Sometimes you can tell that the studio was really into their project. You can tell that Free Radical was enthusiastic about Second Sight. The game just radiates a good feel right from the get-go. Mostly it’s just that they’ve bothered to take on the details. The first impressions are carefully constructed – you’re in the game’s world from the second you see the main menu. As a good example, the typography is top-notch throughout.
I tend to find stealth games frustrating, as your awareness of your surroundings is always hampered by lackluster sensory input. Second Sight fares no better, yet it’s so charming that I keep at it. The chief woe is the camera – it’s not hopeless, but I find myself constantly toggling between the fixed angles and the controllable camera. The controllable cam keeps banging itself on the walls, which is why you don’t want to use it all the time.
The game sports some excellent controls. Close combat is one-dimensional and doesn’t feel like anything, but the shooting controls are awesome. They seem to be built around the idea of making the firefights feel good, not “realistic”. Metal Gear series, take note! Especially sniping is a joy. You really feel like a kick-ass soldier, taking down the enemies with excellent auto-aim, finetuning your shots effortlessly and making the combat more tactical. Your auto-aim only works when you let it work by taking your time to (auto-) aim, keeping still and targeting only stationary enemies or ones moving towards you. So you can’t just run around blindfolded and let the auto-aim do the work for you.
Your protagonist sports psychic powers. Of these the projection and telekinesis abilities are the most fun. It’s really too cool to distract guards by throwing stuff around telekinetically – and later, throwing guards around telekinetically.
I’ve played plenty of “cinematic” games, but Second Sight uses cinematic techniques exceptionally. Scenes are short and to the point and they’re full of cool set-pieces. For instance, games are now going all out on creating destroyable scenery. This must be technically challenging. Second Sight has featured a couple of instances where the pillars or walls used for cover by the combatants erode very convincingly under fire – and that’s all I need! You get the effect, the experience, in a straightforward manner. Nevermind how complicated or all-encompassing (not very) the underlying system is.
Top that experience-centric approach with fun gameplay and you’ve got a winner. I’m maybe one third into the game, but unless things become dramatically worse, this one’s definitely recommended.
Oh, and it’s visually great, too. The framerate never drops below absolutely smooth. The characters are designed in a charismatic comic book manner, making them feel much more convincing than the “realistic” identikit characters usually seen in “serious” videogames.