Spooky. Who could've known that two telekinetic mindcontrol games would arrive on desk in the same issue - except perhaps someone with extra-sensory perception. Or a release schedule. In any case, Will Porter is taxing his undeveloped young mind with Psi-Ops (over the page), while I'm using what grey matter I have left after decades of alcohol abuse to play Second Sight. Developer Free Radical Design was formed by exmembers of the illustrious Nintendo 64 GoldenEye team at Rare, and has been busy making the tongue-in-cheek console shooters Timesplitters , Timesplitters 2 and TimeSplitters 3 over the past few years. A great pedigree - but is the company's first PC game (actually a conversion k of last year's third-person console action-thriller) worthy of a brain drain?
To my considerable fanboy relief, Second Sight turns out to be a decent and enjoyable couple of days gaming. You play as Dr John Vattic, a geeky scientist in the mould of Half-Life's Gordon Freeman, who awakes in a US medical facility, beaten-up and having no memory, but with newly-acquired psychic powers. And no - we're not talking about bending spoons here. Instead, Vattic can pick up and throw objects and people, heal himself and perform other freaky abilities that are revealed as you progress.
Each level in the game alternates between the present and flashbacks to the past -six months previous, the non-telekinetic Dr Vattic was recruited to a top-secret military operation to discover the whereabouts of a mysterious scientist specialising in psychic phenomena. As the plot unravels you travel to various locations around the world including Siberia and New York, meet new characters and begin to piece your shattered life back together.
I was sceptical about the two different story strands at first, but it's a useful way - especially in early levels - of breaking up the stealthier psychic sequences with the more full-on squadbased action of the special-ops missions. The different time zones are also a useful narrative device, and with the use of short-and-sweet cut-scenes, genuinely keep you impatient to I discover more about the mind-bending conspiracy at hand.
As with Midway's Psi-Ops, the game's major selling point is the use of psi powers (shown with a rechargeable bar in the top left-hand comer of the screen) that your lead character can use to interact with the environment. This is dependant, quite obviously, on having a physics system that allows you to fling stuff about, as you can with the gravity gun in Valve's magnificent shooter. Unfortunately, Second Sight's physics qualification is strictly GCSE Grade F compared with Half-Life 2's first-class honours degree.
When using your powers of telekinesis, by first autotargeting an object, then using both mouse buttons, everything appears to weigh the same -from small boxes to hulking pieces of medical technology -all bouncing around like they're made of tin. Worse still, when you want to be able to pick up enemies and slam them against walls or throw them off ledges, the bodies flap like mannequins filled with cotton wool.
Admittedly, it's cruelly entertaining when the poor fools start writhing in mid-air, holding their throats and gasping make it stop", but the fun is stilted because the ragdolls are so like, erm, ragdolls, and tend to crumple in extremely unrealistic (and very painful) ways.
Nasty physics glitches also happen throughout the game, that tend to break the illusion of reality, snapping you out of the action. Drinks cans vibrate and suddenly drop through tables, while enemies kick at you with ghostly legs that can pass through glass doors - strange unearthly phenomena that we reckon aren't meant to occur.
However, Second Sight later introduces genuinely innovative psychic upgrades to aid Dr Vattic in overcoming some of the game's simple puzzles, such as bypassing a lethal laser trap (see All in the Mind', above).
If you want to ignore any namby-pamby mind powers, Second Sight does offer you the opportunity of using good old-fashioned weaponry to dish out some serious 21st-century justice. Dr Vattic can use tranquiliser guns, pistols, machine guns and shotguns, along with a particularly fine sniper rifle that zooms in on an enemy for easy head shots.
Targeting with both weapons and psi powers, though, is often a trickin' nightmare in the game. An auto-target feature supposedly locks onto the nearest enemy by pressing the right mousebutton, but it doesn't always happen. This means that you can be frantically trying to shoot a soldier with a machine gun, while the game is auto-aiming on a goon on the left with a slow-firing pistol.
More annoying is the fact that when using psi powers to finish off adversaries, the game locks onto any moveable object -not good when you have a marauding bunch of killer hoods to deal with and you're busy levitating a cardboard box by mistake. The camera doesn't help either, offering a third-person view that strays into difficult viewing points, a useless static camera and a first-person mode that doesn't allow you to move...
In The End Though...
Yet despite all these glitches, through sheer will power. Second Sight manages to remain entertaining fare. Free Radical Design's cartoon style has great charm, the music is superb, and its other trademark - silly humour - is evident, with one hilarious animation of an enemy shot in the groin, managing to make him look both embarrassed and in absolute agony. Second Sight's great strength over Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy is the storyline and atmosphere, but we have to conclude that the latter's physics system and psychic powers are far superior. At least that's what the voices in my head are telling me.
Download Second Sight
Produced by the same team that gave us Timesplitters and Timesplitters 2, Second Sight seemed to be an exciting new title that'd give me not only some exciting psychic gameplay, but also promised a new stealth experience. While this game does look particularly good and seemed to have entertaining gameplay, it's got an incredibly painful learning curve. All in all, while the game does get better in the long game, it isn't what I'd call a good game for full price.
As for the game's traditional gameplay, you're playing from a third person perspective using a targeting reticule to fire weapons and other targeting. The reticule works well for the most part, but in crucial circumstances, tends to not work properly, forcing you to rely on a little dot that doesn't show up past a few feet. As far as enemies go, in most levels, you'll have to deal with infinitely spawning guards that have a nasty tendency to possess the amazing psychic power to see you coming even if you're crawling through a ventshaft and they've got their backs turned.
Second Sight's main feature is its host of psychic powers. In comparison to the most recent psychic game to come out, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy , Second Sight requires a lot more care and attention to strategy, as the powers are much more difficult to use properly early on. The main powers you'll come to rely on are your psychic blast, projection, and charm powers, supplemented by telekinesis and healing. Projection lets you take control of an enemy, while psi blast knocks them out and charm lets you hide from onlookers. These powers each start out relatively inadequate, and most unfortunate, in the scenarios when you're introduced to the new powers, they're hard to use. In particular I'm referring to how some of your psychic powers can automatically fail, costing you your entire psychic power reserve.
Ultimately, this game has its merit, as it makes for a decent story and some entertaining psychic powers, but poor gameplay makes for an extremely frustrating game, until you're pretty far along.
Snapshots and Media
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