Review by Old Rooster
Within the next few weeks, PC owners will be able to enjoy one
of the more intriguing titles to be released for all three consoles
this season. The publisher is to be commended for not only creating
a PC version, but also dropping the price of its console releases
to $19.99 very shortly after introduction. Second Sight is
a "sleeper hit," and one of the best values on the shelves
today, whichever version you choose. Let's take a look.
"Why Can't I Remember Anything?" John Vattic
"The pain ... the unbearable pain ... my head is about to
explode ... I'm Vattic, John Vattic ... the light is too bright
... it's burning ... where am I? What has happened? What have they
done to me? Why can't I remember?"
Poor John. He sounds a bit like me when I wake up in the morning.
But our hero, John Vattic, has a quite different level of problem
than this Old Rooster ever experiences (well, except once, when
the wife was particularly upset). He's strapped down, in a hospital-type
setting, and overhears attendants saying some quite dreadful things
about himas in, "Be careful with that one," and
"He's a psycho killer." As John's head begins to clear,
his straps break mysteriously loose and, after wandering around
his room a bit, he discovers an abilitytelekinesisallowing
him to unlock his door as well as throw some furniture around the
Second Sight, which some might call a shooter but I would
view more as an action/adventure, weaves a very involving and inventive
tale of an amnesiac rediscovering himself. In doing so, John realizes
he has been subjected to traumatic surgery and experimentation,
finds he has incredible powers, becomes aware of the urgency to
get out of his imprisonment, and has flashbacks that become all
too real, even to the extent of affecting his present situation!
"I've Got to Get out of Here" John
Second Sight is controlled from a third-person, over-the-shoulder
perspective. On my Cube, I found movement smooth and responsive,
but with some problems in the way of camera placement difficulty.
Two difficulty levels are offered, normal and challenging. Subtitles
are available, a boon to our hearing-impaired friends. Save points,
automatically activated, are not as plentiful as I would like. A
first-person view can be triggered, used mostly for easier room
panning and peeking around corners.
As John experiences an "attack," his health diminishes.
This can be replenished by using a first-aid kit, finding a friendly
medic, or, most dramatically, employing psi power! As John (you,
the player) moves though the game and self-discovery, not only are
prosaic weapons found, but also a range of psi powers are sequentially
remembered, just in time for best use. These include:
- TelekinesisMove an object by "focusing thoughts."
This attribute grows in strength from shifting a desktop PC to
the floor to heaving a person out of a window.
- PulseProject a nasty ball of energy at an opponent. This
is very consuming of your own health.
- CharmEssentially an invisibility cloak.
- ProjectionLeaving the body to possess and control the
body of another (cf. a wonderful old game: Messiah).
Of course, as you may imagine, using these powers can sap John's
energy, and he will often need a quiet place to recover without
exposing himself as a target during that vulnerable time. Once everything
is opened and available to John, the repertoire of weapons and powers
can be accessed with the pause button, which opens a menu. This
also gives John access to map views, computer terminals, and his
PDA, sometimes a vital source of information.
If this begins to sound a bit complex, it is, at least for a while.
Second Sight has a running tutorial that eases you into the
weaving threads of the storyline as well as the psi abilities and
character control. However, in spite of this, I found the learning
curve rather high, with it taking about two hours for me to feel
really comfortable with the rhythm and flow of managing the game.
A couple of times, I was ready to throw in the towel, but what kept
me going was the story and wondering "what's around the next
corner?" I'm very glad I persevered.
Not many games offer a "Morality Rating." Early on, John
has a classic choice of sneaking or shooting (cf. Metal Gear
Solid and Splinter Cell), with this alternative commonly
offered throughout the game. Indeed, frequently you'll have a choice
of stealth, gunplay, or inventive use of psi powers to accomplish
your objectives. You don't always have to kill the guards; you can
sneak around them. This option and subsequent "rating"
doesn't seem to affect the script or outcome one way or the other,
but it is interesting.
What does seem to affect the script, though, and is absolutely
fascinating, is the use of a flashback approach to the recovery
of John's memory. Reminiscent of Shadow
of Destiny (but without alternate endings), about
half of the evolving storyhow John got to his current status
and what happens nextis not only told but played in the past,
in essence a dual narrative. This past gives us a character without
much of his current power, but also offers decisions and choices
that not only reveal the present but affect and even change it!
Once that control learning curve is overcome, the 17 levels open
in atmospheric and suspenseful fashion.
Being particularly concerned about "spoiler" comments,
there are some significant aspects of the game, especially related
to story flow and twists, that I'm not referencing here. I don't
want to spoil your fun of discovery!
"What and Where Is this Place?" John
The developers of Second Sight also created TimeSplitters
2, with the graphic engine clearly being an update of that fine
effort. Shooter fans will be pleased by the impact of shots and,
especially, the special effects associated with psi powers. Character
modeling is well done, with good facial animations. The environment
is generally interactivethrowing those PCs around with telekinesis
can be quite satisfying, and less expensive than doing it in real
life. Locations, ranging from a Vermont asylum to New York City
to the icefields of Siberia, look detailed and realistic.
It's the terrific script and voice acting, though, that lift Second
Sight well beyond the realm of a "gimmicky shooter,"
which had been my initial impression. You care about John and want
to help him somehow clear his mind and resolve his gut-wrenching
dilemma. The language (Teen rating) can be rough, but it is what
you'd expect within the context of the game. Background musical
themes are well-done and appropriate to the settings. Sound effects
are dead-on, sometimes literally!
Uncover Your Past ... Face Your Future
Second Sight brings us one of the best console game stories
of the year. It's beautifully scripted and acted, with twists and
turns that will leave you guessing, surprised, and desirous of playing
to the next step. Even though the game may be viewed from one perspective
as a sneaker/shooter, it also offers the unique gameplay option
of solving puzzles and progressing by using creative psi abilities.
Although camera/control problems, targeting difficulties, learning
curve, and insufficient save points bring my rating down a bit,
I still would highly recommend Second Sight to any action
gaming fan willing to venture beyond the ordinary.
What I Liked About the Game
- Story, scripting and acting are top-notch;
- The choice of multiple tactics is fun;
- Using psi abilities is creative and entertaining;
- The graphic engine is excellent.
Reservations I Had About the Game
- The learning curve was high, at least for me;
- Controls can sometimes be imprecise;
- Infrequent save points require long periods of play and related
repetition when killed during a level.
Release Date: September 2004 (to be released for PC on February
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium III or Athlon at 1GHz (Pentium 4 at 2GHz or AthlonXP 2000+
256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)
Supported graphics card: ATi Radeon 8500, 9000, 9100, 9200, 9500,
9600, 9700, 9800, X600, X800; nVidia GeForce 3 Ti200/Ti500, GeForce4
MX420/ MX440, Ti4200/ Ti4600, GeForce FX5200/ FX5600/ FX5700/ FX5800/
FX5900/FX5950, GeForce 6800GT. Not compatible with all integrated
sound/graphics solutions (including laptops).
DirectX 9 compatible sound card
8x CD-ROM drive (32x recommended)
1 GB freee hard disk space
Where to Find It
Links provided for informational purposes only.
FFC makes no warranty with regard to any transaction entered into
by any party(ies).