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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published by: Codemasters
Developed by: Free Radical Design
Genre: Third-Person Action AdventurePlayers: 1-2
Rated: T (Teen)
Release Date: September 21, 2004
Written by: Daniel Sims

March 8, 2005 - The first time I heard about this game was probably a year ago from IGN or Game Informer. When I saw it I was already interested knowing that it was from Free Radical, the same people who brought us the almost criminally addictive Time Splitters 2 (not to mention Goldeneye and Perfect Dark while they were with Rare). However, I was still never completely sure of what to expect from this game. This continued until the day I chose and bought the game over Mega Man X: Command Mission.

Was it worth the 40? Here's the review...

Dr. John Vattic awakens from a coma in a hospital with no memory of who he is or how he got there. What he soon remembers isn't exactly pleasing either, as he is soon assaulted with memories of a spec ops mission gone terribly wrong six month's earlier and gains extraordinary psychic abilities. What exactly happened six months ago in Russia?

The surprisingly interesting storyline and environment is definitely one of the major driving forces of Second Sight. As soon as you turn the game on you are introduced to it by one of the most chilling title screens since Eternal Darkness. You are then thrust into a world that takes the military style plot-lines and environments of games like Splinter Cell or Metal Gear and graphs them onto the art style of Time Splitters 2 to create a unique kind of presentation that is not too cartoony yet also not too dark.

Having an incredibly unique storyline that wouldn't feel out of place in a movie doesn't hurt either. The plot-line is actually one of the most innovative parts of Second Sight. It stats out in what is supposed to be the present, when Vattic finds himself escaping from a lab with his new-found psychic abilities. The story will then switch to his mission in Siberia with the Winter ICE spec ops team six month's earlier and back again. This serves to put you in the same position as Vattic. You only know what he knows, and when he recovers memories, you get to experience them first hand as if they were your own. It's an amazingly simple yet innovative way of storytelling.

The slick presentation of Second Sight is made even better by the impressive visuals. I must admit that Second Sight on the GCN looks a lot better than many multiplatform titles that appear on the cube. After seeing what Free Radical had done with Time Splitters 2, I wasn't particularly afraid that they would do anything wrong with the GameCube version, but I am nonetheless still satisfied that they are a company that will at least try to keep their GCN ports looking as good as on PS2 and Xbox unlike some other companies.

The environments and characters in Second Sight are noticeably more detailed than in a lot of games I've seen for the genre, including Time Splitters 2. Most of the environments in the game are rendered to be crisp and smooth enough to bring you into the presentation of the game. The screenshots you've probably seen really don't do the game justice. The one thing that concerned me with the visuals was that the textures in the game probably could have been better. The indoor environments all look great, but since there is also so much snow and mountains in the game they could have spent some time making those look as realistic as well.

The character models and animations in Second Sight are all top notch! During actual gameplay, the character models aren't as detailed as in some other more visually impressive games, but during the cut-scenes however, their facial and body animations are more fluid and realistic than in most other games I've seen. Lip cinch in the cut-scenes is near perfect and isn't bad at all during actual gameplay. This, along with the well laid-out plot of Second Sight makes it a game that visually feels like a movie on many levels.

I found the gameplay of Second Sight to be fairly innovative compared to all the other shooters I have played. When you first start the game, you start out with only Telekinesis, the first of your psychic abilities. But even then you can do a lot of interesting things. You can pick up things from afar and use them to either knock down enemies with them, or just scare them away!

Later on you will acquire other abilities that include charm, which makes you invisible to other people but not cameras or sensors; projection, which allows you to project your consciousness out of your body and eventually posses others; psi-attack, which basically allows you to attack enemies with psychic energy; and healing.

Throughout the game, you will be required to solve all sorts of puzzles using your psychic abilities. Most of them just involve trying to get from one point to another, finding out how to activate that switch that's out of reach, or just getting something out of the way. Although sometimes possibly frustrating, they are all very intelligent puzzles that give a good enough sense of accomplishment. This all comes together to make a system that introduces a lot of possibilities for how you can get through the various obstacles you encounter. For instance, if you come up to a place where a whole squad of enemies is just around the corner or just behind the door, there are several ways you can take care of all of them: You could use the charm ability to sneak up behind them and break their necks, you could use project to possess one of them and use them to kill the rest or just turn them all against each other long enough for you to slip by, or you could just run in with your guns and blast them all.

This brings me to my next point in the gameplay, the option of using guns as oppose to psychic powers. At points throughout the game, Vattic will have a vision of one of his memories from six months earlier. At these points, you will have a mission that plays like a third person shooter. You'll get most of the normal shooter weapons (pistols, AKs, Snipers, SMGs, etc.), plus a tranquilizer pistol for stealth. For a third person shooter, it plays very well.

The way you aim with the guns is very accurate most of the time. At first it took me a little bit to get used to the aiming reticule but after I got used to it, I could make headshots easily with just about any weapon. The way it works is that when you hold down L, you will automatically lock onto an enemy and you can use the c stick to switch targets and aim at specific parts of the body. The way the sniper aiming is done is really innovative. Instead of switching the whole screen to the scope, only the bottom right portion of the screen is turned to the scope while you can still see yourself in third person in the rest of the screen. It's a surprisingly liberating feature. Overall, It will sometimes take more work than it should to switch to just the right target and avoid getting shot at the same time but it doesn't drag down the game too much unless you are already extremely frustrated.

There's also a good deal of platforming in this game. Although you cannot jump, you will be able to do things such as hanging off of ledges and shimmying along them like in Prince of Persia.

One really big focus in this game that incorporates all of the above features is stealth. In nearly every situation in the game, it is almost always better to use stealth. And the game gives you plenty to work with when sneaking around. On top of all your psychic powers (and the tranq gun), you can shimmy along walls Metal Gear style with the Z button, and there are even lockers and similar compartments that you can hide in. You can also crawl around and potentially hide under tables and other furniture. In missions where you can't use you psychic abilities like charm or projection yet, you can simply peek into another room by quietly cracking the door open.

The camera in Second sight can be switched in between three views: A free moving third person camera, a fixed third person camera, and a first person camera for looking around. As I played the game I used the free third person just a little bit more than the fixed camera. However the first person camera should be used strictly for looking around at things that may be hard to see in third person. You cannot move around in the first person camera. A lot of the time the free camera may decide to move around by itself and sometimes it will rely on your input a little too much, but it's not terrible.

One other aspect of the gameplay that can be quite immersive at times is the use of computers in the game. In most past games, using a computer means simply pressing a single button on it to activate something. In Second Sight when you run into a computer and use it, it is very much like using one in real life. You will first have to move the mouse with the control stick to bring it out of the screen saver. There will even be a desktop where you'll select what want to do. Most of the time, this will mean clicking on and reading documents, finding mail, playing mini-games on the computer, and activating things. The first time I interfaced with a computer early in the game, I found a chat program and discovered that the last guard that I had killed was having a chat conversation with his wife before I killed him! It was pretty entertaining seeing messages like Where r U, Can't wait 2 see U, and Bunny leaves room come up!

Overall, between the stealth, psychic powers, and shooting controls, Second Sight has a gameplay system that does more new things than so many other similar games out there. However, there are many parts where they could have possibly made more of an effort to incorporate the weapons and psychic powers together to get through enemies in what could possible have been even more innovative methods. Instead of being together in this game the two different styles simply sit next to each other, apart from each other.

There could have also been some kind of quick weapon or ability select in the game. If you ever want to switch between weapons and psychic powers, you must use the control pad to scroll through the menu, which pauses the action where you could simple have just been able to quickly select things with assigned buttons and such.

The music in Second Sight is purely original and includes no licensed music. While this is not really a bad thing for a game like this, but that does leave original music that, while isn't terrible, also isn't at all spectacular. If you didn't have a problem with the generic music that you might find in most shooters, then Second Sight's music is just fine for you.

In terms of audio, the best thing about Second Sight is the amazingly solid voice-overs. This is all part of the great presentation of Second Sight. The voices, plus the spectacular character animations in the cut-scenes, make for a very engaging experience that is one of the main draws of the game. Andrew Lawson does a superb job voicing John Vattic, and it's a good thing too because you will hear his voice A LOT while you are playing.

After you beat the game (which took me just over 10 hours), that's pretty much it. Other than going back through the game in hard mode or going back through to try different methods, you're pretty much done with the game. Overall I'd give it a general time of 15 to 20 hours tops including playing both difficulties. Oh, and there’s also some fairly addictive mini-games that you can find in there. In light of this, you might think of the game as a rental. I personally bought it because I was interested in it and was aware of my local Blockbuster's lackluster Gamecube library.

Personal Thoughts
Second Sight is an interesting, engaging, and well crafted experience that just happens to have a couple of kinks and stops just short of where it could have been a highlight of this gaming generation. Second Sight is definitely the best and most ambitious thing to come out of Free Radical yet.


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