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Old 01-08-2011, 12:34 AM   #1
RandomRob
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Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

Chinese Finger Trap

HIGH Raising “the Pearl”
LOW Running out of oxygen because I didn’t know to jam a door from the top
WTF Its 2010, is it too much to have the main Russian characters speak Russian?

There is a sci-fi story sub genre about how the world will end from the careless use of dangerous (and addictive) technology. The ‘Don’t push that button!’ story. Whether it’s Vonnegut’s Ice-9, the Army of the 12 Monkeys, or Crichton’s recycled dinosaurs, science fiction has always held a special place in it’s heart for neo-luddite cautionary horror stories about science gone wrong.

Singularity by Raven Software, is that kind of story.

Through some World at War-quality animatics, we are quickly introduced to Katorga-12, a frigid little island off the eastern coast of the Soviet Union, where in 1955, 2 communist scientists experimented with E99, a uniquely rare and unstable fissionable element, and caused a disaster that left the island uninhabited. They knew better. They shouldn’t have done it. And in the year 2010, you and your SEAL team members probably shouldn’t be going to investigate an enormous radiation spike spotted by satellite coming from Katorga-12. It can’t end well. You probably shouldn’t even be reading this review.

That’s what Singularity is all about. The seeds of doom. Toxic technology. The mistake of trying to put things ‘right’. In a strictly narrative way, it succeeds in many ways most FPS games don’t. It doesn’t recycle bosses or levels, except some level structures but only in the context of seeing the same place in a different time, so it’s wholly appropriate. The story works because the central paradox is logically constructed, and when it’s manipulative, it still remains fun storytelling.

And there’s the toys. The Barisov TMD (Time Manipulation Device) is the kind of gadget you dreamed of in grade school, and it works in the game as both a simple puzzle mechanic and savory eyecandy whenever you choose to temporally age or renew a weapon crate or tape recorder or a staircase. Or a person. And the larger setpieces involving the TMD are wonderful stormy chaos. Lightning and metal slapping back violently into familiar shapes. It doesn’t get old. I don’t want to give them away, but I will say one of them in particular took me back to the childhood feeling of dread and wonder the first time I heard the legend of the USS Montauk (aka “the Philadelphia Experiment”).

Is there anything that doesn’t work? Yes, the game takes a few awkward steps early on. After the introductory set-up, the first violent encounters of the game feel copy/paste from any horror FPS shooter you’ve played, and the found film projectors play sequences with children’s show muzak reminiscent of Bioshock’s plasmid advertisements. There are some cringe inducing rrrAH-shin accents as well. NPCs will deliver lines towards the spot they hope you are standing, whether you are or not.

It feels awkward at first, and a “been there, done that” feeling almost threatens to derail enjoying the otherwise thoughtfully created atmosphere. But once you encounter Chancellor Demichev, and then learn the story of the MIR-12, you start to see that you are actually going on a time travel adventure first, and killing bad guys second.

Your first objective is usually escape, and you don’t always have to kill everyone in an area. Sometimes, you just CAN’T. A particular encounter sequence with buglike enemies was woefully unfair, depending on which enhancements you had chosen at the time. Lesson learned: when in doubt, run. As the action gets more dire and your TMD gets upgraded (particularly with the multi-use ‘Deadlock’ upgrade that allows you to create static time spheres), you will have a lot more leeway to avoid combat if you choose, and there’s no penalty if you do.

Whether you run or fight, there’s still unavoidable FPS design concessions. There are body and weapon enhancements, weapon storage and upgrade crates, there’s ammo and TMD fuel items scattered about, the obligatory notes and tape recorded memoirs of whoever, crate jumps, mysterious scrawls warning you not to trust you-know-who, etc. But none of these hurt the game. I don’t think one really plays FPS games because they’re looking for innovation, one plays them for that immersive immediate ‘something’ that you just don’t get with other types of games. Being in the story. Half Life 2 had it in spades. Bioshock almost had it, but chose to be more of a tactical shooting game.

Singularity’s got it.

It doesn’t drag. It’s a short ride, but the length feels right. The graphics are sweet, the mood is gritty but with a sense of wonder. And the endings stay true to the Pandora’s Box message. All in all, Singularity does nearly everything right. It’s tightly put together and self-consistent. And it doesn’t waste anything.

I would classify it as a misunderstood FPS/Adventure gem of 2010.

Score: 8.5 out of 10


Disclosures: Game was completed twice, first in Standard difficulty, then in Easy. Approximately 12 hours was devoted to single-player modes.
Parents: Gore, fairly bloody gun wound animations, removal of limbs etc. Some swearing, thematic elements include suicide. Would recommend for 17+
Hearing Impaired: Game has subtitles. Certain enemy types spawn off camera and attack from behind with little visual warning. Key battles have important targets highlighted.

Last edited by RandomRob; 01-08-2011 at 12:37 AM.
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Old 01-08-2011, 02:30 AM   #2
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

Nice review!

It appears the game involves time travel, but that wasn't clear to me at first.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RandomRob View Post
It doesnít recycle bosses or levels, except some level structures but only in the context of seeing the same place in a different time, so itís wholly appropriate.
Since there is no prior mention of time travel, when you mention how the levels are reused, it's not clear what you mean. Are the locales being revisited in a flashback? Or do the SEALs actually go back (or forward) in time?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RandomRob View Post
...and then learn the story of the MIR-12, you start to see that you are actually going on a time travel adventure first, and killing bad guys second.
This sounds like a sequence. First we go on the time travel adventure, and after we're done with that, then we begin killing the bad guys.

When you're talking about quantities that are ten things or fewer, write out the number. Two communist scientists, not 2 communist scientists.
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Old 01-08-2011, 07:49 AM   #3
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

I found this to be very well written (with just a couple of jarring phrases) and I like your style a lot.

I know it is a second opinion - do second opinions on this site also have to elaborate on the plot and objectives a bit, or do they assume familiarity with the game? As someone who hasn't played the game, it didn't explain the background enough for me. (NOTE I did like your introduction and exposition, I just think there could be a little elaboration later on). Also, you mention things like the MIR-12 mission; again that is referring to something I don't know about. But if familiarity with the game is assumed then I guess that is ok.

The other big issue for me is that I get the impression that you don't actually like FPSes! e.g. "It succeeds in ways many FPSs don't", "unavoidable FPS design concessions". I know you are making the point that it's not all shooty stuff, and that is well done, but if you were an objective reviewer it would probably be better to avoid these phrases as you'd leave yourself open to criticism from FPS fans

A possible alternative (not that I'm recommending this) is that you could clarify at the start that it is more than your normal shooter, rather a shooter\adventure hybrid.

Apart from those niggles, it is pretty good. A few words like 'dire' ("as the action gets more dire") are a bit colloquial - you mean involved or heavy, while it can be read as 'bad' - are misplaced.

Also, I would like to see a little more exposition of the plot/what makes the game different just before the paragraph beginning, "And there's the toys". It seems a bit sudden. (also, there are the toys).

Dunno if this'll be useful at all. As I say, I like the review; however I am giving it a harsh 3 stars because of the above issues (first two especially).
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Old 01-08-2011, 08:02 AM   #4
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

I just googled the USS Montauk but no reference to the Philadelphia experiment, when I googled the Philadelphia Experiment I was referred to the USS Eldridge.
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Old 01-08-2011, 09:13 AM   #5
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

ahh thanks for the help guys. Reworking. But seriously I can't piss off FPS fans? j/k

Philadelphia Experiment, Montauk Project.. right. The alleged ship was the USS Eldridge, thanks Li-Ion.

I was trying in the review to mention certain mysterious things that set the mood, without explaining too much about them. Its a short game and I feel giving away more than I did would be spoiling it.

Last edited by RandomRob; 01-08-2011 at 09:16 AM.
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Old 01-08-2011, 11:18 AM   #6
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

alright, 2nd draft, made some corrections as suggested!

Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

Chinese Finger Trap

HIGH Raising “the Pearl”
LOW Running out of oxygen because I didn’t know to jam a door from the top
WTF Its 2010, is it too much to have the main Russian characters speak Russian?

There is a sci-fi story sub genre about how the world will end from the careless use of dangerous (and addictive) technology. The ‘Don’t push that button!’ story. Whether it’s Vonnegut’s Ice-9, the Army of the 12 Monkeys, or Crichton’s recycled dinosaurs, science fiction has always held a special place in it’s heart for cautionary tales about science gone wrong.

Singularity by Raven Software, is that kind of story. It is a fast-paced, time travel nightmare. Juxtaposing a Cold War scientific race against a modern backdrop of demilitarized ruin, and then, jarringly, an alternate 'world gone wrong', it creates an almost Lovecraftian mood of smoldering horror.

Through some World at War-quality animatics, we are introduced to Katorga-12, a frigid little island off the eastern coast of the Soviet Union. In 1955 (a tip of the pen to BttF?), two communist scientists experimented with E99, a uniquely rare and unstable fissionable element, and caused a temporal disaster that left the island uninhabited, and it's secrets hidden. In the year 2010, a SEAL team is sent to investigate an enormous radiation spike spotted by satellite coming from Katorga-12... and a Pandora's Box of problems is about to be re-opened.

That’s what Singularity is about. A chinese finger-trap of trying to put things ‘right’ with time travel. It's a terrific vehicle for this genre of story because the inevitable paradoxes allow for some prickly plot hooks, and Singularity delivers the irony.

In a narrative way, it succeeds in many ways most FPS games don’t. It doesn't cave into being a repetitive combat simulator in order to lengthen the game. The story comes first, and works well. The central paradox is logically constructed. if it’s manipulative, it still remains fun storytelling.

Your character, Captain Nathan Renko, early on is forced to make a mistake that anyone in his situation would make. Rescuing a dying man in a temporal flashback. It's only later when you see the consequences you realize that coming to Katorga-12 has ensnared you in a disastrous web of causality.

Good news: the game doesn’t recycle bosses or levels, except some level structures but only in the context of seeing the same place in a different time, so it’s wholly appropriate.

And there is the toy the game revolves around. The Barisov TMD (Time Manipulation Device) is the kind of gadget you dreamt of in grade school, and it works in the game as both a simple puzzle mechanic and savory eyecandy whenever you choose to temporally age or renew an object.

The games larger setpieces involving the TMD are wonderful stormy chaos. Lightning and metal slapping back violently into familiar shapes. It doesn’t get old. I don’t want to give them away, but I will say one of them in particular took me back to the childhood feeling of dread and wonder the first time I heard the legend of the USS Eldridge (aka “the Philadelphia Experiment” aka "the Montauk Project").

Bad news: the game takes a few awkward steps early on. After the introductory set-up, the first violent encounters of the game feel cut & pasted from any horror FPS shooter you’ve played, and the found film projectors play sequences with children’s show muzak reminiscent of Bioshock’s plasmid advertisements. There are some cringe inducing rrrAH-shin accents as well. NPCs will blindly deliver lines towards the spot you might be standing in, whether you are or not.

So from the get-go, a “been there, done that” feeling almost threatens to derail enjoying the otherwise thoughtfully created atmosphere. But once you realize the cause of the alternate reality is what you've done, and what untangling the timeline will involve... you start to see that you are actually going on a time travel adventure first, and playing a FPS second. The recycled elements become forgivable.

Your first objective is usually escape to the next area, and you don’t always have to kill everyone you see. Sometimes, you just CAN’T. A particular encounter sequence with buglike enemies was woefully unfair, depending on which enhancements you had chosen at the time. Lesson learned: when in doubt, run. As the encounters get more challenging and your TMD gets upgraded (particularly with the multi-use ‘Deadlock’ upgrade that allows you to create static time spheres), you will have a lot more leeway to avoid combat if you choose.

Whether you run or fight, there’s still unavoidable FPS design concessions, which I mention because there have been complaints that they make the game derivative. There are body and weapon enhancements, weapon storage and upgrade crates, there’s ammo and TMD fuel items scattered about, the obligatory notes and tape recorded memoirs of whoever, crate jumps, mysterious scrawls warning you not to trust you-know-who, a temporal 'ping' to find out which way to go, etc. But none of them hurt the game.

I don’t play FPS games because I'm looking for innovation, I play them for an immersive immediate ‘something’ that I just don’t get with other types of games. Being in the story. Half Life 2 had it in spades. Bioshock almost had it, but chose to be more of a tactical shooting game.

Singularity’s got it.

It doesn’t drag. It’s a short ride, but the length feels right. The graphics are sweet, the mood is gritty with a sense of wonder. The endings stay true to the Pandora’s Box message. All in all, Singularity does nearly everything right. It’s tightly put together and self-consistent. And it doesn’t waste anything.

I would classify it as a misunderstood FPS/Adventure gem of 2010.

Score: 8.5 out of 10


Disclosures: Game was completed twice, first in Standard difficulty, then in Easy. Approximately 12 hours was devoted to single-player modes.
Parents: Gore, fairly bloody gun wound animations, removal of limbs etc. Some swearing, thematic elements include suicide. Would recommend for 17+
Hearing Impaired: Game has subtitles. Certain enemy types spawn off camera and attack from behind with little visual warning. Key battles have important targets highlighted.

Last edited by RandomRob; 01-08-2011 at 11:44 AM.
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Old 01-08-2011, 02:03 PM   #7
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

Hey Rob, I like the way you start the review, and I think you have a good angle on it, but there are a few things that didn't work for me.

1) The thesis of your review is about the story and how it's part of the "sci-fi story sub genre about how the world will end from the careless use of dangerous (and addictive) technology," but starting with the seventh paragraph you go completely off topic and stay there. I think the review would flow better if you ditch all the parts about the gameplay and stick with the story.

2) Try not to use second person. Instead of using "you," "your," and "we," use "the player" or "I."

3) I would proof read it a few more times. You have a lot of sentence fragments, sentences starting with "and" and "but," etc...

Other than those things, I enjoyed the review.

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Old 01-09-2011, 01:11 PM   #8
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

I like this version. Your review's actually sold me on the game, I will pick it up in a few months when I clear my backlog. Nice job!

EDIT: don't seem to be able to re-rate the thread. Will try again later.

Last edited by Pedro; 01-09-2011 at 01:14 PM. Reason: Added text
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Old 01-09-2011, 06:47 PM   #9
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

Thanks Pedro! I think Coyls is right though, it needs a little cleaning up and I need to find a way to talk about the gameplay better.
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Old 01-11-2011, 12:38 AM   #10
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

Hey Rob, nice work.

In your "design concessions" paragraph can you elaborate a little more about why they don't make the game derivative? Or why being a derivative doesn't hurt the game?

Also, try to avoid second-person talk. It's better when it sounds like you're describing your own experience rather than assigning value to the reader.

Finally, and this is just a personal pet peeve, try to avoid using cliche closing statements like "all in all". Just bugs the hell out of me

And where the hell were the subtitles? The copy I played for my review didn't have them. Were they added in an update or something?
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Old 01-11-2011, 09:46 AM   #11
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

Thanks, Richard, I know you weren't a fan of this game.. I'll try to explain better.

No subtitles.. oh sh*t. Need to check that.
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Old 01-12-2011, 01:24 AM   #12
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Arrow Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

3rd draft!

Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

What is and what should never be

HIGH Raising “the Pearl”
LOW The first few fights after you pick up the pistol
WTF Its 2010, is it too much to have the main Russian characters speak Russian?

There’s a genre of sci-fi stories that deal with how the world ends from the careless use of technology. Stories like Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”, Philip K. Dick’s “Second Variety” or Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” remind us that there’s gleeful terror in cautionary tales about the misuse of science.

Singularity by Raven software, is such a story. It’s a fast-paced, time travel nightmare. Juxtaposing a 1950s Cold War scientific race against a modern 'world gone wrong', it creates an almost Lovecraftian mood of smoldering unease.

Through a World at War-quality animated cut-scene, we are introduced to Katorga-12, a frigid little island off the eastern coast of the Soviet Union. In 1955, two communist scientists experimented with E99, a uniquely rare and unstable fissionable element, and caused a temporal disaster that left the island uninhabited, and its secrets hidden. In 2010, a SEAL team is sent to investigate an enormous radiation spike spotted by satellite coming from Katorga-12...

And a Pandora's Box of problems is about to be re-opened.

Singularity is a Chinese finger-trap type story about the mistake of trying to put things right with time travel. There’s doom in the air from start to finish. And it’s a doom that’s been embraced before.

I thought the story succeeded because it stayed simple and brief, and didn’t compromise itself with game stretching design. There’s no backtracking through levels, no recycled enemies, or bosses. Everything in Singularity is driving forward to the conclusion, which can be reached in around 6-7 hours.

Emerging from a crashed military chopper damaged by a mysterious energy pulse, the protagonist, Captain Nathan Renko, makes his way across Katorga-12, trying to find survivors from his team. He discovers the ramparts of a dilapidated Soviet research center. Upon entering he is caught up in a temporal flashback of a terrible fire. The fire is in fact from the night in 1955 when a E99 bomb detonated, causing a temporal disturbance. In the midst of the flashback, Renko rescues a man from near death. The consequence of this unavoidable encounter ensnares Renko in a disastrous alternate present where the Soviet Union rules the world. Untangling the web of causality will involve changing the past, with the help of a dead scientist, Dr. Barisov, and his TMD (Time Manipulation Device).

The TMD is the kind of gadget I dreamt of in grade school, and it works in-game as both puzzle mechanic and instant eye-candy whenever you choose to temporally age or renew an object.

Larger set pieces involving the TMD are striking animated sequences of electric arc, metal and wooden elements slapping violently back into familiar shapes. I don’t want to give scene specifics away because the game is so short, but I will say one of them in took me back to the feeling of dread and wonder I felt the first time I read the story of the USS Eldridge (aka “the Philadelphia Experiment” aka "the Montauk Project"). The graphic department really nailed the retro Cold War science motif. Everything is vacuum tubes and Tesla coils, and the alternate present Soviet soldiers weaponry and uniforms sport a bubbly yet streamlined 1950s futurist look.

I must admit, however, that the game almost lost me early on from being seriously generic in it’s gameplay. The first shooting sequences with the underpowered handgun versus jumping zombie creatures felt cut & pasted from any other horror themed FPS. When I flipped on a film projector it played an animated PSA sequence so reminiscent of Bioshock’s plasmid ads it made me groan. Then meeting up with a buddy from my combat unit, fighting parallel through a few waves of predictable enemies, the “can you find a way to open the door to the next area, I’ll wait here!” sequence… etc.

All very rote. But, combat got interesting when I got hold of the sniper rifle, which had a small but refillable bullet-time gauge, and some truly gory impact animations. After taking out some simple targets, this was followed by a more hardcore ‘defend-the-high-ground’ assault sequence against multiple enemies that would flank and lob grenades. Then the first major cut scene of the game, where Renko meets the evil Chancellor Demichev, and gets rescued by Kathryn, the agent from MIR-12, and the story suddenly grew legs. And that won me over. Singularity MOVED. It didn’t waste my time with explanations of gameplay or time travel, it just ran with it.

That momentum was incorporated into the gameplay aesthetics. There were sequences where I was better off using the TMDs ‘Deadlock’ to stall swarming enemies and run for it. There were rescue segments where I needed to catch up with soldiers who’d abducted Kathryn, and the best bet was to get to the next doorway, not killing everyone. In boss battles I often found that playing gonzo usually worked better than trying to carefully chip away at their weak points from a distance. Not all enemies needed to be directly dispatched, either. There were some creative combat solutions the TMD allowed for; turning enemy soldiers into mutated Reverts, for example, or aging a Phase Tick so it would become a bomb and detonate other Ticks around it.

Nothing was overused. I never got that running errands feeling. I rode a train once. I got onboard ship once. I rescued Dr. Barisov once. I rescued Kathryn once. I faced off against Chancellor Barisov once. The few things that are noticeably repeated are the time travel segments, which only helped to make the island more alive by giving me an overlapping look at its design.

By the time I’d reached the end, I had really enjoyed the ride. The few different endings were edgy and ironic, and satisfied my curiosity about the main story threads. And I loved that none of them were ‘best endings’. It fit.

I found Singularity dark, brooding, tightly put together and self-consistent in its detail. It didn’t waste anything. Especially time.

Though short, I’d classify it as a misunderstood FPS/Adventure gem of 2010.

Score: 8.0 out of 10


Disclosures: Game was purchased from Amazon.com for PS3. Completed twice, in Standard difficulty, and Easy. Approximately 12 hours was devoted to single-player modes.
Parents: Gore, fairly bloody gun wound animations, removal of limbs etc. Some swearing, thematic elements include suicide. Would recommend for 17+
Hearing Impaired: No subtitles! (lame!) Screen flares/compass point when being attacked from behind. Boss battles have important targets highlighted.
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Old 01-12-2011, 10:20 PM   #13
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

You're revealing more about the game's story, and that's a good thing. A good story can be a big selling point about a game. Going back in time and changing something that results in the Soviet Union ruling the world when you get back? That's huge! You've got to mention things like that.
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Old 01-12-2011, 10:44 PM   #14
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

Yeah I think it's ok to mention set-up stuff. I don't like giving away too much about the center.. it IS a short game
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Old 01-18-2011, 07:29 PM   #15
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Re: Please Rate This Review: Singularity 2nd Opinion

Alot better than my drool, I need to dicset the reviews here more and see if I can match thier flow and paceing, I get caught on random shiny things and ramble...alot....OOOO SQUIRREL!!!!


Ahem.... anyway.... The weapons were kinda customization was weak as piss dark sector was much deeper and more fun. The AI was ok too all in all an okish game over all a 5-6, for me.


Endings and huge plot point or changes in story need to be kept I am always more interested in the game play and mechanics than story.
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