Singularity Hands-On

Time is both friend and foe in this sci-fi shooter from Raven and Activision. First hands-on details inside.

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SAN DIEGO--Time is both your enemy and your friend in Raven Software's upcoming Singularity--a sci-fi first-person shooter that combines gun-toting action with time-bending superpowers. We've seen the game a couple of times in the past, but it wasn't until tonight, at an Activision press event here in San Diego for Comic-Con 2009, that we got our hands on the game for ourselves. The demo on hand featured levels we've seen before, but playing the game, as opposed to simply watching it in action, gave us a better idea of what to expect when Singularity is released early next year.

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There's an in-depth story at the heart of Singularity, but for our purposes here, you only need to know a few key ideas: downed Air Force pilot; mysterious island; time-manipulation device; creepy enemies; many, many firings of the bullets. It's that time-manipulation device that is at the heart of the game--powered by the mysterious element E-99 and its curious time-altering properties. The TMD will be your lifeline; useful not just for fighting enemies, but also for solving puzzles.

Using the TMD is as simple as pointing your cursor at an object and pressing the right bumper (on the Xbox 360) to rapidly age an object--or the left bumper to reverse it. While you can use it to fight enemies, reverse aging them until they transform into monstrous "reverts" that will turn on their allies, the TMD is also a valuable puzzle-solving tool.

For example, during one section of the demo level we played, we needed to move past a damaged staircase. By aging the staircase, we were able to further disintegrate it, letting us move forward to the next room. The only problem was that after we went through, we had nowhere to go. When we figured out that we needed to repair the same staircase by pressing the right bumper, we were able to use those stairs to move to the next section of the level. It's fair to say that this kind of lateral thinking will behoove you when using the TMD throughout the rest of Singularity's levels.

Other puzzles in the game involved using another gadget in our arsenal: the chrono-light. Periodically in a level, you'll run into objects surrounded by a mistlike aura of the E-99 element. Using your chrono-light, you can illuminate objects in this mysterious mist and view that object as it appeared years ago. For example, when trying to cross a dilapidated section of railings with a gap too large to leap across, the solution was to use the chrono-light to reveal a beam above your head. By pressing the R3 button, we could "pull" that object out of the past and send it crashing down to form a makeshift bridge across the formerly impassable gap.

As cool as the TMD and chrono-light are, Singularity frequently puts aside the egg-headed gadgets in favor of some good old-fashioned firefights. You'll have lots of weapons available to you--machine guns, shotguns, even an E-99 pistol that will let you curve bullets around objects. And, of course, your TMD makes a pretty effective weapon as well. You can use it to deteriorate an enemy's cover, for example, leaving the bad guy out in the open for a clean shot. That said, the enemies aren't without their tricks. In addition to Russian special forces soldiers, we went up against some creepy mutantlike creatures that could phase in and out of time. When phased, the enemies were temporarily impervious to harm, making them formidable indeed.

While there's no lack of imagination in Singularity's enemy lineup, we would have liked to see the game's pace pick up a bit in the shooting sections. For instance, your character's sprint speed and duration were too slow and too short, and the feel of turning the character left and right could have used some extra pep. That said, the weapons themselves felt right on, especially when coupled with the time-shifting gadgets that give Singularity its edge.

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The developers at Raven will have a bit more time to work out the kinks of Singularity's gameplay, as the game was recently pushed back for release in early 2010. We'll be keeping a close eye on how that extra development time benefits the game in the coming months, so stay tuned to GameSpot for more.

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