Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Game Talk #11: Second Sight

Second Sight.

I can't remember how I discovered this game but I imagine I saw the cover for it at Blockbuster back in the early 2000s and decided I needed to have it. I mean, look how cool that cover is. I'm in my late 20s now and I still love that cover.

A little while ago, I compiled a list of all the games I used to play from my PS2/Xbox days that were any good and I've been slowly going through that list, playing them again, seeing whether or not they were in fact as good as I remember, or if I just didn't know what 'good' was back then and the game was actually crap.

With Second Sight, it was, well...kind of a bit of both, I guess. Let's get started talking about this game.

In Second Sight, you play John Vattic, a man who awakens with no memories, severely wounded, in a high-tech research hospital. As you escape, you begin having flashbacks to a military operation in Russia that occurred six months ago. You also begin regaining supernatural psychic powers that help you combat a group of shady, paramilitary personnel who want you back for a top secret black ops project.

That's a fairly enticing plot sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it? A man who has been captured by an enemy, paramilitary organization who has lost his memories and slowly regains them, as well as a slew of psychic powers, all while fighting this organization?

Yes. It sounds exactly like Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy.

Apparently, Free Radical had no idea that Midway was working on essentially the same game. And it wasn't like there was a lot of room in the field. If say, for example, two companies happen to unknowingly be working on a military first person shoot at the same time, no one would bat an eye.

But before Psi Ops or Second sight, both of which came out within mere months of each other, there really wasn't a game in the 'you can control things with your brain' genre. And there hasn't really been since, (unless I'm missing some secret cache of games in the genre.)

The difference between these two games is that Second Sight is better. Like, a lot some ways. I think that, in general, Psi-Ops had better controls. (Which is sad, considering how much I complained about the controls of that game.)

If you want to read the whole story of Second Sight, as in, the story of its creation and legacy, there's a great article here.

I just wanted to give my thoughts on the game.

Also, although it would be very easy to lie here, I'm going to admit that I didn't finish the game. I didn't beat it the first time around and I got a little past the point where I gave up in my teens and then gave up again. I'll get into the details of why below but I finally just watched a walkthrough for all the pertinent story-related details.

One of the first things I noticed as I fired it up and started playing was that Second Sight must have had a huge impact of me and my writing. I'm a big fan of memory loss and grim, bald, miserable protagonists and something about the aesthetic of Second Sight must have stuck with me.

So what's good about the game?

The story. It's fairly coherently, as far as 'no memories, jumping back and forth through the past and the present' goes. It keeps you guessing and manages to put enough story in there to keep it interesting.

The atmosphere. There's a wonderful atmosphere in the game. It switches between a grim, rainy present tense on the east coast of the States and the frozen, miserable tundras of Siberia six months ago. The environments themselves range from a high-tech research hospital to an old, abandoned Siberian town to a leaky, rusty asylum to rundown slums. There are a lot of places to go.

The length of the game. It felt like there was a satisfying amount of gameplay to the game, a satisfying amount of story in the campaign. If I'd actually had money back then, I don't think I'd have felt ripped off to spend the 50 bucks on a new copy of Second Sight.

The powers. They're really cool! You can go partially invisible, pick shit up with your brain (including people), possess people, walk ahead to open gates and doors and operate computers as a shadowy spirit figure and heal yourself. That's all awesome. They definitely put more thought into it than the Psi-Ops team.

The end. The end of the game has an interesting twist that I think they manage to pull of very well.

Now let's talk about the annoying shit because wow there's a lot of it.

The loading system. Okay, so, most games made after the year 2000, you can save your progress within the level. Even if it's a checkpoint system. So when you turn off the game for the night because you're tired and you've got shit to do in the morning and then you can fire it up and load somewhere close to where you once were before.

But not fucking here. In Second Sight, you turned off the game, it doesn't fucking care how far into the level you were. You could have been like three seconds away from beating that level. You turn it off, YOU HAVE TO RESTART THE LEVEL.

The aiming. Holy SHIT the aiming is terrible. Like, they have a 'lock-on' style aiming system and that is what makes the game even remotely playable. If you want to go for a headshot, GOOD FUCKING LUCK because damn is the joystick so sensitive. You just barely, barely push it up and it just jerks up above their head.

Here's another gigantic fucking sin against gamers: infinite guards. INFINITE. FUCKING. GUARDS. The game is kind of stealthy, so you can sneak around, but if you trip one fucking alarm, then you will find yourself facing LITERALLY an infinite amount of guards. They just keep popping into existence! It's FUCKING BULLSHIT. If this hadn't been a feature, I probably would have beat the game. Seriously, this is the number one flaw of the game.

There should never, ever, EVER be a game with respawning fucking enemies unless it's like an MMO or wave-based combat or something. I cannot tell you how fucking infuriating it is to carefully, tactically sweep and clear a whole area...and then the alarm gets tripped and suddenly EVERY GUARD YOU KILLED IS BACK AND GUESS WHAT, THEY BROUGHT FRIENDS!!!

The voice acting/dialogue was pretty bad at times. This is something is shared with Psi-Ops, it could get extremely generic and cheesy. The script needed another writer.

There were some problems with the story. So, you learn that John Vattic is basically just a scientist with no formal military training. So he goes from a pencil-pushing scientist character to like a badass in no time. I mean, even before he gets psychic powers he's sniping bad guys and mowing them down by the dozens with a machine gun and sneaking into enemy's just ridiculous.

The control and camera angles are kind of shit. The game starts out in a fixed camera angle kind of deal, but luckily you can switch it to more traditional third-person following camera, which makes the game at least playable but holy shit, for a fucking stealth game it gets so annoying when you're trying to keep an eye around a corner or over a wall and the camera simply will not sit still, like it keeps wanting to shift in some direction you don't want it to.

Also, I said earlier that I liked the aesthetic of the game, and I do. But...the faces. Wow. The faces. I mean, just look at this.

Yeah, it's And all the faces look like this. It's a little silly and I think they could have done a better job for such a serious game.

Well, that's about all I have to say. I think it covers the larger pros and cons of Second Sight.

I'd say, if you can this game, give it a try. It's a challenge, sometimes an unreasonably annoying one, but it's a good game with a great story.

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