By guest reviewer: Sie
Free Radical Design are probably best known for being the ex-Rare employees behind Goldeneye - and they were quick to remind us of this with their successful Timesplitters series which bore an alarming number of gameplay similarities when compared to the N64 classic. Many agreed this was no bad thing but it seems Free Radical Design now want to show the gaming public they're not just a one trick pony. Enter Second Sight.
As a primarily stealth-action game Second Sight introduces a unique concept to the world of hiding in lockers and toilets - psychic abilities. To harness these abilities, which are drip fed to the player over the first few stages of the game, you play as Dr John Vattic, a psychic phenomena researcher/sceptic who wakes up in a US research facility, bruised, bandaged and with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Blessed or maybe cursed with the initial discovery that he now has the ability to move objects with the power of his mind alone, Dr Vattic embarks on a quest to find answers to these questions.
The first thing that strikes you about Second Sight is that it is played, for the most part, from a third person perspective. Gone is Free Radical's tried and tested first person formula to be replaced with an admittedly less successful style - controlling Vattic feels somewhat stiff at first, awkward looking animation coupled with a camera system that doesn't seem to be able to keep up amount to frustration in the early stages of the game.
Engaging telekinetic power further frustrates in the tight corridors of the research facility and highlights a slightly buggy physics engine, whilst throwing the corpses of recently battered guards all too often results in bodies being stuck in walls and ceilings. Applying stealth to your tactics infuriates further as guards have an uncanny ability to know exactly where you are until the search for Vattic is called off.
Finding a gun and blasting your way out starts your teeth grinding as you'll find yourself shooting at a PC monitor more times than the guard you want to takeout. It is at this point in the game where many players are likely to simply quit before they break their pad but for those that press on, you've made the right choice. It soon becomes apparent that these faults are simply down to bad level design in the early stages of the game and Second Sight turns out to be a triumph in storytelling and damn good fun to boot.
Gameplay experiences both Vattic's present and past - throughout his search for the truth, he experiences several playable flashbacks which take the player six months into John's past to a snowy mountain military base in Russia. It is from here that the game really opens up and the player can truly get to grips with Second Sight's aiming and camera systems.
Engage the game's first-person camera system and aside from movement limitations, the game almost becomes Timesplitters for further aiming flexibility. Sadly, John's psychic abilities don't work as fluidly and often lead to bouts of frustration when engaged in hectic combat.
However, persistence pays off and these initial psychic pitfalls are soon overcome and throwing people off cliffs with the power of the mind soon becomes second nature. It is here where the player becomes aware to some of the nasty and cruel things you can achieve with Vattic's powers. For instance, possessing a guard and causing a fire fight between their ranks allowing Vattic to sneak past is just one of the many highlights to be discovered - only the player's imagination limits the fun to be had.
Visually, the game is a mixed bag. On the one hand, everything looks very solid and crisp with some very impressive landscapes in the Russian flashbacks and the characters in the game looking reminiscent of the cartoon style design used in Timesplitters. However, there's a distinct lack of visual flare, certainly with regard to John's psychic powers, and the game ends up looking unique but nothing special.
The real muscle of Second Sight comes in its storytelling, and this is the stuff of Hollywood movies. It is here where the masterstroke of incorporating Timesplitters' animated facial mechanics becomes apparent as characters are able to express the full range of human emotions. Couple this with the game's very respectable voice acting and the player truly feels and identifies with the characters, a rare feat in gaming indeed.
If ever there was a game to hammer home the message that persistence pays off, it's Second Sight. Although not without its faults, which will unfortunately turn some gamers away too early, the rest of us who stick with Free Radical Design's latest will be rewarded with not only a hugely enjoyable experience but one of the best narratives in a game, ever.Overall score: 8 out of 10
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: NowBuy Second Sight for the Xbox from Amazon