Developer(s) – Free Radical Design
Publisher(s) – Codemasters
Lead Designer – Mike Armstrong
Back in the sixth generation of gaming, 3D third person shooting was more or less in its infancy; long before games such as Gears of War and Mess Effect would go on to populate and revolutionize the genre, and deliver some of the greatest gaming experiences to date. As a genre in it’s early stages, I had trouble enjoying many third person shooters on the PlayStation 2, including Max Payne, Operation Winback, Headhunter, and the subject of this week’s PlayStatement feature; Second Sight. Though I think it stands out better than most others of that time, not many of the fundamentals were done quite right, and the game suffered because of it in my opinion.
Graphics – 5/10
For what had been seen already on the PlayStation 2, such as Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid 2 and Final Fantasy X, the game’s visuals are not only substandard from a technical point of view, but also from a conceptual one. The settings are extremely bland, made up of what players would find in most typical Medal of Honour or Call of Duty games, and nothing about them makes it stand out from most other games; even for the time. The most positive thing I can say in terms of visuals is that it’s a very polished game with minimal glitches in sight.
Gameplay – 5.5/10
I have played much worse games than this, and much less variable ones too; indeed having psychic powers at your disposal certainly offers some diversity in gameplay. But as far the run-and-cover based shooting is concerned, I found it pretty frustrating; especially since some sequences can simply be bypassed by players with a sacrifice to some health, and where’s the fun to be had in that? I can appreciate that many of the game mechanics in Second Sight could be seen as precursors to some of the ideas seen in later classic games, such as the Mass Effect trilogy, but with this title, it was very much a question of trial and error; but with a lot more errors than I would have personally liked.
Controls – 6/10
As I mentioned before, third person shooting games had a long way to go at this point to being perfected, with many developers at the time focusing on genres such as first-person shooters, 3D platformers, and especially RPGs. Control schemes for those kinds of games had long since been developed almost to the point of perfection. But with third person shooting, it was a very different story in my opinion. Specifically in Second Sight, I found the controls for using psychic powers in Second Sight to be quite a chore, and at times, incredibly difficult to get to grips with. At the time, it wasn’t often that games in the genre to have even as much variety as there is in this title, and so it was always going to be a question of trial and error in this respect too.
Lifespan – 2.5/10
Even if it isn’t rushed, this game can only take about three and a half hours to finish. There are minimal side quests, and the main objective of the game seems to be only to find out what happens next in the story. I despair whenever I find a game that has little to no side quests when there was quite clearly room for at least one, since it would suggest laziness on the part of the developers to me.
Storyline – 7/10
By far, the best thing I can attribute to this game is its story. It follows a parapsychology researcher and former soldier named John Vattic, who is on an expedition to recover his memory and discover the reasons and machinations behind his newly found range of psychic abilities. There are quite a few twists and turns throughout to keep things interesting, and whilst the voice acting may be a little bit off at times (as was somewhat of a stable thing back then), the dialogue is pretty well written, and the story has a lot of suspense attached to it.
The most unique things about this game are its added variety in gameplay compared with most other games in the genre, and of course, it’s pretty well conceived plot. But where it loses marks in is through its bland conceptual design, which hampers the game quite a bit. At times, it reminded me very much of Hitman: Contracts, which is one of my least favourite video games of all time. I can appreciate that there were signs of the developers wanting to deliver something very unique for the time, and it worked well for quite a lot of people; but not for me.
In summation, Second Sight could have been seen as a great game in scope, if the developers had gotten the basics right, but sadly, that wasn’t the case. Though it has become a cult classic for many other gamers since it’s release, I had too hard a time trying to see it’s full appeal, and am unable to completely appreciate it.