In place of the gravel voiced, veteran super spy you usually play in these games, the hero here is John Vattic. He’s a bookish professor who’s made a career out of debunking psychic phenomena who turns out to be, to his surprised disbelief, a gifted psychic in his own right.
Vattic doesn’t use any fancy radar system or light meter to get his sneak on, relying instead on a selection of mental powers. Why bother with all those high-tech toys when you have the power to cloud men’s minds, walking by unseen? If you thought sneaking up behind a guard to take him out with a stealth kill was fun, wait until you possess his mind and force him to shoot up his buddies and then walk off a balcony. Of course, if you prefer the old fashioned, hands-on method, you always have that option as well.
That kind of flexibility is one of Second Sight’s strengths. A stealth game at heart, you can get through most of the game with very little true stealth if that is your preference. There’s plenty of firepower on hand if you choose to go in guns blazing and your psionic powers offer some pretty powerful, not to mention entertaining, options as well. You won’t get through the game without using all three elements at different times, but there is definitely plenty of flexibility for the player to rely on their favorite method of problem solving throughout most of the game.
The presentation is high quality, if a step below the best of what’s out there. The game appears to use a slightly tweaked version of the TimeSplitters 2 engine, which is by no means a bad thing. The animation is smooth, everything is cleanly rendered and nicely detailed, the lighting and effects are well done, and there are basically no graphical anomalies. Cut scenes are all rendered in-engine and feature excellent lip-synching. The art style is also similar to TimeSplitters, but with a slightly less exaggerated, more serious edge. It has a unique look that’s reminiscent of old animation, like Johnny Quest, crossed with contemporary videogames. It’s different, but it works well.
The story and script are on the level of a really first rate B-movie or a good X-Files episode, which means that this is one of the best stories I’ve seen in a videogame. In a genre where the highlights are the incoherent, preachy and convoluted ramblings of the Metal Gear series and the dry, sterile, by-the-numbers Clancy-isms of Splinter Cell, this is a welcome surprise and one of the game’s strongest features. The story held some interesting twists and brought to mind some of Philip K. Dick’s work, which is high praise indeed. The voice acting is good enough to convey the story and the rest of the sound design and music is solid but unremarkable.
The controls are smooth and well implemented, with nearly every button on the controller used. Unfortunately, the default control scheme is the only option but considerable thought went into it and it shouldn’t offer most gamers any trouble. The camera is functional, but like most third person cameras, can be annoying at times.
Throughout the game there are lots of little touches that show the care that was put into the game. There is a lot of background information scattered around that can be ignored if you don’t care or perused carefully if you are interested. If you take time to listen you will hear any number of odd and amusing lines from different characters in the game. These have essentially nothing to do with the story but add something intangible to the experience. A number of relevant and not-so-relevant statistics are gathered and stored and there’s even a mini-game hidden in there for you to find. These kinds of flourishes are familiar to players of other Free Radical games and, as always, are a welcome touch.
What you have here is a combination of solid elements into a cohesive and appealing whole. It’s a worthwhile purchase or rental for fans of the stealth action genre or those that enjoy a good story in their games. Particularly impressive is the fact that this is Free Radical’s first foray outside of the first-person shooter genre. Sitting just a step below the definitive titles in the genre and surpassing them in several aspects, this game marks Free Radical as a developer of considerable promise.