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Game Over Online ~ Second Sight (c) Codemasters

Second Sight (c) Codemasters

Published: Thursday, September 16th, 2004 at 04:17 PM
Written By: Thomas Wilde

Upon its release, Second Sight is going to have to contend with an unfortunate comparison, as Psi-Ops--the other action game starring a psionically augmented hero--beat it to the market by a couple of months.

The two games really aren't that much alike. Psi-Ops is a balls-to-the-wall action game that is, essentially, about telekinetically throwing some poor bastard into horrible death machines; Second Sight is split evenly between psychological thriller, high adventure, fast-paced gunplay, and weird conspiracies.

When Second Sight begins, a bald man is strapped to a bed somewhere in New England. In order, he finds out that he can't remember anything; he's apparently been shot a few times; the guards think he's a psychotic killer; he's telekinetic; the guards are shooting to kill; he looks quite a bit like a shaved Gordon Freeman; and his name is John Vattic.

Learning that last bit of information triggers a flashback. He's a doctor of parapsychology, specializing in debunking so-called paranormal phenomena. Six months ago, as requested by a psychic named Jayne Wilde, he accompanied an American special forces unit to Russia on a mission to help rescue a Russian scientist. Now he's back in the United States, he's got psionic powers that he doesn't really understand, and the American government is hunting him down.

Second Sight takes place in the past and present simultaneously. In the present, Vattic has to evade the NSA and whoever else is after him while searching for clues to his identity and his past, while in the past, Vattic and the special forces unit fight through Russian soldiers in Siberia.

In either version, Second Sight is a third-person shooter, heavy on the adventure and stealth elements, light on the serious gunplay. It emphasizes cover and concealment at all times; Vattic's hard to kill, but five guys with rifles will do the trick. Most of the time, you're encouraged to step softly, eliminating single opponents with tranquilizer darts to the back of the head or a quick pistol-whipping. Otherwise, one of them might call an alert in, and then you'll be up to your ears in annoyed security guards.

In the present scenario, Vattic has discovered his powers, and learns new ones at a pretty fast clip; you'll have most if not all of them by the time you reach the fourth stage. Most of his powers are there to provide puzzle solutions, rather than new and exciting ways to kill people. For example, you can throw distant switches with telekinesis, charm a guard into not seeing you, or astrally project yourself straight through a laser fence.

Of course, you can also throw people off of tall buildings or knock them a couple of hundred feet with a powerful blast of psychic force. This isn't all hippie crap.

In the past scenario, Vattic's just one member of a crew of seven soldiers. He doesn't have any powers, so you need to be even more careful. Fortunately, he can hug walls, peek around corners, edge open doors, duck into air vents, and do a few other things straight out of the stealth-action hero playbook... or he can open up on a roomful of people with an AK-47. It really depends on how you feel at the moment.

Most stages, past or present, require a blend of both approaches. You'll have a hard time completing a level if the guards are alerted, since fresh waves of enemies will keep coming as long as the alarm's blaring, and the first thing they'll usually do is turn the alarm back on. The trick is to figure out the path of least resistance in every stage, which can be mundane--watching a guard's patrol route and sneaking past him--or as psychic--possessing one guard and sending him on a psychotic rampage, or telekinetically bringing a guard to you so you can knock him unconscious--as you want it to be.

The real reason to progress through each level is to figure out how the story's going to turn out. Second Sight's plotline is fairly straightforward; find out what the hell happened to Vattic in Siberia. The twists and turns along the way are occasionally predictable (there's a twist near the end of the third stage in the past that's barely a twist at all), but they're delivered by a great cast of voice actors with some outstanding dialogue and, perhaps most importantly, some really evocative work with the character models.

Second Sight's cast boasts some of the most expressive faces I've ever seen on a video game character; they're slightly oversized and cartoony, and Vattic boasts strange flapping boat-hands that could palm a medicine ball, but it really helps to communicate what they're thinking and saying at any given moment. You can see anger, fear, amusement, glee, and being real dead flit across their faces clearly and evocatively.

The rest of the game's graphics aren't quite as impressive, but does the job nicely. There're some great effects with gunfire, as bullets streak towards you in flying lines of white, and there's some kind of Havoc-esque ragdoll physics enabling you to toss corpses at frightened soldiers. The animation cuts a few corners and the guns aren't as exhaustively detailed as in some other games, but the engine is still playing to its considerable strengths.

It's a shame that Psi-Ops came out before Second Sight, because now Second Sight has to play catch-up. It's the superior game in many ways; it's smarter, funnier, faster, and more varied. In a perfect world, it wouldn't be mentioned at the same time as Psi-Ops; they're two wildly dissimilar games linked tenuously by similar subject matter.

Well, that and throwing bastards off tall buildings.

Questions or comments about the upcoming release of Second Sight for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube? Talk to us!

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