#605 Second Sight

Posted: 2nd April 2011 by Mulholland in Games
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43rd game played so far

Genre: Action
Platform: Gamecube/PC/Playstation 2/Xbox
Year of Release: 2004
Developer: Free Radical Designs
Publisher: Codemasters

Can you quite believe that we have covered a game from every year in the last 15 years with the exception of 2004? It’s a bit of a strange oversight to be honest so I was able to this gap in our coverage to push forward the playing of Second Sight. I previously owned the title on the Gamecube but, as it always is, I was strapped for cash and as such traded it in. I then found it on eBay rather cheaply so thought it was worth a flutter for one of the select few games that successfully managed to bring psychic powers to a console.

We previously covered the Free Radical game Timesplitters 2 and we will one day be covering another game by them. So, let’s get on with it.

Our Thoughts

It is all too common for developers to pigeon-hole themselves within a particular genre after creating a successful franchise. So when Free Radical, the makers of the classic Timesplitters series decided to venture into single-player action it was always going to be somewhat of a gamble. This was especially so since Free Radical really became noteworthy in their execution of multi-player shoot ’em ups. When playing this, however, there is absolutely no doubt that this is a Free Radical game. This can be seen by the menus, the character designs and (most obviously) the sense of humour.

Of course with this being after Timesplitters 2 (which we previously covered here) everything that these games hold in common have been given a good deal of polish. I can agree with the above, but what is also clear is that this game takes full advantage of it being single player. Through the game, you play through two storylines – before and after – that intertwine, with both having different gameplay with the possible abilities. And the powers you get are so different that you couldn’t easily use them in multiplayer, both because of how and when they’re unlocked, and how many are more focused on solving puzzles and progressing through the game using them.

It is the powers themselves which are the game’s ace in the hole. In total there are five psychic powers you are able to unlock (Projection, Telekinesis, Psi Power, Charm and Healing) and these get powered up as you progress further along the game. You can also use weapons which you pick up on your travels such as pistols and submachine guns. An interesting weapon included with these are various strengths of tranquilizer darts so you are able to fight your way through levels without bloodshed. This is not always avoidable but there is the option.

This is something that I love about Second Sight, the fact that there is usually more than one way to complete your objectives. Yeah, aside from the shooting your way through method, you can sneak past as well or use your powers to good effect – either to sneak or to fight. You can ask scientists for help or kill them to get past them.  This is actually made very clear in the tutorial level, where you have to go through the same area  twice – just sneaking through, after that by shooting (with blanks) the guards in the level. There is less of an option when you are playing ‘in the past’ as you storm Russian army complexes in the snow. In this, whilst you are in possession of a tranquilizer gun, it is more advisable to blast your way through. Speaking of which, the shooting mechanics are an absolute dream to play with.

There is something very satisfying about headshots (ah, I love headshots) and the controls are executed so cleanly that they are fairly easy to achieve without the feeling that you are being spoon-fed. I also loved that the sniper rifles had an automatic zoom, something which pays dividends at the beginning of the Rescue mission. I can echo that on the controls, which were very easy to pick up on. I’m not great at these games – not my favourite genre – but Peter had to admit I was actually quite adept and picked up the game fairly fast – in part from practice with other games, in part because I’m actually not that bad with these games and have been informed of such by others, but also because the controls themselves didn’t get in the way. From sneaking to shooting to using powers, they made sense and were intuitive, and with the exception of a slip-up or two, they didn’t ever get in the way.

This game, somehow, even managed to make escort missions enjoyable to play. Usually they are as dumb as a sack of hammers and will happily flaunt themselves in front of the opposition whilst jumping up and down in the air pleading to know what a gunshot wound feels like. This game not only worked out kinks in the AI so that the woman you escort is actually scared and will not run off ahead but also allows you to use your healing ability on her, meaning that unless you find yourself out  of her eye line you are able to make sure her health bar is always as near as full as possible. She’s also suitably creepy and crazy, adding to the atmosphere. But yeah, this is a rescue mission where you do have to escort, but don’t have to worry that much about it either. Yes… some of the dialogue she spouts as you escort her over the rooftops gave me the creeps. Especially when she asks if you are playing a game of hide and seek.

The atmosphere itself was quite good too. The story is divided in two parts, as said, one before the happening that gives you psychic powers, one after that, and the two mix between. The feel of both parts is quite different. In the before storyline, you’re part of a military group and you go through bunkers, strictly designed, as you often see in similar games. In the after story line, you have psychic abilities and escape from a research facility. There’s far more computers around, and parts of it are more technological and more absurd, while others seem grubbier, when you get to the rescue missions and have to sneak out over rooftops and through back alleys. This inter-mingling of timelines is something that Free Radical have always enjoyed doing their games. Whilst it was okay in Timesplitters 2 it was only really perfected in this game.

When examining the output of the studio as a whole Second Sight marks the stepping stone between the second and third entry in the Timesplitters series. It was because of this game that they were finally able to produce a well executed single player mode in their next game. Looking back on this game makes it even sadder that Free Radical went into administration in 2008 resulting in its takeover by German developer Crytek. It marked the end of one of the great small British games developers and since Timesplitters 4 still appears to be shelved we will have to look to the multiplayer of recent release Crysis 2 to see those Free Radical Designs credentials back in action.

Final Thoughts

We have spent a lot of time complimenting this game and mourning the loss of this UK-based developer. This may be a game on the 1001 list but it is never featured on any ‘best of’ lists in magazines so I guess a lot of it really is down to personal taste. It is a game that I love dearly and am glad to have an excuse to play again.

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