Developer: Free Radical Design
Release Date: February 15, 2005
Free Radical is a funny little group. After the success of Rare's huge hit Goldneye 007 for the Nintendo 64, a group of the guys on the team apparently felt a need to separate. They formed a little company and called themselves Free Radical, and showed off some expertise with a little first-person-shooter of their own – Timesplitters. The game was good enough to warrant two sequels, and Free Radical’s also put together this little game, Second Sight.
Originally, Second Sight was released last year for Xbox, Playstation 2, and Gamecube; for whatever reason, it’s only now hitting the PC platform, and at a reasonably low price of $25 or so. As is the case with many PC ports, the game inevitably suffers from some control issues and configuration hassles. You can't save at any time, which is fairly disappointing for PC gamers. Though there is a checkpoint system, you must restart a level if you exit the game – which, unfortunately, you have to do to adjust any graphical or aural settings.
Luckily, the game is worth setting up and sitting down with. You control Vattic, and the game starts out with, naturally, this poor fella waking up in a hospital bed, not knowing how he got there. He snaps alert and wow, lookie here! Vattic’s got telekenesis powers. He’s a natural magician.
Admittedly, the storyline starts off a bit slow and predictable, but it quickly ramps up. The second level is a flashback – Vattic is at a military base of some sort, learning the basics and apparently preparing for combat, though the nerdy looking fella surely didn’t come there for that purpose. As the game progresses, these flashback sequences and the apparent present time intertwine and loop around, until a twisted, convoluted, but surprisingly enjoyable storyline finally comes to a satisfying end.
The first power that Vattic discovers is the ability to move objects with his mind. By locking on to a selectable target and applying a little concentration (or, rather, the left mouse button) you can grab dozens of available objects and use them as weapons, shields, or simply scare off your foes.
As you progress through the adventure, you’ll learn to heal yourself, trigger blasts of psy-energy, zip out of your body to spy on fearsome forces before heading into battle, and even pull off what is undoubtedly Vader-inspired: the ol’ choke-‘em-from-a-distance-and-throw-‘em-against-a-wall trick. The bit of stealth-oriented gameplay found here isn’t terribly deep or terribly innovative, but it is welcome, and a nice complement to the also-simplistic (but fun) combat system. Truth be told, Vattic is a bit too strong, and while the game can be challenging, death is rarely an issue, especially with the healing powers at your fingertips. Encouragement to use your cool moves would be nice, too – you can pretty much play the whole game with your basic handguns.
As noted before, the controls are a bit problematic. There are several control options, and while it’s easy to be competent, it’s hard to excel. The camera makes a habit of getting itself into sticky situations, especially in narrow hallways. More unfortunate, the lock-on system is less than ideal; getting the proper target requires constant toggling and waiting to see where the crosshair decides to move. Moving around objects with telekensesis can be a hassle, too – moving objects from a distance feels sluggish, and moving objects nearby can be downright awkward.
The graphics in the game are well done. I can’t exactly place my finger on it, but there’s something about this game that immediately rings Timesplitters bells – perhaps it’s the slightly cartoony look of the characters, or the light color palette, or the animation. Whatever it is, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The game has a look that’s very distinctive to Free Radical games, but none others, and that is respectable. Don’t expect the game to push your system to its limit, but you can look forward to comfortably good graphics.
The music in the game can, at times, sound directly out of an episode of The X-Files, and it’s perfectly fitting. Sound effects are good here, too, from the fitting buzz of using your mind’s abilities or a blast of gunfire. Voices are not completely great, but there’s little to complain about. Some minor characters sound pretty stereotypical and bland, but Vattic’s actor and others really seem in tune with their characters.
This is a fine game. It’s no killer app – it’s no Half-Life 2, and Vattic’s remote moving abilities aren’t nearly as cool as Gordon’s gravity gun. Nonetheless, this one is packed with a solid gameplay, a substantial amount of levels for a lengthy experience, some really, really cool special powers, and a really enjoyable storyline. If you’ve been a fan of any of Free Radical’s work, or are just looking for a good little adventure for a fair price, and somehow missed this when it was released last year - you’re now getting a second chance to give Second Sight a second look.
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