Monday, September 6, 2010

Now where is the backwards R button

There is one distinct problem with playing as many games as I do, and it is surprisingly not vitamin D deficiency. I unconsciously pick apart every title into the bits and pieces that were borrowed from other games, then list them back to myself as a sort of personal nerdy checklist. Sometimes, with games likes Darksiders, it is so easy that the list is very short: hey, goth Zelda, all right! Singularity is a bit more subtle, but the influences are definitely there. Please not that I am actually not being negative about this. There are one so many ideas, so many ways to save the princess or slay the evil alien, that I am not surprised at all that every new game is just bits and pieces of old games. The movie industry has been doing it for decades; it is a sign of maturity (and stagnation) for the genre. Back on topic, Singularity is an interesting mix of Half Life 2, thanks to the Alex Vance look alike and fancy shmancy scripted events, and BioShock, with some interesting but ultimately superfluous upgrading of weapons and abilities. Add to the (most likely) coincidently sharing of alternate Russian history it shares with Metro 2099, and it feels a lot like a giant communist Frankenstein, but that does mean that it is not enjoyable. Things die when you shoot them, the time abilities are fun, if a bit limited, and the game really does look very good, though it seems like most shooters look good these days, I suppose we should that the Unreal 3 engine for that.

Great attention was spent of the story here, which is unusual for a shooter but nor for Raven Software (remember Soldier of Fortune? think about that and NOT Quake IV), so much so that I have found myself spending quite a bit of time watching videos and reading notes scattered about trying to get a handle of the divergent timelines. The Russian propaganda videos featuring Uncle Sam as a vampire toothed demon leering over the globe, its foul capitalistic talons always waiting for the workers will to fail, are hilarious and just campy enough to be believable. Little bits of atmosphere like this make a huge difference, though they should never interrupt the flow of the game. Doom 3 (and System Shock 2, to go back even earlier and better) got this right by playing back audio clips while you wandered around dark hallways. Singularity misses this by just enough to be annoying, tying these bits of audio to tape players in the environment, forcing you to stand still to hear them. Standing still in a shooter is just not a good idea, so I have been missing about half of each tape. I am sure there is good information there, I just don't want to hang around in one location long enough to get killed in order to find out what it is. 

Singularity is on a strict timeline, with Amnesia arriving on Wednesday. The Russians aren't the only ones who could make good use of a time machine.

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