Second Sight First Look

Free Radical's new psychic-flavored action game is looking pretty sharp.

UK-based developer Free Radical is known for making first-person shooters, and, well...more first-person shooters. The company is made up of many of the key people responsible for the hallowed Nintendo 64 classic GoldenEye, and more recently the group has produced the TimeSplitters games, which are popular FPSs in their own right. Now Free Radical is looking to broaden its horizons with a new third-person, story-driven action game called Second Sight. We got to take a look at a work-in-progress version of the psychic-themed title recently and were pretty well convinced that Free Radical's first foray into new territory will pay off nicely when it hits stores later this year.

John Vattic doesn't know why he has these crazy psychic powers, but he's aiming to find out.

Second Sight tells the story of distinguished psychic researcher (and debunker) John Vattic. Well, perhaps it's more accurate to say that Second Sight tells the two stories of John Vattic, because as you play the game you'll be following two distinct narrative threads, one in the present and one in the past. The game begins with Vattic, a battered amnesiac, being kept in a mental hospital, and by the time he escapes, he'll have discovered he's got some rather mysterious mental powers. After this introductory level, you'll flash back to the Vattic of the past, the skeptic who joined a military unit and traveled to Siberia for a secret mission called Operation Winter Ice. The details of Winter Ice aren't clear at the outset of the game, but you'll be switching between the two narratives to unravel the story, and you'll eventually uncover exactly what happened to Vattic and his comrades in Siberia. The most interesting aspect of the game's storytelling is that the things you do in the past will actually have a profound effect on the events of the present.

When you're playing levels in the present (after Vattic has been psychically imbued), you'll have a host of fun mental powers to play with. Vattic's abilities fall into five categories: healing, which will replenish your health while you remain stationary; psi attack, which creates a powerful wave that can knock enemies backward; telekinesis, with which you can pick things up and fling them around; charm, which renders you almost invisible so you can slip by your foes unnoticed; and projection, which will create an astral version of yourself that you can control to access switches and even possess some enemies. You'll be able to upgrade these powers as you go through the game; for instance, your telekinetic power will only be strong enough to pick up small objects at first, but later it will allow you to raise enemies up and fling them around like rag dolls.

Of course, if you get sick of using your mind to do battle (though that's unlikely), you'll always have a nice assortment of firearms to fall back on. Vattic's shooting ability will be doubly important in the Siberia levels, since he won't even have his psychic powers at that time. The game features a lock-on mechanic that should make aiming and shooting easy, and you'll be able to pick up better weapons from fallen enemies as you move along. Some levels will have a buddy system where one or more non-player characters will fight alongside you to help out. One interesting weapon we saw was the game's sniper rifle, which pops up a scope display in the bottom corner of the screen so you can get a zoom view while still seeing what Vattic is doing in the environment.

Second Sight has an interesting dual-story narrative structure that reveals events from both the past and present as you play.

The early version of Second Sight we saw running on the PlayStation 2 was already looking pretty good. The character models in the game are reminiscent of those in TimeSplitters and have that particular exaggerated, cartoonlike style seen in Free Radical's other games. In the cutscenes, Vattic and others are exceptionally emotive, thanks to extensively articulated facial animation. The backgrounds looked to be nicely varied and solidly constructed, and they even featured a nice degree of interactivity. You'll be able to walk up to various computer terminals, for instance, and actually enter a desktop interface and manipulate various files and programs, which can affect the environment in various ways.

Our first look at Second Sight has us interested to follow its progress as it moves toward completion later this year. Anybody looking for a solid action-adventure experience should keep an eye on what looks to be a good mixture of interesting storytelling and nifty gameplay mechanics (we especially enjoyed watching objects being thrown around with telekinesis). Codemasters has recently picked up the publishing rights to Second Sight and will be showing it off at E3 next week, so we'll bring you more on it soon.

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