Meanwhile, the walls are covered in aggressive flora that’s peculiar to Element 99. There are explosive blooms that interconnect to form tripwires, which you can explode safely from a distance by flinging environmental stuff through the fibres Half-Life 2 style.
Larger, wall-mounted plants blossom and spit out angry Phase Ticks – a scuttling, savage ankle-biting insectoid. They also act as a reproductive mechanism for the mutant element, bursting podfuls of the stuff onto people and turning them into fleshy, Resident Evil-esque monstrosities. In a tidy touch, using your TMD on these Phase Ticks will revert them to an explosive, egg-like state that can be used as a grenade. There’s a lot of stuff that’s familiar – corpses, exploding bugs and portals will be recognised by anyone who played Prey – but there’s a certain strand of twisted logic at work here that makes a little more sense.
Similarities to other games aside, it’s all such a refreshing take on the time-manipulation shooter that our skepticism has been put, briefly, on hold. At this point, even the slight repetition and obviousness of the puzzles can be ignored, in view of the wider world of plot, innovation, and confusing – but coherent – interplay of the time zones. The amount of new ideas we were introduced to in one level was impressive, and if that carries on throughout the entire game, then it’ll be an eye-widening achievement. We’ll even, for now, forget about the fact they didn’t show usthat monster, possibly because they haven’t decided how massive he’s going to be, yet. That’ll be the reason.
The link between the days of the old pre-Cuban Missile Crisis Cold War, and the uncomfortable stories coming out of Eastern Europe at the moment adds an extra layer of resonance to the game, and the Russian-ness is relentlessly rammed home with the intellectually and politically provocative propaganda of the era. Although we didn’t see any copies of Roses for Stalin (an excellent picture in which a group of adoring children present the revolutionary mass murderer with a bunch of red and white roses), we got the next best thing – a massive, disconnected Stalin head rolling around in the hold of the capsizing tanker.
Singularity looks like it could be great fun, and a little bit clever into the bargain. If anything, it’s a victim of its own complexity – it’s difficult to describe it in a couple of easy sentences, and people get less easily excited by concepts they have to think about these days. But don’t let that put you off - if there’s one new game worth persevering with, it’s this one. The funny thing is, from our playthrough, we’d say that it’s not particularly hard, and once you see Singularity in action, we reckon people will start seriously looking forward to the end of the year. We would love to press fast-forward on a TMD and play the finished game.
Feb 2, 2009