Although it was one of the most interesting and tense periods in recent history, the Cold War hasn’t gotten too much attention from game developers, especially when compared to his older brother, World War 2. Which is odd, because thanks to the secrecy of said time period and the ideas that bordered bat-shit-crazy levels just to get an edge over your opponent, it could offer tremendous creative freedom, while still anchoring everything in an era when anything seemed possible.
If we are to believe the events from Singularity, in the early ‘50s Soviet Union researchers discovered Element 99 on the island Katorga-12, an incredible energy source, but also highly unstable. Encouraged by the promising results of the first experiments, the soviets continued to study Element 99 until everything came to a complete halt with a catastrophic event that lead to the abandonment of the island the its erasure from all official documents. In 2010 however, a radiation surge from the same area stirs the attention of the United States, which sends a black-ops team to investigate, a team that includes your alter-ego, captain Nathaniel Renko.
But as your chopper approaches Katorga-12, an electromagnetic pulse sends it plummeting to the ground and you find yourself on an island that was supposed to be uninhabited, but which will come back to life because of a simple boy-scout gesture on your part. Your physical integrity won’t be endangered right away though, so you’ll have the chance to explore a bit and learn about what was once the most prestigious research lab in the Soviet Union and after you accidently change history, you’ll be able to see subtle differences from what you previously discovered. From this point on, your mission will be to restore the timeline at any cost, because the future that you’ve created isn’t too pretty.
Old turns to new
On the other hand, in the “new” 2010 you’ll be able to use the so-called Time Manipulation Device (TMD), a gizmo that will allow you to interact in interesting ways with the enemies, environment or the objects that came into contact with Element 99. You’ll be able to age or revert items, slow down time in a localized field, trigger a powerful energy pulse or even restore considerably larger structures thanks to TMD energy amplification stations.
Because the human enemies know to use cover, one of the useful features of the TMD will be to turn said cover into dust. This won’t be possible all the time, but when it works, it makes your life that much easier, and rapidly aging soldiers is a good option to have if you’re reloading and a soldier pops in front of you out of nowhere. Moreover, the soldiers that employ a shield can be a nuisance if you can’t shoot them in the foot or lob a grenade just right, so you’re better off just ripping the shields from their hands using the TMD and then using them as projectiles. Gas tanks, explosive barrels or nitrogen tanks can also get the job done, but you might want to get rid of them fast during a firefight, because they are prone to exploding sooner rather than later.
Slowing down time in a localized field (Deadlock) is perhaps the most interesting “power” you’ll get to have and probably the most fun to use as well, especially when you trap more than one enemy in the time bubble. You won’t be able to abuse it though, because the energy for the TMD is limited (up until very close to the ending), and if you don’t have special vials to replenish the reserves, you’ll find yourself powerless rather quickly. If you want to conserve ammunition when dealing with a group of enemies, your best bet is to revert one of them into a monster and let him do all the work, so you can then come in and simply mop up the survivors. And for those who have issues navigating the levels, the TMD also features a “ping” option to guide you along, Pink Panther style.
Actually, the TMD is the only non-conventional “weapon” in our arsenal, which is comprised mostly of the usual suspects – pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, sniper rifle, chaingun, grenade launcher – plus some interesting intruders, like the Seeker, which allows you to “pilot” the E99 bullet it fires or the Spikeshot. On the other hand, while being instantly recognizable, the weapons have certain features specific to the alternate universe in which they were produced, like the slow-motion for the sniper rifle or the ability to control a grenade like a huge glowing bowling ball of death.
Certain stats of the weapons (I recommend damage as first choice) can be upgraded using special components that you find in kits very originally titled Weapon Tech, while the game currency – E99 Tech – can be spent on ammunition, improvements for the TMD or the character himself (more health or energy for the TMD, increased efficiency for the medical kits, improved protection against bullets and so on).
The TMD and character improvements are first found under the guise of blueprints, which once discovered are automatically added to special kiosks placed in certain levels, called Augmentors. What I liked here was that although Singularity is basically a corridor-shooter, the producers also created out-of-the-way areas, which you don’t have to discover in order to reach the ending, but otherwise reward you with ammunition, health packs, E99 Tech or even Weapon Tech if you’re curious enough to find them.
However, obsessive packrats like myself won’t be too thrilled with the automated closing of doors when you pass a certain point, which cumulated with the checkpoint-based save system will sometimes lead to touching screams in the vein of “NO, I didn’t mean that, FORGIVE MEEEEE!” if you didn’t get to explore everything.