Pity the poor Soviet Union.
One nuclear disaster and it becomes the bogeyman in novels, movies and games for all things gone awry regarding radiation and mutations.
Such is the case with Singularity, a new FSP from Activision and Raven Software.
The game mixes elements most players will recognize from a number of other games into a satisfying stew of nuclear horror, time travel, action and puzzle solving.
For me the blend works, keeping me playing to the conclusion of this unsettling adventure.
The action is set on Katgora-12, an island off the eastern coast of the Soviet Union. On the island, the Soviets discovered Element 99, which was seen as a key to developing new weapons and technology to defeat the West during the height of the Cold War.
Unfortunately, as things inevitably do, Soviet experimentation goes terribly wrong, ending in a cataclysm and the seeming end of Katgora-12 and its inhabitants (at least as human lifeforms).
Fast forward to the present day: Players take the role of an American special operative sent to investigate a radiation surge at the island.
As the game progresses, Capt. Nathaniel Renko learns of E99 and the devastation it unleashed. The story is told through numerous notes, audio recordings and films Renko encounters during his exploration.
When not learning of the island's past, Renko finds himself battling enemy soldiers and nasty mutant creatures. Throw in a fair amount of puzzles and you've got a heaping dose of entertainment.
Players run across an assortment of weapons, including a pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, autocannon, grenade launcher, sniper rifle, rocket launcher and something called the spikeshot.
Only two weapons can be carried at any one time. However, weapons lockers can be found at various points at which players can change their guns and add upgrades. Upgrades are purchased with weapon tech that can be found during the game.
The critical device in Singularity proves to be the TMD (Time Manipulation Device).
With it, comes these powers: age or revert objects and creatures, a shock wave, gravity manipulator, the deadlock (freeze action for a short period), the Chrono Ping (shows players where to go next) and the Chrono Pull ( yank an object out of temporal shift into the current time).
And then there is time travel. At times, players will have to shift between 1955 and 2010.
The TMD is powered by E99. E99 devices can be found throughout the adventure. Collected E99 can be spent at Augmentors to add new powers to the TMD or upgrade existing powers.
The game's designers do a great job incorporating the TMD into the game.
It can be used in combat (knocking Zeks back into the present time frame so they can be shot) or freezing a host of attackers so they can be dealt with while they are immobilized.
The TMD also plays a major role in puzzle solving. For example, crushed crates can be reverted to their original state. Then they can be moved with the TMD's antigravity powers to a position where they can be climbed onto to gain access to an area that could not be reached otherwise.
The one thing I quickly realized during Singularity was that when a new weapon or TMD power arrived, I could figure on having to use it in the near future. Hardcore gamers might find this objectionable, but I found it made the game more accessible.
Among the mutants running amok on Katgora-12 are: Zeks (phase in and out of normal time), Phase Ticks (attack in swarms), Radion (shoots rockets) and Reverts (toxic vomit). The Reverts are blind and if you are really careful, you can sneak by them.
There are also a number of boss creatures.
On the soldier side, there are Blitzers, Lurkers, Bruisers and Healers.
Multiplayer game modes are: Creatures vs. Soldiers in deathmatch action and Extermination Mode in which the soldier teams tries to activate beacons and the creature team works to destroy them.
The graphics, music and sound effects create a chilling atmosphere and a compelling look at a 1955 secret Soviet installation.
Raven has taken a number of elements and put them to great use in a captivating game.
Singularity is available for the Windows PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. PC requirements are 2.8 GHz dual-core CPU, 2 GB of RAM and video card. For more information, visit www.singularity-game.com.