho. ReCaptcha: Caressed during.....
  • shaulypore - June 26, 2010 1:59 p.m.

    Bought it based on your recommendation. A rip-off of so many other games, but I'm enjoying it anyway
  • philipshaw - June 26, 2010 11:24 a.m.

    The lack of promotion shows you that Activision wants orignial games to die even if they are great.
  • CandiedJester - June 26, 2010 7:22 a.m.

    Your right I never did hear about it properly. I may have heard the name once or twice but I never did look into it. But now that I have heard about it I'm sold! I love all those games it takes from and I don't really care if ideas are reused as long as it's done right. and I LOVE killing things creatively in games! So I'm probably not gonna be able to resist!