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October 21, 2004
Second Sight - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
8/9/2004AtariFree Radical Design1MA15+Hard
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Got him, he's down.
Free Radical Design aren’t a company you’d associate much with aside from first person shooters. Timesplitters and Timesplitters 2 were both top-notch games appearing on multiple systems, so from a small UK-based developer one wouldn’t expect much more than for FRD to stay with their niche. To an extent they have, continuing on with the third title in the series Timesplitters Future Perfect, yet they’ve been busy in the kitchen cooking up an entirely new dish; Second Sight. While the screenshots may bear a shine to FRD’s trademark Timesplitters-style of graphics, that’s just about where the similarities end for this 3rd-person action/adventure-fest.

Now before I continue, I’ll make a little spoiler alert here; Second Sight is a game which starts you off with no story. That’s right, not even a glimmer of who you are, where you are, or what you have to do; and the story that unfolds is quite in-depth and enjoyable, well worth experiencing for yourself. So, if there’s even a slight chance you want to play this game, skip to the score, then run out and grab it; it’s far from being a disappointing game.

You begin Second Sight in a delirious state being dragged by a guard down a corridor resembling that from a hospital, seeing fluoro after fluoro pass overhead. Their footsteps echo loudly through your head. Suddenly they stop and your shaved head slumps forward.

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Nice graphics...
“Hey come on Harry, buzz me through!”
“What ya got there? Sheesh this guy’s a mess or what”
“That’s nothing; you shoulda seen him before”
“Guess he won’t be dating again… like he’s getting out”
“He’s a psycho killer”
“Sweet! Whad he do”
“That’s classified”
“Why do they keep these guys alive?”
“The lab wants him”
“As what, a crash test dummy?”
“Hey can he hear us”
“He can hear us all he wants”
“Hey doc more monkey juice over here"
You see a doctor walk over and feel a sharp pain in your arm shortly before you lapse out of consciousness again. You awaken a short while later in a glass-walled room with no recollection of who you are, where you are, or what you are doing there. During a brief walk around the room, you suddenly discover that you can manipulate objects using your mind. Flipping the external lock to your cell-like room opens the door, and enables you to explore this ‘place’ where you are being held captive. Your first concerns are to find out who you are and why you are here. However once you slowly reawaken your memory, together with additional psychic powers, you find that there’s more to worry about than just saving your own skin.

The gameplay in Second Sight is played out from a third-person perspective, with semi-fixed camera positions to boost the atmosphere. The normal left-stick for movement, right-stick for camera controls scheme is used here, and feels exactly as you’d expect it to. The controls take a little sidestep however as you learn more and more psychic powers, such as telekinesis (moving remote objects), psi blast (hurling balls of energy at your enemies) and charm whereby you can appear invisible and even temporarily control another character. Here all buttons on the controller get a workout, including the d-pad and often-ignored L3/R3 buttons.

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Using the scope.
Initially you’re required to stealthily sneak around what turns out to be a research facility using your psy-powers to your advantage. Get spotted however, and the staff will alert the guards, who will have no hesitation in eliminating your presence. The game takes on a very Metal Gear Solid feel to it, although the guards aren’t quite as witty as those in Hideo Kojima’s masterpieces.

Just when you’re getting a feel for being stealthy, the game takes its first plot twist (of many). You black out, and reawaken 6 months earlier at a military training camp being taught the basics of combat for both short and long range weapons. Whilst using the same engine, this has quite a different feel to it to the earlier stage in the compound, being more action-based rather than stealth-based (note that you’re without your psy-powers here too) . Your character here has hair too, and bears quite an uncanny resemblance to a particular Gordon Freeman (in both appearance, as well as to the circumstances they both fall into). It turns out your name is John Vattic, an MIT scientist whose principle research work is investigating the underlying scientific credibility of parapsychology. It sounds like a mouthful, but put simply it means he’s all for disproving the powers which he has now has 6 months into the future.

Yet again, once you get comfortable with this new situation, you return to present day, where you’re back in the compound. This process happens quite often throughout the game, switching back and forth between John working his way through the medical compound, and a military unit on a secret operation known as WinterICE. At first it’s quite confusing, but as the story progresses they both eventually become one and it becomes clear as to why the game played out that way.

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Hologram image.
This game has little that could be faulted. Visually and aurally, it’s quite an experience. Like always, 3rd person cameras have their little niggly issues, but they are rarely a problem in Second Sight. Some of the AI could be improved a little however; particularly in the compound a guard can see you crawl into an air-vent, yet will forget about it 10 seconds later. It’s a comforting safety-zone for when you’re in full panic trying to escape the guards, but in hindsight it’s something that could have been fixed up pre-release. My main gripe with the game however, is that it has very little replay value (unless you’re a big fan). Finishing the game unlocks all the cinematics from the course of the game, however that’s about it. Replaying Second Sight on a harder difficulty setting just makes John more susceptible to damage, without any extra bells or whistles to be found.

Second Sight is quite a stunning looking game. The screenshots look like Timesplitters 2 on crack, and in motion it brings the visuals to another level altogether. The character designs are quasi-cartoony, enough to add that extra emotion to their actions, speech and thoughts, yet without going over the top. The effects from the psy-powers further enhance the visuals, whether it’s the space-time ripple effect from the psy-blast, or the ghosting effects when you project yourself. The cutscenes use character models very similar to the in-game ones, and they benefit enormously from using the in-game engine. I don’t think I’ve seen emotion depicted this well in a videogame before.

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What goes up, must come down!
While the graphics are top-notch, FRD didn’t let down when it came to the sound department for Second Sight. The background score has a rather depressing and melancholic tone to it (which suits the game), however it picks up pace and an optimistic tone at the required moments (particularly towards the end). The game is entirely voice-overed, during in-game sequences as well as during cutscenes. At the odd time emotion is over-exaggerated; however on the whole it is well done and deserves credit.

Second Sight is a game which proves that smaller software studios are limited to being successful with a single-genre only. Free Radical Design proved themselves with the Timesplitters series, yet they’ve raised the bar again with Second Sight, a great action/adventure game which manages to blend both stealth and gunfire into a twisted story that will keep you playing until the very end. The primary problem with this game is that there just isn’t enough, yet FRD have built a solid platform to launch off for a possible sequel further on down the track. Second Sight game is a gem, and worthy of a play, if not a purchase for fans of the 3rd-person action/adventure genre, and captured the addictive ‘just one more go’ feeling almost flawlessly.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSDrool at the screenshots... it’s even better in motion.
SOUNDFull voiceovers, with a well-suited accompanying score.
GAMEPLAYTwo intertwining storylines mean double the fun.
VALUELet down by having little reason to replay the game.
OVERALLSecond Sight is a refreshing breeze into the 3rd-person action/ adventure genre which seems to be filling with guns-blazing titles. The story will urge you to keep playing for just that little bit longer, right through to the very end. This game will easily eat up a weekend, given the chance; hire or buy it, and find out what you’ve been missing out on.

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