In today's politically correct world, it's sometimes tough for the entertainment industry to come up with serviceable villains without offending somebody. I mean, even vampires and werewolves have a devoted fan base nowadays. But it seems everybody still hates Nazi thugs, old-school Soviet oppressors and … zombies. So the new first-person shooter Singularity uses two out of three, plunking them down on a homey little radioactive island.
The game's storyline tells of a time, not long after World War II, when the U.S. had the atom bomb and the Soviets were looking at the big boom-maker with power-hungry longing. In the game's alternate reality, the Soviet search for uranium turns up something quite unexpected—a special supercharged mineral called Element 99.
This potent substance—found only on the small Soviet island of Katorga-12—seems to offer up a lot more than just explosive oomph. E99 can enrich barren fields, make sick people strong, and it might even be able to break through the barrier of time itself. (I told you it was special.) The Soviet government promptly populates the island with a community of workers and scientists to explore the magic mineral's full potential.
Zip ahead to 2010 and Katorga-12 seems to be nothing more than a radioactive wasteland as American black-ops soldiers fly in to investigate some strange goings-on. As Capt. Renko, players set off to explore the crumbling isle and start piecing together clues to a terrible time-ripping catastrophe that took place in the 1950s. But it's soon evident that the island itself is being tugged back and forth between the past and the present. And a murderous Russian general wants the time-manipulating power for his world-domination schemes.
The Irradiated Past
With all of that as its backstory, Singularity plays out like a Resident Evil zombie shooter mixed with the dark science aspects of a Wolfenstein game and the retro dystopia of Fallout. Renko discovers a device called a TMD (for Time Manipulation Device, of course) that he straps to his left arm. This fancy appliance can open a hole in the space-time continuum and allow the soldiering hero access to 1955. And every time he jumps into the past and kills some evil guy, the future he comes back to changes.
The TMD can turn back the clock on Renko's physical world, too, and restore, for instance, a decayed, rusty stairway for a quick getaway. With upgrades, the device also doubles as a weapon that can levitate body-crushing objects, turn an enemy into a zombie or instantly age foes into little piles of dust.
The Irritating Present
Not that the game really needs more weapons. There are enough blood-spilling shotguns, sniper rifles, assault rifles and rocket launchers scattered around to mow down several armies of soldiers and other crawling grotesqueries. And to be honest, for all of the time-bending twists, it's the mowing down and blowing up that really keeps the game's, uh, blood pumping.
Flesh is carved, fluids spurt, limbs and other body parts are scattered, and the gore dribbles freely. Overwhelming enemy forces shoot from all directions and toss explosives. Raging monstrosities leap, screaming, out of the shadows with razor-sharp claws and teeth. Execution-style head shots are delivered. Mangled corpses hang overhead from meat hooks. And the bodies of children—past subjects of government experimentation—show up in decomposing piles.
If all that wasn't enough of an assault on gamers, their ears are also battered with the f-word, the s-word, "d‑‑n" and "h‑‑‑."
When all is said and done, and after all the time-jumping and death-dealing, Singularity proffers several possible conclusions, depending on the choices you make while playing. But, truthfully, they're all pretty dismal. The only upside? That it's only zombies and Soviet tormenters who end up being offended.
Well, them and every single discerning gamer on the planet, too.