Second Sight was developed by Free Radical and published by Codemasters. Free Radical is the developer of another popular game, TimeSplitters. They have a reputation for deep storylines, cartoony yet stylized graphics, and good gameplay. Unfortunately, while Second Sight shares all of those traits, it was overlooked for the more hyped Psi-Ops and even the far inferior Golden Eye: Rogue Agent. It's a shame, because Second Sight is the best game you haven't played this year.
I won't go into huge detail about the story itself, because giving away any would be giving away too much. I can say that the method in which the story is told is genius. You play Dr. John Vattic, and like many games, you wake up in some sort of hospital not knowing who you are or why you are there. All of a sudden, you discover you have powers of the mind. The first one is telekinesis and you as a player are forced to use it in the same manner as your character. Yu just have to figure it out as he does. While it is initially confusing, it makes sense and works from a story perspective. Why should your character be totally confused about his new powers, but you have a well-written manual?
But as you play through one level, you are taken to a flashback. Apparently you are brought into a military operation as a medical analyst. Little do you know that you'll be a combatant. But to make sure you are up to snuff, you have to complete training which is your game tutorial. The rest of the story is told the same way, switching between present day and flashback. The story is in-depth and non-linear and expertly crafted.
Second Sight has the daunting task of providing a number of powers and weapons and creating a system that is intuitive and easy to use that doesn't take the user out of the game. Free Radical did an admirable, if imperfect job.
The controls are basically the same as any other 3rd person shooter. That being the left thumbstick controls the movement and the right controls the camera. What's curious is that the player can hit the X button and switch to camera mode which basically takes away the camera control. I never figured out a reason why the player would do this.
As far as the mind powers go, the D-pad left and right allows the player to arm himself with powers in the list. Strangely, the game always pauses while selecting your power. It gives the player a bit of an advantage in tough situations and at the same time, takes the player out of the action. Part of the reason for this might be that the D-pad also arms the player with traditional weapons using the up and down movements. Unfortunately, the player cannot use the traditional weapons and psi-powers at the same time. Nor can the player use more than one psi-power at once and instead is forced to go into the auto-pause power selection mode and switch. Thankfully, the player can click the right thumbstick to switch between the last selected traditional weapon and the last selected psi-power without pausing. A minor concession to the issue.
Done poorly this game could have turned into a typical gun and run where the player just shoots mindlessly without any real though to strategy. Thankfully, the player is encouraged to use stealth. Not only do we have the typical wall hugging and peeking around corner moves, the player can also hide in lockers, storage units, and even heating ducts. In these times, the player switches to 1st person view. the generous use of stealth makes this game very exciting.
The psi-powers are obviously the main part of the game. One look at the manual gives them away so I'm not ruining anything by telling you that you have telekinesis, healing, psi-attack, projection and charm (invisibility). These all have different functions and at various times you'll be forced to use them.
Using the psi-powers is easy. Hold the right trigger to target and the left trigger to fire. This is particularly gratifying for psi-attacks which can be vaulted distances to knock opponents across the room or against walls or off ledges. The rag doll physics employed are very effective and this soon became my favorite tactic. Be careful, using psi-powers reduces your psi energy which replenishes over time.
Telekinesis is also an effective weapon and there lots of things in the environment to throw at your enemies. Simply right trigger to target and left trigger to lift it. Then use the right thumbstick to steer the object around. Use it to knock a whole slew of baddies over. In addition, you can TK dead bodies to different places. If a guard runs into a dead body, he'll sound the alarm and reinforcements will come streaming in. The only complaint I have is that all the objects have the same weight, specifically none. Whether it's a small box or mainframe computer, it doesn't take any more energy to fly it across the room. A minor issue to a great feature.
A gripe I have is with the AI. They tend to do really dumb things. They don't see me when they should and they magically know I'm there when there's no way they could see me. They also tend to charge me unarmed when I'm plugging bullets into them. Very rudimentary AI.
Oh, and what's with them being made of glass? They take three punches from me and they're dead? Fun, but not realistic.
One of the problems with making a game for multiple platforms is that the developers get a little lazy and only design for the lowest common denominator. And today that is the Playstation 2. The graphics in Second Sight are decent, but not what I would expect from a 3rd generation Xbox title. Most of the scenes take place in a hospital so the lighting and textures are drab and dreary. Shadows are well-used by not overly obvious like in Doom or Chronicles of Riddick.
To say the graphics are a port of the PS2 version would be unfair. It is obvious the Xbox version has a higher level of detail and effects than the PS2 could handle. In addition, the cutscenes are very well done. Free Radical has a tendency to make realistic characters with a somewhat cartoony flair. This is obvious in Second Sight. The models are slightly out of proportion and the facial animations are exaggerated. But as a whole package it works.
The effects in Second Sight are nothing spectacular, but again, adequate. The psi-attack is the coolest looking effect as it sucks in all imagery in its radius. Imagine looking through a large drop of water flying across the room. The other effects such as healing are your basic swirls of color.
Unfortunately, the game does not support any modes of HDTV, not even 480p.
The best part of the audio is the voice work. While it gets a little annoying to constantly hear your character talking to himself, it would be much more annoying if the acting was terrible. but thankfully it isn't. A quick look at IMDB shows that none of the actors are big name actors outside of games. This just goes to show that you don't need movie and TV actors to make video games. While they may have marquee power to sell more units, top-name actors bring very little to the table in video games. The Second Sight cast does an admirable job working with a good script.
The music is also well done. The electronic score mixed with symphonics is well done. It never gets over-powering and is always appropriate. I like dynamic music in games. When the action gets tough, so should the music to heighten the suspense. Second Sight does this well.
The effects are decent, nothing to write home about. The weapons fire is pretty basic stuff and the psi-powers are satisfyingly deep and full. Like the gameplay, the sound of the effects encouraged me to use them over traditional weapons.
Adding to the creepiness of the game is the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Used well, the game really surrounds the player in ambient sound. The psi-effects are given even more punch when the sounds they make are coming from all directions.
There is no Multiplayer support for Second Sight, not even split screen or System Link. Not even Live aware. Disappointing.
As much fun as this game is, it doesn't really recreate the genre. It just takes the staple items, adds an excellent story, good level design and makes it fun. Highly recommended.
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