Saturday, September 16, 2006

Review: Second Sight

Amazingly I only picked this game up because it was developed by Free Radical, the folks who brought you the Timesplitters series. Timesplitters 2, while flawed, claimed quite a few hours from me if just from trying to complete all the challenges. So I thought I couldn't miss with buying this.

First off - I played the PC version. I would recommend this over the console versions due to the controls. Considering it is stealth based precise aim is a must and the control method is already quite complex without having to deal with inaccurate control sticks. Basically when you wish to aim your gun, you have a mixture of a lockon - but a small aim circle appears over the spot you will hit. I imagine headshots aren't very fun on the console equivalents.

The story is suprisingly good, considering how arcade like Free Radical's other games are. You basically start the game out as man in a mental facility and no memory of how you got there or who you are. You start to realize you have psychic abilities, mostly by accident. You also start having flashback of a mission six months ago that started this whole mess. As the game commences the plot becomes very clear and a final "Aha!" moment will occur towards the end. I enjoyed it quite a bit, games with good gameplay AND story are few and far between these days.

The graphics in this game are the same style as Timesplitters, stylish cartoony characters with exaggerated features. For a game with a pretty serious story it's amazing that it works so well. Their facial features and moods are easy to recognize compared to the stone faced characters of other games. It's not HL2, but its mighty impressive.

The gameplay is well rounded. The game is a third person stealth action game. You use psychic powers to get through the game's obstacles and enemies and earn them as you move between levels. Telekinesis allows you to manipulate switches and objects from afar as well as toss enemies around like ragdolls. Throwing soldiers off tall ledges is really funny to watch. You have healing, but it is limited in that you will be vulnerable as you are healing. Projection allows you to send out a 'spirit' version of yourself to scout ahead and hit switches, or (later in the game) take over enemy bodies to force them to fight each other or, if you are really feeling evil, make them jump off cliffs. You get different powers as the levels progress, with your character learning them as he needs them. The gameplay is definately the strongest point of this game and thats a good thing.

The levels themselves range from all out action to missions where you simply can't afford to be seen. Although if you are caught and alarms sound, you can always duck for cover and it will be all clear eventually. With all the powers this game gives you, you'll become quite efficient in being a ghost.

The sound effects are pretty good, with decent sounding guns. The music reminds me very much of Timesplitters and really adds to the mood. In fact the main theme seems taken from the Siberia level in Timesplitters....I swear it. It also picks up when enemies are nearby and in levels that require more force than stealth. It is actually one of the few games I can recall the tracks after finishing....which to me indicates it was quality not just ambience.

In all I would say it was definately worth the bargain bin price I paid for it. This game is highly underrated, and it bothers me that it got such low reviews on some websites. Sure the controls take some time to get used to, but that hardly detracts from the experience. Even though there wasn't much 'replay value' since the game was linear, I still feel like replaying it because it was that good.

The one damning feature of this game is that it uses the dreaded Starforce. I went out of my way to find a patch to remove it, and luckily one such patch exists. I won't link it here for obvious reasons, but if Starforce prevents you from trying it I suggest a few google searches to remedy the situation. Starforce should *never* stop you from enjoying a game and its a shame that Codemasters stuck it to a game that already had trouble selling on the consoles.

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