Review: Second Sight (PS2, GC, XB)

Second Sight (PS2, XB, GC)
Genre: Action-Adventure
Developer: Free Radical
Publisher: Codemasters
Release Date: 9/22/04

It’s interesting to hear a lot of the comparisons between Second Sight and another game that came out a few months ago called Psi-Ops, which I also reviewed. Both feature a main character suffering from Amnesia that happens to have a vast array of psychic powers at his disposal. Both are fighting a shadowy enemy. Both are action adventure games. But that’s where the games diverge. It’s too bad that Psi-Ops came out just three months before this game, as it puts Second Sight at a disadvantage with reviewers and gamers everywhere automatically comparing it to Psi-Ops.

I’ll be honest that I’m not a 3D action adventure gaming fan. But like Psi-Ops, the thought of a game that mixes stealth, shooting things dead, and psychic powers is a mix that intrigues me. And even though Psi-Ops got a 6.5 for having some great ideas but not enough follow-through, I decided to review Second Sight as well, mainly because I wanted to see a different company’s take on how this new niche in the genre would work.

I just hope the commercial success of both Psi-Ops and Second Sight doesn’t mean every developer is going to flood the market with a third rate psychic adventure game ala what happened with Party games. What made these games catch not only my eye, but the general population of gamers across the board is that this is pretty unique. Flooding the market with a few dozen games all featuring TK users would just ruin it for everyone.

Let’s Review

1. Story

This is the story of Dr. John Vattic. John awakens in a Medical Research lab heavily injured and pretty darn ugly to boot. He finds that he possess certain psychic abilities which allow him to leave his confinement area and that this medical facility he is incarcerated in is pretty heavily guarded. He doesn’t know who he is or what has happened to him but he knows he has to get out or something even worse will be his fate.

As you play through Second Sight, you are treated to flashback levels that took place six months before the main story. You learn Dr. Vattic is actually a skeptic in the realm of parapsychology. He is a debunker of all things purported to be psychic activities and spends his time writing paper proving many instances to be hoaxes. And more importantly, John Vattic has no psychic powers whatsoever! Vattic is asked by a classified US military team known as WinterICE to be a civilian advisor, along with Vattic’s nemesis Jayne Wilde, a women claiming to have the power of clairvoyance.

Vattic and WinterICE journey to Siberia to discover what missing psychic researcher and scientist Viktor Grenko has been doing.

The game continues switching between the past and the present, allowing you to learn how Vattic ended up incarcerated at Osiris, and also how one of the world’s foremost skeptics on ESP became one of the most powerful psychic on earth.

Second Sight gives you a great story here with John Vattic. I really didn’t expect him to be as fleshed out or defined as he is in the game. Most action games are pretty light on the plot, but Second Sight made finding out the back story part of the game, and I loved that.

Having the flashbacks and backstory as playable missions also forces you to play the game in two different styles. In the present, you find yourself using your psychic powers a lot and thanks to psychic healing, you can pretty much go kamikaze. In the past though, as Vattic has no powers at all, you will spend time shooting everything that moves and also using physical stealth over your psychic ability to cloud men’s minds. It almost feels like you’re getting two games in one.

Free Radical did a great job with all the characters, not just Vattic and it is interesting to see how much some have changed in just a scant six months. Unlike Psi-Ops, which had a plot was both generic and a rip-off of X-Men, Second Sight really holds its own and gives us a very likeable main character and a story worth playing through.

Story Rating: 8/10

2. Graphics

It’s a pretty decent looking game. I will admit Psi-Ops was better looking graphically and also in terms of the effects of the powers. But that’s something worth discussing here.

Psi-Ops went for over the top effects for things like TK. There was a great blue line from you to the object on the screen. In Second Sight, there is less emphasis on a massive graphical beating you over the head saying “LOOK! I’M USING PSYCHIC POWERS.” In Second Sight, there’s a slight blue targeting ring on the object in question and then it levitates via your controls. It’s more realistic as to what Psychic powers would probably be and look like in this game, but Psi-Ops was a lot prettier with the effects.

Character designs are decent, but again, nothing outstanding. They’re very typical, generic looking 3D action game characters. Vattic, however, is the sole exception at the beginning of the game when he is quite obviously messed up. He’s gruesome to behold, and yet that is the guy you are playing as! The rest of the characters though are homogony itself.

Level designs are excellent and easy to maneuver through. No blurriness or jaggies or graphical slowdown of any kind when you are killing a bunch of guys at once.

I have to say the game may not be the most attractive title in this console war, but it’s decent enough to look at. Let your Psi Energy run completely out and watch the interesting visual you get.

Graphics Rating: 6/10

3. Sound

I like the music a lot. It fits the game, and the music between flashback and present time modes are distinctly different, which is a great touch, continuing to make the two feel like slightly different games.

John Vattic’s voice actor, Andrew Lawson, is excellent. Lawson makes John sound believable and to hear John as a confident and slightly arrogant and annoyed skeptic in the flashbacks and yes confused and broken in the present day is a testament to his range as an actor. All the other voice talent is quite good as well. All the characters sound real and not hokey in the slightest. Most action games have voice acting with a heavy side of cheese, but Second Sight does it quite well indeed.

The sound effects are quite too. But most of it is hard to screw up with games nowadays.

I had a lot of fun listening to all that Psi Ops had to offer. Especially as Vattic talks to himself throughout the game. It adds to the sense of his confusion and recent awakening from stasis. I was impressed by all the little things Free Radical put into the the game in this category. I think you will be too.

Sound Rating: 8/10

4. Control and Gameplay

This is one of the best action adventure games I have played in a long time. And long time readers know I pretty much dislike the majority of the genre. Unlike Psi-Ops which is pretty much a straight out kill fest and where you will use TK 90% of the game because it’s so wildly broken power wise that you really don’t need anything else except in gimmicky boss fights, Second Sight gives you so many different ways to get past the game, it leaves it to you to find your own playing style to beat it with.

Most importantly is the power of psychic healing. You’d think that would make the game way too easy, what with your psi meter constantly regenerating. But nope. It prevents there from being hokey healing items all over games like you normally find in this genre. You can’t do anything else while healing and it’s a great concept. It also gives you an alternative to stealth and sneaking and subterfuge. ME? I go in guns blazing totally kamikaze style then run off, use charm so they can’t see me, find a place to heal and go back for more. And the game allows it! It doesn’t force you to play one way. You have so many options in the game it’s great!

You can use a tranq gun if you want to be a nice guy, normal guns if you want to be a psychopath, charm for psi stealth, Psi blast for psychic damage, normal sneaking around for you Metal Gear Solid type players, TK to scare them/distract the enemy, or just punch them or pistol whip them out cold. I loved trying all the options, but in the end, the most fun was either just going in with guns blazing, or using Charm to get a tactical vantage point, and then shoot the hell out of things. Really, the only psychic powers I used unless I had to use something else, were charm and healing. But that’s what’s great. It’s your style.

Controls are pretty good. Camera angles don’t suck. Let me repeat that! Camera Angels do NOT suck. This is a miracle for 3-D action games. Everything feels right on the joystick and it’s very easy to get used to the controls and play this game.

There are only two problems I can think of with the controls. The first is one of my growing pet peeves. If you push down on the analog stick, you mode switches from third person into first person mode. This will happen a lot and will begin to annoy the hell out of you. I bitched about this in Fable, but this is a lot worse simply because the computer controlled characters in Second Sight actually have a degree of AI. I can’t tell you how many times I came close to dying in this game because I pressed the pad a fraction too hard. Ugh.

The second problem is switching psi-powers. It pauses the game when you do this, and also causes you to unequip your weapon. This means you have to go back and equip the weapon, which effectively pauses the game again. Yeesh. Not something I relished doing and it does break up the fun of the game. I’d actually have enjoyed quick buttons for the powers or for the gun to stay equipped.

Still, even with these problems, Second Sight still plays much better than a lot of the competition, and certainly better than Psi-Ops. If you’re a little lighter on the touch and can stand the action to pause a bit while you’re playing, you’ll have a lot of fun with this game.

Control Rating: 7/10

5. Balance

Although I love the options and the different ways you can play Second Sight, it is a very easy game. At no time did I ever come close to dying. Sometimes I failed the mission objective and had to replay a level, like in “Fieldwork” where I ignored Jayne Wilde and went around shooting Russians with a sniper rifle. But I never once almost died. Thanks to the power of psychic healing and my keeping one eye on my health meter, it was never a problem.

A nice aspect of balance, is as you go farther in the game, your Vattic gets better at his powers. Charm goes from a psychic invisibility to calming people down. TK eventually lets you move living things in addition to non-living things. Psychic projection eventually allows you to possess people. Good stuff all around and it’s nice to see his powers enhance with time.

The game never truly gets difficult, but it gives you a surprising amount of options to play around with, and the game never ceases to be fun because of that.

Balance Rating: 6/10

6. Replayability

Second Sight has two difficulty ratings. There is a noticeable change in how hard the game is, but not much of one.

There doesn’t seem to be multiple endings in this game, so if that is something you’re looking through in a playthrough, you probably won’t want to pick up this game again.

What does make it more fun are all the mini games hidden in Second Sight. There are two different target practice games, one with normal pistols, and one with a sniper gun for example. There are also 2 hidden old school video games. Earth Impact is the one I have the most fun with.

You can also replay any level you beat to improve your statistics that range from how many pints of blood you have spilled to your morality and stealth rating. I had a morality of ZERO and a Stealth of 1%. That should tell you my style of crazy run amuk gameplay I did in Second Sight.

Even with the mini games and ability to improve your stats, the only real reason to play through Second Sight again is simply because you had a lot of fun playing it before. And really, isn’t that the main reason you should replay ANY game?

Replayability Rating: 6/10

7. Originality

Well, seeing as Psi-Ops came out first and they share a lot in common, I can’t say this game is that ground breaking or innovative. However it does give a much better story, and one rife with irony considering Vattic’s occupation. In fact, aside from graphics and extra options, I feel Second Sight does everything better than Psi-Ops.

As well, psychic adventure games are still a very new genre, and whereas Psi-Ops just has “Lone uber psychic against a brother hood of evil mutant terrorists” plot line that made me groan countless times, Psi-Ops is a combination of sci-fi, stealth, action, a mystery, and a really good story. I’m quite happy with all Free Radical put into this game and feel it will be a trend setter in the genre and in months and years to come, will be considered better than Psi-Ops as it may have come out second, but it took the time to play nearly seamlessly, unlike Psi-Ops which had a good amount of bugs, including one that you couldn’t get past if it triggered.

Originality Rating: 7/10

8. Appeal

It appeals to me, and I’m a 2D shooter, 2d Fighter, and RPG fan! I had a lot of fun with this game. I can see some Psi-Ops fan boys refusing to play this game because Psi Ops came first and that’s what they choose to love, but that’s like preferring Go Bots to Transformers. There’s a little bit of everything in this game to make sure everyone will have fun with it. If you like to sneak around, it’s in this. If you like to shoot people dead, you can do it. If you like clever and convoluted ways of killing things or being stealthy, it’s in this game. The controls are easy to use and the camera angles are excellent, so the game ensures nearly anyone will be able to get into it right away and have fun.

Appeal Factor: 7/10

9. Addictiveness

I really got into Second Sight. Far more than I thought I would. Again, I’m not the kind of gamer that generally enjoys 3D action games. The controls, the camera angle, the plot. They all tend to suck. But Second Sight is a game I’m glad I chose to review. I loved watching the story unfold and seeing the difference between now and six months ago in the game. I thought Vattic was a well fleshed out character and that there wasn’t an aspect of the game I thought was poor. It’s easy to learn and fun to play. It’s only about ten hours long to beat, so at the very least, rent it and beat it over a weekend. You won’t be disappointed.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous

With a lot of mini games, statistics and scores to beat, and a plethora of ways to play the game according to your own personal gaming Style, Second Sight offers you a lot to have fun with. It’s been a long time since I played a game that isn’t by Nippon Ichi that gives you this amount of options in terms of what you can do in the game. It’s been a long time since I enjoyed an action adventure game, and it was as much fun for me as Ninja Gaiden by Team Ninja was, just in totally different ways.

Put down or trade in Psi-Ops and go for a game that’s better designed, has a better story and most importantly, is more fun to play.

Miscellaneous Rating: 7/10

Short Attention Span Summary
One of the better action games of 2004, Second Sight is worth picking up and playing through to see what all you can do in the game, and to sit through the well thought out story it has. ItÃƔs ten hours long, so it may be better for you to rent it instead of purchasing it, but it’s still a game I heartily recommend as even non 3d action adventure fans will be able to enjoy this.



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