Time travel and manipulation aren't exactly uncommon themes for shooting games. Titles such as Max Payne or even Star Wars: Jedi Outcast made use of slowing time quite effectively, and other titles like Timeshift allowed players to step forward or backward in time to alter things. By and large, time travel has been centered around the player, either by speeding him up or slowing down everyone else. Singularity takes an interesting view on time travel: Instead of altering time, you alter the place of objects in time. It may not sound like much, but it has the potential to be a very interesting concept if pulled off correctly. The E3 demo gave us a brief glimpse of how this unusual concept is going to work by showing us one of Singularity's early levels.
Singularity is set in the present day. An American Air Force pilot named Nate Renko was sent to investigate the mysterious island of Katorga-12. After crash-landing there, he discovers that Katorga-12 was home to a Cold War-era Russian research facility. This particular facility was dedicated to researching E-99, a mysterious element with the property to alter an item's place in time at any point during that object's lifetime. Unfortunately, the experiment went terribly wrong and caused a singularity that engulfed the island, leaving it a time-forsaken hellhole. Even worse for Nate, he's discovered that the research on E-99 is being restarted by a faction of the Russian military, and they're certainly not happy about an American pilot running around the island. Nate is the first to discover the Time Manipulation Device (TMD), one of the successful prototypes of E-99 technology left over from the Cold War days, so now it's up to him to figure out how to escape the island without ending up as another victim of the tragic experiments.
Katorga-12 is a weird island, due largely in part to its strange time-displaced state. The laboratory is a horrible collapsing mess that's slowly being overtaken by the side effects of E-99. Strange plants that have been mutated by E-99 are overtaking most of the buildings, rendering them dangerous and collapsing deathtraps. Pockets of "null time" are also scattered throughout the building, areas where time has refused to move and is stuck in limbo outside of real time, forever reliving the last few moments of the Katorga-12 incident. As if that weren't enough, the island is home to a tremendous number of dangers. The volatile nature of E-99 caused a rip in space-time that caused some of the men stationed there to mutate into zombie-like creatures who still roam the island. Their E-99-infused nature means that they constantly shift in and out of real time, making them a dangerous threat. Just to top off the cavalcade of danger, you still have to deal with the modern-day Russian soldiers who are looking to restart the E-99 experiments. While the odds seem stacked against him, Nate has a few tricks up his sleeve.
The big gimmick in Singularity is the TMD, which is affixed firmly to your character's wrist and runs on the same strange E-99 substance that caused the whole accident in the first place. TMD didn't appear to be something that the main character could use to manipulate himself at all; instead, the TMD allows him to alter objects to a certain point in time. For example, let's say that you find a crate lying smashed open in the room. It's been many years since the incident, and most of the supplies on the island have been ransacked or are simply missing. At one point, those supplies were indeed in that particular crate, so if you revert the crate, you can eventually bring it back to a point in time when the supplies were in it, allowing you to take the goods. Alternately, you may find that a stairway blocks your path to where you have to go, but a look at the stairway reveals that it was a later addition to the building. Revert the stairway back to a point before it was built, and you can walk right on through, and then you can return it back to normal and walk up the steps. This tactic can also be used on enemies with rather lethal results, although it's not quite as effective at close range as a good old-fashioned bullet. The TMD also allows you to pick up objects with a sort of telekinesis, so you can throw or move large objects. There's a wide variety of things you can do with the TMD, and while our demo was limited, it gave us a pretty clear view of what to expect.
The TMD doesn't begin the game at full power, and you can expect to find some further modifications for it. In the demo, we got to see two modifications: a temporary one and a permanent one. The permanent one was Chronolight, which allowed the player to see objects that, for whatever reason, had been trapped in the "null zone" of non-time created by the event. These objects existed outside of reality, but by using the Chronolight, you could pull a "copy" of this object into reality that functions just as the object would. For example, a fuse in the null zone could be pulled into the real world to repair a broken object. Likewise, an explosive barrel could be yanked out during combat and tossed at enemies using the TMD's telekinesis. The second ability was a temporary ability gained by finding a special TMD-enhancing platform. When using this platform, the TMD's power was boosted a hundredfold and it gained the ability to revert a collapsing building back to the point where it was brand-new, allowing the players to enter it. However, there was a side effect to this. Such a massive alteration to space-time could only be temporary, and even as the player ran through the building, it began to collapse and return to its old form.
While the TMD can be a makeshift weapon, it isn't very useful in all circumstances. This is where your regular guns come in handy. Between the Russian soldiers and the time-displaced pseudo-zombies wandering the island, you're going to need them quite a bit, too. Most of the guns we saw in the E3 demo were average FPS mainstays, although there were a few interesting sci-fi weapons as well. One example was the E-99 Revolver. A seemingly average pistol, the E-99's bullets were modified with that oh-so-dangerous substance in a way that allows the user to bend the bullet and guide its flight. When fired, the game went into a slow-motion bullet time effect, allowing the player to guide the bullet to wherever he wanted it to go, no matter the distance. Since the island is filled with dangerous leftovers from E-99 experiments, it is unlikely to be the only such weapon hidden there as well.
Singularity has some particularly interesting concepts for a first-person shooter. Making the concept of time travel revolve around something besides slowing or reversing time is an extremely interesting idea. Depending on the execution, it could have some very unique gameplay or interesting and challenging puzzles. What we saw of the E3 demo looked quite fascinating indeed, with the player being capable of using the TMD to dissolve enemy cover, throw exploding barrels, or take new paths around enemy fire. If Singularity can maintain a strong enough level design to keep this concept working from beginning to end, it could be quite an enjoyable addition to the current generation's ever-growing collection of first-person shooters.
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