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Sintagma "At the Gamer" ne imade smisla i ne funkcionira. I lurve it.
The worst thing a writer can do is be over the top in structuring his sentences.
Guess what I'm gonna do.
Game name: Singularity
Made by: Raven Software
"Singularity" is an adherent of the Church of Bioshock.
Sure, it uses the same engine. Yes, there's a lot of water. Naturally, you're in a scientific complex. But, more importantly, "Singularity" believes that true horror lies not in the supernatural, but in the minds of men. And horridly disfigured mutant evil stomtroopers of doom.
You play the role of US Army (or Navy? I mean, since there's so much water) badass Nate Renko, another of Asperger's footsoldiers, who finds himself on the lovely yet deserted island of Katorga 12 during the year of our Lord 2010. Somewhere in the 50es, while America was knee deep in rock music and teenage rebellion, the Ruskies worked hard on world domination. To that effect they discovered E-99 (or Adam or Wonderflonium or what have you), an element so potent it would make everything it touched awesome beyond belief.
Or, at least, that's what one assumes considering that the scientists that discovered it promptly implemented said Wonderflonium in everything from toothpastes to doomsday devices. And, boy, that never goes wrong.
So, after that went wrong, the Russians promptly abandoned both the island and the E-99 research. Which is weird, really. Considering that they were trying to develop a destructive weapon, one would think that a whole island worth of destruction would be proof that they're moving in the right direction. I can picture Kruschchev sighing sadly after hearing the news: "No one survived? Damn it. Now we'll never know if it works."
But anyway. It's 2010. again. Sent in to investigate strange satellite readings, US troops (on an incognito reconnaissance mission) discover that the island isn't as abandoned as everybody thought. Remnants of the old experiments still linger and they dislike visitors.
Dun dun dun!
Our man Renko soon finds out that the island is, much like Balkan mentality, still stuck in the 50es. Occasional pockets of chrononium (a side-effect of writers itching to play with timetravel plots and yes, I just made that up) throw our hero literally 50 years into the past, then continue to play temporal ping pong with him whenever the story feels like it. He visits Katorga 12 when it was still one big happy place full of shiny happy people before being forced to suffer the bleak reality of the post-Accident present again. So, basically, the game feels like an acid trip.
Why is Katorga 12 suddenly alive with activity? What exactly were the consequences of the E-99 experiments? Who's leaving prophetic graffities all over the island? Can Renko trust anyone?
In order to find out, you'll have to enjoy - or endure, depending on your love for first person shooters - numerous firefights and faux horror frights. The game plays like a mixture of Bioshock and Half-life, in that it uses Bioshock's (or System Shock's, if you're gonna be nitpicky) augmentation mechanics coupled with crew logs and radio contact with allies/enemies* and combines it with Half-life's penchant for post-Accident scientific compounds riddled with soldiers, puzzles and great big things that make you stop shooting and go "aaah" before dying a gruesome death.
Revisit that last sentence if you lost your breath halfway through. That was my gaming experience - strange, yet pleasant. Seated deep in the realm of comfortable familiarity; which is to say strapped to the seat while it's sinking deep into the bowels of the Sea of Familiarity. Comfortably.
Why? I've played this game before. And I've enjoyed it. I'm playing it again and guess what? I'm still enjoying it. Every element is familiar, every cliché welcomed with open arms. Another halflifean characteristic.
The crew logs especially are a favorite of mine. It seems that everyone and their dog had a voice recorder with them when the shit hit the fan. Moreover, it seems that everyone's first reflex was to grab that shit and run, barking monologues as they try to escape certain death. It's like Lovecraft, only audible.
The puzzles aren't mind benders but they get the job done. They're at times fun and they don't detract from the killing. Seeing as we gamers are a murderous folk, that be good.
The Unreal engine still does a good job not being a hardware hog yet looking pretty. My biggest beef with it: non-destructible environments. The whole installations looks like it'll collapse any moment now, yet I can throw grenades left, right and center and nothing happens. Sure gotta hand it to Russian architecture - it stands the combined tests of time and grenades.
This being a game, certain unrealistic elements tend to pop up. Most of them we gladly ignore. A few creep past our suspension of disbelief sensors. Why does my character, while swimming through tunnels deep beneath the island, decide to explore a dark crevice that's out of his way? I know why I'm doing it - I expect to find hidden treasure, a stash of E-99 perhaps - but why is he doing it? To make matters worse, in-game my search proves fruitful.
Outside, I realize I'm playing a game and the story becomes irrelevant. "GIVE ME SOMETHING TO SHOOT!" I yell. "Or at least mines to sweep."
While for the most part an enjoyable and streamlined experience, "Singularity" (seemingly inexplicably) relies on the checkpoint saving system. This adds a dimension of necessity to the game - you can't just quick save, then storm the gates. Deliberation is required. Patience must be implemented. That or a hasty uninstall.
Raven, it seems, holds its PC players in high regard. They hope you'll have the tenacity to push past checkpoints.
Kudos to them, I say.
(for some reason)
*The vagueness must be upheld! Stalin commands it!
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