It is 1950. Facing the power of the atomic bomb, still solely controlled by the United States of America, the USSR starts looking for their own super weapon. On a small island, named Katorga-12, off the eastern coast of the Soviet Union, a strange new element is discovered, containing immense power. Named E99, an entire facility is constructed in secret to develop this unique resource, and give Stalin the power to conquer the world.This does not go well.In 1955, a disaster devastates the entire island. The experiment, the island, and the facility are buried by the Soviet government, scrubbed from files and hidden from the world.Flash forward to 2010. A US Marine recon patrol, in response to strange radiation readings from the supposedly non-existent island, heads to investigate. After a sudden flash of light, the patrol helicopter crashes...You play Captain Nate Renko, who quickly discovers that the island is much more than it appears. The space-time continuum is in constant flux. The 1950s bleed into 2010. The timeline is quickly disrupted, forming a mess of interchanging pasts and presents. Horrific mutants and monsters, the Soviet army of the past and present, and the environment itself are out to kill him. It is only the power of the TMD, an experimental device used to manipulate the time state of objects or people, and the help of a mysterious woman and her old mentor, that allows Renko to survive, and slowly unwind the truth behind the island's mysteries.Not to be confused with The Singularity, or Singularity, the novel. Or with Endgame: Singularity, which is an Open Source game where you're playing an AI. Also not to be confused with Time Shift, the other time-warping FPS.
The game features the following tropes:
Abnormal Ammo: most of the weapons use "normal" rounds (i.e. bullets, railgun spikes, rockets) that you find packets of around the island. Not so with the Gatling Gun. The reload animation shows that you replace a small E99 device on top of it, instead of loading new bullets. The Developer's Blog on the game's homepage has revealed how this works: The E99 device actually turns time backward once you install it, letting you fire the same cartridges all over again. It doesn't quite explain if those bullets leave the dead bodies of your foes or simply appear out of nowhere, though.
Alien Space Bats: The initial timeline can be considered our timeline, however, after the first journey into the past, each resulting timeline, in which the Soviet Union controls the world, is the result of E99, super soldiers, and super advanced technology imposed on the world of the 1950s, all as a result of the main character's changing of the past.
Alternate History: Technically, the main timeline, but most certainly present in the timelines which result in the main character's interference in the past, all of which contain the Soviet Union using super advanced technology to take over the world.
The video showing the Soviet Invasion entering China is peculiar given that at that time China was both Communist and aligned with the Soviet Union.
Apocalyptic Log: These are practically everywhere, from the labs to the school; almost everyone on the island had a reel-to-reel recorder and held an audio-log. One might wonder why is there a recording of little children talking about their belly-aches in a school, or why there is a reel-to-reel recording of a scared little girl in the washroom, but in a game about a Soviet black hole...
One morbidly hilarious example: a film archive of a test of one of the time-portals that appeared around the island because of the experiments has the scientist pass through the portal unharmed; just as he begins noting that there seem to be no negative side-effects to the transition, his body turns to dust while the camera was still filming. His colleague then rushes over and frantically tries to turn off the camera.
It also happens in flashbacks, such as when you're in a schoolroom with the corpses of the students under their desks, you see the teacher react to something outside by telling everyone to get under their desks.
Artistic License - Chemistry: The name E99 apparently literally means that it is the element with 99 protons in its nucleus, as you can find periodic tables in the game with E99 occupying that slot. In reality this element is called Einsteinium, and it has very few practical applications, the most prevalent use being as a component in creating other transuranic elements. On the other hand, replacing such an obscure element means it does not clash badly with reality.
The Backwards R: The game is very insistent on reversing Rs and Ns, even when pronouncing them would lead to errors. "HEЯO UPGЯADE PLAИS"? What is a Heyao Upgyaaid plais? The sign, mostly in English, welcoming you to "KДTФЯGД-12" (Kdtfyagd-12?!) is even more of a mouthful.
It creates even more of a mouthful in the German version of the game, which applies the fake Cyrillic to the German translations of everything. Given that German is pretty heavy on the E's, I's, and N's, which get flipped around to И's, which are Cyrillic I's), this can lead to vowel clusterfucks.
Badass Bookworm: Throughout the game, you find many audio logs and temporal echos of the various survivors of the intial Singularity explosion being hunted down and killed by the island's mutants. All these logs repeatedly reinforce the notion that Katorga-12 is an utterly horrifying Death World. With this in mind, you can't help but be incredibly impressed by Dr. Barisov, who not only managed to survive for 50 years on the island, but even went around leaving behind upgrade stations throughout the island (many in heavily mutant-infested areas) for Renko to use when he finally appears.
Badass Grandpa: Demichev and Barisov are both very spry given the fact that they are 84 and 87 respectively in 2010. Guess all that research into E99 bioengineering helped cure arthritis...
BFG: The Autocannon provides the typical room-clearing badass variety. The E99 rocket launcher, which can kill most humanoid enemies in one hit, also qualifies.
Bilingual Bonus: There's a lot of Russian in the game, strangely alongside English translations.
Much of the Enemy Chatter is in Russian. Most of it is pretty simple stuff like "kill him" or "fire" or "grenade".
Body Horror: The various mutations caused by E99 radiation. You can even inflict it on enemy soldiers by turning them into Reverts.
Book Ends: Barisov's ending mirrors the opening, which cleverly makes you think you've succeeded, at first.
Boom, Headshot: Shooting your enemies in the head not only causes them to take more damage, but even the first gun you pick up often causes their heads to explode like overripe watermelons. This is extremely noticeable on the first mutants you encounter.
But Thou Must: At the beginning of the game you momentarily end up in the past and have to save a stranger from a burning building, who turns out to be the Big Bad in the new timeline you have created.
Chummy Commies: Barisov, despite being a patriotic Soviet scientist, harbours no ill will towards the American Renko or the British Kathryn. He is consistently a polite, amiable, helpful man who believes in doing what is right. In his ending, it is implied that he used the TMD to take over the world, and it certainly looks better off than under Demichev's rule.
Color Wash: The time-warped alternate-2010 is predominantly very orange, and anything that isn't orange tends to be blue. 1955, by contrast, has a much more varied color palette.
Cool, but Inefficient: The first usable weapon in the game is a badass-looking revolver. However, even fully upgraded, it is almost absolutely useless, despite the weapon's stats and description. With an extremely small ammo maximum, the bizarre low damage, and a slow firing speed, it is considered as garbage the moment you find another weapon to replace it.
It doesn't help that the enemies you face in the area you first have the revolver are capable of continuing to fight even if you blow off their arms or put holes in their (skinny) torsos. A headshot will down them, fortunately, but the revolver is still the least efficient weapon you've got. A total aversion of Revolvers Are Just Better.
The "Spikeshot" railgun as well. The charging time makes it pretty damn useless if your target moves at all during combat.
Until you find/learn the Deadlock, which (amongst other things) makes mooks within its field of influence essentially immobile for a little while.
Fun fact about the Spikeshot: You know that "Echo" Zek, that shows up a couple of times, the one that is highly intelligent, has a shiv for his right arm and can become invisible and attack you? The only way to see him while he is invisible is with the Spikeshot's Thermal Scope.
Cutscene Power to the Max: Renko using the TMD and an external power source to raise a sunken cargo freighter out of the water and repair it until it is seaworthy again. At least for a short while.
Arguably averted Literal example because, well, he's using an external power source and a device that essentially amplifiesmaxes up the power of the TMD.
Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: Every single weapon you can use in the game has some form of E99 in it, due to them all coming from the altered timeline where the Soviet Union used E99 weapons to conquer the world. Some, like the assault rifle, pistol, and shotgun just use bullets modified with E99 to be more powerful. Other weapons, like the Spikeshot, make use of it in much more interesting ways, like piercing, explosive shells. The Seeker fires E99 rounds which can be flown like remote controlled missiles into enemies, causing them to explode into Ludicrous Gibs. The sniper rifle has a built in E99 time distortion field, which allows you to enter Bullet Time to pick off enemies one by one.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: A certain section near the beginning of the game has you crouching to go through a small opening, to get onto a catwalk on the other side of a wall. As soon as you stand up, you get knocked over from behind by a mutant who immediately starts attacking you. Interestingly, you will always be attacked from behind, no matter what direction you're facing as you stand up, even if you're staring at a wall.
Dirty Commies: Demichev, natch. While none of the Soviets or Russians other than him are really evil, the USSR still did Take Over the World, starting by indiscriminately obliterating the east coast of the United States without provocation or warning.
Eleventh Hour Superpower: Towards the end of the game your TMD is given infinite energy, allowing you to use all your powers as much as you like without running out of juice, as well as a massively superpowered Impulse that now sends even Spetznaz Elite flying. From that point on, you can pretty much blast through anything that gets in your way using TMD powers alone. The TMD's color even changes from orange to blue, just like the Gravity Gun in Half-Life 2.
Elite Mooks: Spetznaz Elite soldiers wear futuristic, E99-orange armor that renders them immune to your basic TMD powers, though noticeably not stronger effects such as Deadlock. They also carry Autocannons or rocket launchers and can take more than 20 assault rifle rounds before dropping (in comparison, all other human soldiers in the game die after just 3 direct bullet hits).
Emperor Scientist: Demichev becomes one, after surviving the fire he was meant to die in. Attempting to ensure his death results in Barisov taking his place.
Escort Mission: You're tasked, at several points in the game, to escort your Red Shirt buddy, your female contact in a resistance cell, and the leader of the resistance himself. They lack the typical frustration of escort missions as Devlin and Kathryn either have Gameplay Ally Immortality (this is a Raven Software game, after all), or so much health that they might as well be invincible, and in the case of Barisov, he is smart enough to take cover whenever danger appears, and enemies seem to pretty much ignore him anyway.
First-Person Ghost: Egregious example thanks to the Seeker Rifle, which lets you control bullets and see things from their point of view. If you curve a bullet and look for Renko's body, you will never find it for he has no character model: if you aren't looking through his eyes he does not exist. This is particularly odd because a character model for Renko does exist in the game files as you briefly meet "yourself" in the beginning and ending of the game.
Renko also casts no shadow when he's standing directly in front of a film projector.
His lower body is visible whenever he gets knocked down or is dangling from a ledge.
Flash Step: The Zeks (a strange, blue-skinned humanoid type of mutant) are capable of this, as well as phasing out of existence to be intangible.
And then inverted when BioShock Infinite was revealed to also have an alternate timeline mechanic!
For Massive Damage: Several of the boss or mini-boss mutants you must fight in the game have conspicuous glowing splotches or sacks to shoot in order to kill them. The gigantic boss on the train level is easily the most memorable.
Foreshadowing: You see messages scrawled everywhere, constantly warning you that the plan you're following isn't going to work. Since the messages are written with E99, they must be meant for you, because they can only be seen by using the TMD to revert them to a state before they became smudged and unreadable. After awhile, they also start implying a Stable Time Loop is in effect. It turns out that the messages are actually completely correct, but not in the way you think.
One of the messages tells you to trust Barisov, then Demichev, then yourself, with each name written under the other and crossed out. Guess who you must trust for each of the game's three different endings and how it turns out?
When you're in the first flashback (the one with the fire in the worker's area) after you rescue Demichev you hear a guy yell "Renkov, no! Don't let Demichev live!" before he's crushed by falling rubble. Guess what? That's Renko. In a previous iteration of the loop.
Fountain of Youth: Subverted. An early film you find on the possibilities of E99 says that they're trying to find a way to make the old young again. Reverting nonliving objects to an earlier state works just fine, after all. Apparently living beings are a little more complicated, because the attempt to revert a human turns them into a horrible blind blobby monster that hunts by sound. Yikes.
From Nobody to Nightmare: Demichev. And in one of the endings, Barisov (maybe; it's a little vague). In two other endings, you become one thanks to exploiting the TMD into becoming co-ruler of either the USSR ("bad ending") or dictator of the United States ("ugly ending".
Gainax Ending: There's at least enough to parse out what must have happened: After you shoot yourself, Demichev dies in the building and Barisov becomes project director. In the original timeline, he was pressured by Moscow to get results, which led to an accident that killed everyone on the island (as detailed in the intro movie). In this new timeline, however, there is a difference: in the building's wreckage there are two bodies of the same American Marine, and one of them has a supercharged TMD on his arm. Barisov is a smart guy, so he pieced together what happened, took the TMD, and used it to carry on his research.
Genre Savvy: Demichev doesn't know all the details at first, but he always keeps in mind that time travel is possible. He is not at all surprised to see an American soldier in a modern uniform in a version of the timeline where there haven't been "Americans" for decades.
Devlin: I demand to speak to someone from our embassy.
Demichev: You will find that impossible, for a variety of reasons...
Gradual Regeneration: The TMD's energy supply slowly recharges when not in use. One of the accessible player perks allows for partial health regenertion as well.
Green Rocks: E99 is only found on Katorga 12 and one of the writers says that it can do anything the plot needs them to, up to and including time travel.
"Groundhog Day" Loop: "We've already tried." The various player-restorable messages imprinted on the walls hint that what the player is experiencing has already happened several times (a few chalkboard drawings have even been keeping track of the number of "Bad Ends" where Demichev wins). It is likely that the messages were written during successive iterations, to explain why they sometimes contradict each other.
Hammer Space: Where exactly does Renko keep the E99 bomb that's the size of a watermelon on his person?
Haunted Headquarters: Justified, the "ghosts" are temporal images burned into Katorga 12 by the original Barisov Reactor's Singularity's Chrono-explosion.
Heroic Sacrifice: Kathryn to keep the soldiers off your back long enough to reach an objective. Also yourself in the best ending. Both subverted.
Hide Your Children: Averted. You can find the husks of children's bodies in several locations through the game, and a couple of the temporal flashbacks feature children, including one in a classroom moments before the first Singularity killed them all.
Historical Villain Upgrade: Nikita Khrushchev, of all people. In the alternate timeline, he sanctioned the deployment of an E99 bomb against the entire US East Coast. As a result, there was no East Coast anymore, just a black, semi-flooded smoldering crater big enough to be seen from orbit.
I Love Nuclear Power: In this case, Unobtanium power! The E99 which the USSR discovers on Katorga-12 can do a whole mess of wonderful things, like...horribly mutating people into bloodthirsty, immortal killing machines! Or, mutating local plant life to be horribly dangerous, yet beautifully shiny! The Soviet government was working on a way to use the E99 radiation to give them super soldiers, and in the altered timeline, the elite soldiers you encounter are extremely resilient, and even resistant to the powers of the TMD, as well.
I Can Rule Alone: At the end of the game Demichev offers to let you rule the world alongside him if you kill Barisov for him. One possible ending is to kill both Barisov and Demichev, after which the Soviet Union collapses without a leader, and you assume control of the former United States as supreme dictator.
Joke Item: The combat knife in the early parts of the game. Unlike in almost all other similar games, it is not a one-hit kill and in fact requires several stabs to kill even basic enemies. Nor does it stun enemies like in Halo or Duke Nukem Forever. Heck, even if you empty your magazine, reloading your gun is more effective than trying to use the knife. Fortunately, it gets completely replaced with the TMD within the first third of the game.
Just One Second Out of Sync: The chronolight function of the TMD can detect and pull back objects that exist as such and Renko's last set of footprints.
Last-Second Ending Choice: You get to pick your ending depend on whether you kill Demichev, Barisov, both of them, or yourself.
Ludicrous Gibs: The enemies in this game explode into pieces when hit with the more powerful weapons. This is explained by the use of E99 in the weapons, giving them a bit more punch.
Made of Iron: For a guy who was originally destined to die in a fire, Demichev is surprisingly resistant to death. Your first attempt to change the past for the better (a partial success, in that it saves Barisov) is shooting Demichev several times and watching him fall out of a second-story window onto a first-story roof, then slide off to the ground below.
Meaningful Name: A Renko is a type of Japanese financial graph that doesn't have a constant space for units of time. Of course, the irony lies in how Nate Renko can't fight fate.
Mercy Invincibility: Taking a cue from BioShock, on Normal difficulty or lower any attack that should kill you will instead simply reduce you down to 1 unit of health and grant you a second or so of invincibility. Take a hit after that, though, and it's Game Over.
Multiple Endings: Out of the three endings, none of them come close to restoring the normal timeline, which can make them all Downer Endings if you really want to put things back to normal. Each ending depends entirely on the choice that you make at the end of the game, though taking too long to make this decision will result in Demichev picking up his gun and killing you and then Barisov.
If you choose to side with Demichev and kill Barisov, he goes on to take over the remainder of the world with the help of Renko and his TMD. However, Demichev gradually becomes wary of Renko, especially since he's managed to tame the Katorga-12 mutants into his own army. This prompts Demichev to relocate to North America, sparking off a new Cold War between him and Renko. Since you end up helping the villain with his ambitions, this is unambiguously the "bad" ending of the lot, though not necessarily the worst one possible.
If you agree to Barisov's plan to go back in time and kill Renko's past self, then the entire chain of events that led to the ascension of Demichev never happens. Renko is sent back to the beginning of the game, with him and Devlin in a helicopter approaching the abandoned island. Everything to have gone back to normal... at first. Instead of Titan-1, mission control is referred to as Hammer-21; as the second helicopter comes into view, you see it bearing the hammer-and-sickle insignia. As the helicopter you're in completes what turns out to be a routine patrol, it becomes clear that Barisov went on to use the TMD to become leader of the Soviet Union and take over the world. This is probably the "good" ending of the lot, as the world doesn't seem to be any worse than it was at the beginning of the game. In fact, given the potential applications of E-99 and Devlin's reaction to the statue of Barisov wearing the TMD, it may be that the world is actually better off under the latter's benevolent rule.
If you Take a Third Option and shoot them both, Renko disappears with the TMD while Demichev's empire collapses and turns to infighting. Some years later, the Singularity explodes, devastating everything within a 500 mile radius. The Katorga-12 mutants escape and rampage through mainland Russia, while a mysterious new leader, strongly implied to be Renko, emerges in the former United States. This is probably the worst ending of all.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Within the first five minutes of the game, you save a man from dying in a fire and carry him to safety. That was probably a mistake.
No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Invoked with the TMD; Barisov hid it and made sure there were no plans because he didn't want Demichev to get a hold of it. Averted with the Singularity reactor, much to Renko and Barisov's chagrin.
No One Should Survive That: So, Demichev, just how did you survive being shot, falling out of a second-story window onto a glass-covered roof, and subsequently falling again to the ground?
There's the basic Mutant, a feral, spindly figure chock-full of tumors and anger, created by random exposure to E99 radiation.
Then there's the Revert, a product of de-aging gone awry, who, in the words of the developers, "because of their "condition", are forced to constantly clear fluids out of their throat, sometimes chewing and swallowing their way through slabs of thick phlegm just to maintain their ability to take air in".
And then there's the Zek (Russian for "prisoner"), created by complications with teleportation experiments: they're humans possessed by extra-dimensional "Soul Leeches", and come in many varieties: Basic Zek, Echo Zek (faster, smarter, and with a shiv implanted in their arm), Fatty Zek (reproduction form for the Soul Leeches; can revive dead Zeks by sending a new Leech into them) and the Brute Zek, which is so large and powerful that it's fought as a Boss Battle.
Patriotic Fervor: The kitschy 1950's Russian patriotic messages and films make this game come across as the Soviet counterpart to Fallout 3.
Pillar of Light: The Demichev Reactor generates one of these throughout the altered timeline. Uneasily noted by Devlin, who notices it was inactive (when it was still the exploded Barisov Reactor) when they arrived.
Press X to Not Die: There are two points in the game where you must quickly kill an enemy before they execute an NPC ally, and one more where you must do it to save yourself.
Rapid Aging: Doctor Barisov describes the TMD's aging effects on living creatures as "unpleasant". Turning the clock backwards, however, has differentresults...
Required Secondary Powers: The entire island seems to be a huge nullification field since the people on Katroga-12 are aware of the changes to the timeline when they shouldn't be. For example, when Renko saves Demichev from the fire he and Devlin still think they're in the initial timeline where E99 research was abandoned when in fact Russia took over the world using E99-based technologies.
Devlin was on the island when the big time-wave thing hit. Another possibility is simply that he ALSO went back and time and was protected by the same single-person nullification effect that protects Renko whenever he changes something.
Revolvers Are Just Better: Inverted as the revolver you get near the beginning of the game is not very powerful compared to the other weapons that can be used; see Cool, but Inefficient above. Played straight with Demichev, who carries a large, unaltered, old-school, non-E99 revolver.
Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Everyone on Katorga-12 benefits from this; it probably helps that the entire island is practically swimming in E-99 (you know, the stuff that allows time travel to begin with). Doesn't really help you fix the timeline, though.
Russian Guy Suffers Most: We don't really get to see what the rest of the world is like after history is changed, but life for the poor Russian scientists and faculty on the island was tnasty, brutish, and short after the singularity exploded.
Screw Destiny / You Can't Fight Fate: Mixed together and played with a lot. Obviously, you can change the past, since that's how things start out, but every opportunity for changing things subsequently doesn't change much.
Second Hour Superpower: The all powerful Time Manipulation Device, part gravity gun, part repair tool, part BFG, part time machine, becomes available pretty early into the game.
Set Right What Once Went Wrong: You try! You try so hard! One of the endings features you traveling back in time to kill yourself, preventing you from creating the initial alteration which set the whole game in motion. Subverted, however, in the sense that doing so creates a whole new timeline in which Barisov takes over the world. It would seem that by simply having been in the past, Renko has irreparably altered the future.
Sequel Hook: While either Renko or Kathryn could be the one responsible for the messages scrawled on the walls, neither fits completely, and it could be someone we have yet to meet.
While the Mir-12 ARG has little to do with the game as it is, the confirmation of a sequel in the works means that they might re-introduce the issues of the possible collapse of time and other, unforseen effects of the Katorga 12 experiments.
The important month and year in the past you time-travel to is November 1955. One of the wall scrawls is an illustration of the timeline, drawn as an actual line, with labeled tangents showing where the alterations occur like the one Doc Brown draws in Back to the Future 2.
Software Porting: While the game was developed for consoles and computers both, the game's simplified menus and control schemes suggest that the game was developed more with console users in mind. This is best seen whenever the game auto-saves, where the dialog tells you not to "turn off the system".
It can also be seen in the Augmentor's and Weapons Locker's navigation, where 'only' the directional arrow keys are acceptable keyboard input, instead of whatever keys the player mapped for movement.
Soviet Superscience: But of course. Generally the only main detectable difference between our reality and the main timeline as presented in Singularity is that all the guys doing the superscience died on the island; or at least they did, until you helpfully yanked a man out of a fire... resulting in most of the horrors you see throughout the rest of the game.
Spawn Broodling: A double-blast from the TMD will turn a human soldier into a ghoul-like Revert who attacks anything noisy nearby. This will usually mean they'll go straight for any of the other soldiers gunning for you as long as you don't jump or run around. You can also hit the Revert with yet another blast to turn it into a walking bomb; you get an Achievement for pulling this off several times.
Spotting the Thread: A perceptive gamer will notice a few clues that taking Barisov's side didn't restore the initial timeline. Like, why the hell is Mission Control calling itself Hammer-21 instead of Titan-One? Also, why is there Russian all over the opening credits all of a sudden?
In addition, the second helicopter is sporting a hammer and sickle insignia instead of the US airforce one.
Also, look at the Singularity reactor apex before, during and after you set up the bomb: first, the reactor has a dodecahedral cage around the main chamber (which is filled with blue light as you travel to the past), and there's a recharge port in front of it; back in 1955, the cage is no longer present, but the recharge station is still there; then, when you return to 2010, the cage is not there either, and the entire floor is changed (it's sealed, like it was in 1955). Then, when (if) you travel back in time again, to kill yourself, the singularity chamber is again covered in a field of blue light that mimics the old cage (probably indicating that the reactor is again changing shape?).
Stable Time Loop: It turns out that the book that Mir-12 uses to know that Captain Renko is the one to supposedly fix everything is put into place by Kathryn, a Mir-12 operative. During the course of the game, she ends up dragged back to the 1950s when everything begins falling apart, and she writes in the book that eventually sets the game into motion, causing her to...well, you get the idea.
Story-Driven Invulnerability This applies to Demichev when you go back in time to stop yourself; you may realise that when you see yourself carrying Past!Demichev, you have a perfectly clear shot at him, but apparently the devs didn't consider to stick in another hidden ending for the players who think outside the box. Attempting to kill him anyway just has the scene repeat until you shoot your past self.
Suspicious Videogame Generosity: Towards the end of the first escort sequence with Devlin, you find a room with a truckload of ammo and supplies. As soon as you get a response on the radio, Renko and Devlin are swarmed by Spetznaz.
Take a Third Option: The ending features Barisov and Demichev, the two lead scientists of the island, offering you conflicting ending choices: to either go back in time and kill yourself to stop the whole game from happening, or kill Barisov, and rule the world with Demichev. If you shoot BOTH of them, however, a third ending occurs, in which you end up remaining in the altered present and eventually becoming supreme dictator of the former United States, while the Soviet Union collapses in the wake of Demichev's death.
There is also a fourth option: take too long to choose who dies, Demichev shoots BOTH you and Barisov.
Take Your Time: Both played straight and averted. When Kathryn is taken by the army, not hurrying after her will fail the game. But when Barisov tells you the freighter is about to sink, you can take all the time in the world. Except in the end, when it does in fact start sinking, and the water inside starts to rise.
Temporal Paradox: Played straight, as Renko going back in time to kill himself so that Demichev dies in the fire like he should does not restore the timeline, admittedly minus Renko being alive. Instead it puts Renko in an alternative 2010 timeline where Barisov took over the world using the TMD. It's implied that Barisov found the TMD on the Renko that went back in time to kill himself as his past self was trying to save Demichev.
The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Try to snipe a Zek. Just try. They teleport out of the way of the bullet every time, even if you're behind them and halfway across the stage. They'll actually do this with ANYTHING at long range, but it's most obvious with the sniper rifle.
Time Crash: The area around the Singularity itself is very warped, with frozen images from the past that may come back to life to kill you.
Timey-Wimey Ball: It's hard to make sense of some of the time-changes in the different parts of the story, particularly inside the Reactor.
The various conflicting messages scribbled on the walls are probably best explained by being left there from several shifting timelines.
Title Drop: The Barisov Demichev Reactor in the tower at the north end of the island is made to create a Singularity.
Too Awesome to Use: There are a couple dozen Weapon Upgrade cases strewn throughout the game that can be spent to upgrade a characteristic of one of your guns. It's possible to save them through the entire game due to saving them for 'the next awesome gun', or hoping that better upgrade options become available later in the game. You can never increase the 'maximum ammo carrying capacity for a weapon, and you can never increase the limit of the Dilation gauge in the sniper scope (even though it looks as though you should, so go nuts. Additionally, it's actually fairly easy to beat the game without upgrading at all, as the game doesn't really become more difficult after about 1/3rd of the way through, and enemies don't become tougher as you progress.
There is a flaw in the way the game loads save files (on the PC) that allows a player to actually go through the early game with their late-game equipment from a previous save. It involves backing up the save file, going through a new game until your first weapon, then replacing the current save file with the previous one and choosing in-game to reload from the last checkpoint. While the map data is loaded back to the last checkpoint, the equipment and health data are loaded from the save, so it's completely possible to bring an Autocannon and maxed-out TMD to the radio room attack. Doing this carries over (back?) all your E-99 Tech and Weapon Upgrades, so doing this enough times will allow you to eventually max out everything.
Transformation Ray: The TMD can turn a soldier into a dusty skeleton, or create a horrific alternate timeline where he never got past month four of gestation, and therefore never developed eyes or skin.
Translation Convention: Sort of. We see lots of signs that are posted in both Russian and English, something that would be odd for 1950s Russia to do, and most of the speaking characters (except soldiers gunning for you) speak in Russian-accented English. Renko is not a Russian name, but it is a real surname. The fact that it ends in "ko" means that it's most likely Ukrainian. While the Ukrainian Language is distinct from the Russian Language, the two are quite close, holding a high degree of mutual intelligibility, but they are not completely mutually intelligible. Given his Ukrainian Surname, it's not at all Renko at least knows Ukrainian and at least some Russian. This also justifies why some things are translated while others are not.
If you were going to send commandos to investigate the site of a possible nuclear accident probably associated with an old secret Soviet lab, it makes sense that you would pick men who can read Russian. It would be a terrible shame for somebody to get killed or make the problem worse because they couldn't understand the signs that read DANGERnote Опасно, after all.
Unique Enemy: The majority of the game is spent alternatingly fighting against Russian soldiers and Zeks. The tall, spindly mutants only appear on 3 or 4 different occasions throughout the entire game, and there are only 2 Echo Zeks and 2 Fatty Zeks.
Unreliable Narrator: The hidden notes (written in E99 dust that only you can read by using the TMD on them) are oddly contradictory. Sometimes they're comments on the area or enemies you're about to encounter. Sometimes they're helpful tips. And sometimes they're paranoid warnings about how not to trust anyone you meet. "Don't trust Barisov!" "Don't trust the girl!" It goes off the rails when you find one that says "DON'T TRUST ME!"
We Can Rule Together: Demichev makes this offer to Barisov in 1955 after the creation of the TMD; Barisov instead opts for Honor Before Reason, prompting Demichev to attempt to kill him. Demichev makes the same offer to Renko at the end of the game; it's up to the player whether or not to accept.
X Meets Y: meets Z meets W meets A. As far as gameplay goes, it's sort of a greatest-hits compilation of the best shooters of the previous several years, with elements from everything from BioShock to Left 4 Dead. Thematically, it's BioShock plus Red Alert with a bit of Stalker thrown in.
Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Barisov's plan is to destroy the Singularity in the past before the Soviet Union's research goes far enough to make a difference. You accomplish this objective...except Demichev just rebuilds it in the intervening time.