Mind over matter. That phrase has been used to describe accomplishing a feat that would normally seem impossible through physical means. It also describes how someone with psychic powers accomplishes things. Not long ago that premise was played out in Midway’s Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy. Now Codemasters has released Free Radical’s Second Sight.
Second Sight puts you in the body of John Vattic. Without giving too much away, John wakes up in an institution, bandaged, with no memory of who he is or how he got there. While trying to escape the medical facility, John will learn of his origins, the events leading up to his capture, and his new abilities.
Second Sight is a good looking game. The most impressive graphics are provided during the psychic abilities. Simply put, they look spectacular. While using the telekinesis power, the object you are moving with your mind will glow. The healing ability will surround John in blue smoke with parallel rings. Charging the Psi Pulse warps the lighting around John’s hand. Explosions are big and bright.
Second Sight uses a special effect when using your psi powers for too long. If your psi powers run out, the screen will flash brightly, and then the screen will turn black and white. A dithering effect will also degrade the screen. Eventually this effect will go away once your psi powers charge up again.
Unfortunately, the game suffers from the limitations of the PS2. The graphics aren’t bad, but the polygon count could be higher. The game does have destructible environments, but the blocks that an object is made up of are easy to see. For instance, while hiding behind a sign, part of the sign broke apart. However, the chunk of the sign that was shot out didn’t look natural.
All of this would be forgivable if there weren’t some glaring issues that take away from the immersion. While crouching, my forehead was firmly through the side of a table…by a couple of inches. Vattic is bandaged up so badly that he really doesn’t need to give himself a lobotomy. Dead enemies have a habit of landing awkwardly, including with their feet up.
The soundtrack really sets the mood for the game, and Second Sight really delivers. Second Sight is a game based on the mysterious. The music has the same vibe as something you’d expect from the X-Files. It adds enough tension without becoming overbearing.
The sound effects of the psychic powers match the stunning visuals. Charging the Psi Pulse will give off a high-pitched noise. Releasing the Psi Pulse will give off a “whoosh” through the air. A low hum accompanies the use of the healing power.
The voice acting is respectable, but it does seem a bit corny at times. Vattic’s voice matches him well, but some of the security guards don’t have the same amount of intensity. While the voice acting isn’t campy, it does at times border on it.
While the controls for Vattic aren’t too difficult, they do have some issues. Moving Vattic consists of using the left stick, while aiming and looking use the right stick. The triangle button switches the camera from a free-look mode, to a static camera, and a manual camera. The X button performs actions. The square button switched Vattic between crouching and standing. Clicking the left stick toggles between first and third person modes. The circle punches enemies. The up and down arrows select weapons, while the left and right arrows select the psi power. L2 locks onto a target, while the R2 will use the psi power or fire the weapon. R1 makes Vattic move up against the wall and enter stealth mode.
While the controls do take some getting used to, they will eventually become second nature. However, the controls never feel tight. The camera control feels loose, and the aiming system doesn’t work as well in practice as it should be in theory. Hitting L2 circles items that can be interacted with by using the psi powers or highlights targets while using a gun. Unfortunately, in a firefight, you might be one off and need to use the right analog stick to get to the right target. This process can take away crucial seconds.
The biggest draw of Second Sight is the psychic powers. Vattic gains his powers relatively quickly in the game, but they slowly gain power. To use his powers, he must have enough energy in his psychic power bar. This bar will refill rather quickly. The other bar is Vattic’s health bar. If this depletes, Vattic dies. However, refilling it is rather easy once the healing power is gained. Just find a place to hide, activate the healing power, fill the health bar, and then wait until the psychic power is filled.
Second Sight also includes weapons, such as the pistol, machine gun, and sniper rifle. An auto-aiming system is used in the game, but it does give a little bit of leeway to create positional damage, such as head shots. Second Sight contains one of the best implementations of the sniper rifle ever. While using the sight on the sniper rifle, the sight of the rifle is in the lower right hand corner. This means that you still see what is going on in your surroundings while using the sniper rifle.
Second Sight also incorporates stealth into the gameplay. Vattic can lean against a wall and then peek around a corner. Vattic can also use objects for cover, move out to fire at enemies, and then return to cover. This portion is almost reminiscent of the Time Crisis series or Kill.Switch.
While you are able to switch between first and third person perspective, the game feels most comfortable when played in third person. While in this mode, if the third person camera is blocked by a wall, the camera will automatically switch to first person. Other than this, it doesn’t feel like the first person perspective is needed. There weren’t any situations where I felt the need to switch to this perspective.
Second Sight sets itself apart because of the psychic powers. Unfortunately, the powers just don’t seem to need to be implemented that often. Using weapons seems to be easier than using the powers because the psychic power bar depletes so quickly. Even running into a gang of guards and punching them all seems to be a better option than trying to use the psychic powers.
The psychic powers never seem to contain the oomph that they should possess. Moving a computer monitor, a trash can, and a person seems to have the same weight. In fact, the trash cans almost feel too light and will nearly bounce at any touch. Hitting a guard with a psi blast throws the guard around, but it never looks like the hit is as hard hard as it should be.
A heavier reliance of the psi powers and a more intuitive aiming system would have made this game stand out more.Second Sight isn’t a long game. It can be finished in less than 20 hours. For some people, that might be a good thing. However, the storyline is intriguing and sucks you in that you want to find out what happened to Vattic. However, after the game is over, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to play the game again.