Another title I picked up during the Steam Sale: Singularity.  It’s really good, one of the most satisfying of the survival horror games I seem to be into lately. 

Eto krasnaya igra.
A satellite has disappeared near Kamchatka due to some sort of energy surge, and you’re an American agent sent to investigate.  Right near the source, there’s some sort of energy surge– who could have seen that coming?– and your helicopter goes down.  You come to and start to investigate the strange goings-on at Katorga-12.
 
The game trods on one of my pet peeves… thinking that и is a kind of N and я
is a kind of R.  Vot gluposty!  People, this doesn’t make your text look Russian, it makes it look ignorant.  Pls fix kthxbye.
 
Beyond that, though, the game is gorgeous and highly atmospheric, as you make your way through a Soviet research lab, which gives you not only the standard apocalyptic ruins but gives an excuse to revisit Soviet monumental art and propaganda as well as enormous inscrutable mechanical things that could have come out of steampunk. 
 
You soon learn that the Soviets have been messing with “Element 99”, which occurs on Katorga-12 and has remarkable properties entirely unrelated to those of the unstable radioactive element einsteinium.  These powers have a common theme: they mess somehow with time.  One of the first toys you’ll get, for instance, is a sniper rifle which lets you slow down time for a second or so, a great aid to those of us without high twitch skills.
 
Naturally, something went wrong; everyone is dead.  Only there are some time warps where you can go back to 1955 when the island was occupied.  You do so early on and, oops, make a bit of a mistake.  I won’t spoil it, but undoing it is the major engine of the plot.

Another motivation: working with the hot chick

 
You want an action game to ramp up, and Singularity delivers: it gets progressively weirder as you go.  There’s neat time powers, weird puzzles to use them on, mutated horrors, time travel paradoxes, really big mutated horrors, and an increasing paranoia about whether you’re doing the right thing.
 
At the end you get one of four possible endings, none of which completely clean things up.  This might be to set up a sequel, or it might be just to fuck with your head as the best time travel stories do. 
 
Though the general gameplay is familiar from a number of games (“go on a bunch of errands for people who keep talking in your ear and never help out much”), it’s very well done.  I was very rarely confused about where to go or what to do, the world can be interacted with at just the right level, and there’s just about the right level of danger. 
 
The only level I didn’t like was one where you’re using oxygen tanks that run out fairly quickly.  That sort of thing works when your objective is basically “go fast from point A to point B”; it’s just annoying when you have to solve a few puzzles along the way. 
 
You can upgrade your weapons with upgrade kits, and yourself with E99 devices.  I don’t know that any of the upgrades are really essential, but I’ll pass on my friend Aaron’s advice to not waste any upgrades on the cheap little revolver.

Never trust the beautiful mutated plants grown by your McGuffium

My favorite of the toys you get to play with is the Seeker rifle, which allows you to direct the bullet as it travels.  This is not only fun, it’s useful, as you can steer the bullet around obstacles.
 
I know this is kind of heretical, but I think Singularity is a much more satisfying game than Bioshock.  Bioshock has better main villains, but it feels too long, the Splicers never really feel like people, and the special powers are too grudgingly doled out.  If you give us a toy, let us use the damn thing… does Gordon Freeman have to mope around looking for Gravity Batteries to power up his gravity gun?
 
I don’t think I have any serious complaints, but some might find that the game is too linear; there are rarely multiple ways to solve a problem.  But there’s enough variation that I never felt like it was getting monotonous.
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