Stepping up for a second opinion on Free Radical's Second Sight, I find myself dissenting a bit from Andrew's evaluation. Like Señor Fletcher, I've now been through both of the curiously-timed psychic-powered releases mentioned in the main review. Unlike Andrew, I think I'm going to give the edge to Second Sight. I will say that both it and Midway's Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy are great, worthwhile games, but to me they are each appealing to different audiences despite the similar content.
For example, Psi-Ops felt very arcade-like and videogame-y with its frenetic pace, hordes of enemies to dispatch, and some contrived elements like the "psi-resistant" troops in the late game, obviously there to keep a too-powerful character in check. It was an exciting game that got my blood pumping, though at times some of that blood felt like it was being diverted away from my brain.
In contrast, Second Sight takes a near-opposite approach with very understated sensibilities and a much greater emphasis on character development and storytelling. Andrew's right in saying that Jon Vattic's adventure lacks the flash and adrenaline level of Midway's game, but as an experience, it felt more genuine and mentally stimulating.
Unlike Andrew, I suppose that I didn't really view Second Sight as a stealth game. Instead, I saw it as an adventure where the main character had psychic abilities, yet fell short of being a true superman. It was quite easy to imagine myself in Vattic's shoes; as a result, the things he did to be stealthy throughout the adventure struck me more as logical matters of necessity than attempts to emulate a mentally-powered Snake or Sam Fisher. "Common sense stealth," I guess you could call it. Following this adjustment of my expectations, I found myself quite pleased with the gameplay.
I think I also disagree with Andrew about the story. I didn't find it any more cliché-ridden than most games, and in fact, the quality of the plotting was more solidly built and intriguing than the vast majority of games I played in 2004. I was especially fond of the game's "big twist," and its connection to the two types of levels Andrew mentioned—the military run-and-gun and the solo sneaking areas. Not only did these styles complement each other and prevent monotony from setting in, they actually reinforced and built upon the endgame scenario in a more intelligent and sophisticated way that is rare in videogames.
Although I loved the elements of Second Sight that I've already mentioned, I do agree with Andrew's assessment of the technical side of things. It's pretty clear that Psi-Ops pumped more money into the production values. The main power for both games, telekinesis, was pulled off more satisfyingly in Psi-Ops as well.
If I had to choose elements from each game to create one ultimate psychic adventure, I admit that I'd probably pluck a few of the large set pieces from Psi-Ops for their sheer "wow" factor, but I'd also keep the vast majority of what Second Sight brings to the table. It may not be as flashy or bold, but it's a sincere, smart game that delivers a solid amount of gameplay, and at a bargain price, to boot.
Oh, and yeah, Free Radical's behind-the-back sniper rifle setup is pretty sweet.
Disclaimer: This review is based on the Xbox version of the game.
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