Friday, 14 May 2010

I want another Second Sight. That makes four sights?

Just finished Second Sight for PS2. It's a pretty good game.
The story is intriguing and I felt that I really had to find out what exactly happened/is happening no matter how annoying a level could be, the conclusion of the story is very interesting, the voice work is good, the controls for shooting, sneaking and using the psychic abilities are near perfect and the psychic powers are more fun to use than in any other game with a main character that has such power, the game has it's own neat graphical style, many of the levels have a good premise (like the creepy looking asylum for instance), there are some interesting details here and there that could've been a lot of fun to discover IF there were more of them and the levels have some alternative routes that could be fun to use IF they weren't so useless.

 Only real problem with the game, and it really is a noticeable problem, is the overall level design. It's lacking.
There lots of sections where you can just either use charm or projection to possess enemies and waltz through the area without too much chance for interaction with the surroundings, but then again the game tries to add more challenge by suddenly ambushing you despite there being no alerts or even any enemies nearby who could've appeared behind you, but this doesn't even make the game any harder, just annoying.
 A large portion of the game is also spent on babysitting non-player characters who often part ways with you but still demand occasional healing, meaning you'll have to run back and forth between team mates and your own objective. In one level you're even trying to get a passive, unarmed friend through a police infested storm drain. Yes, a sewer level escort mission with the enemy actually waiting for you. Needless to say that babysitting the friend is the most annoying and challenging part of the overall boring level. In a level before the sewer level there's an added nuisance in the form of guards who appear out of nowhere if you or your friend spends too much time idling, and the level actually forces you to several times part with your helpless friend as you go ahead to clear the route, meaning that about 10 seconds after you've lost sight of your partner you're told they're in trouble but you have no way of quickly getting back up there to help.

The levels are also very, VERY short and sometimes only have pointless time waster objectives, like locating something small that could be anywhere, just because you just happen to need an empty disk this one time. This running around looking for places where you can use X to interact with something don't add anything to the gameplay but extra running time, and interaction with individual objects in levels is normally so rare that you don't necessarily even realize you need to do that the times you do. It's hard to find a reason to stand still next to one specific cardboard box and expect to interact with it when so many interesting looking computer monitors, electronic panels and file cabinets that I've tried to interact with before were just decorations and all the previous necessary items I have found from desks or dead enemies.
There's also surprisingly few telekinesis puzzles. So few are they in fact, that a few times I completely forgot I had such a power in the first place since I just used charm and projection powers as far as they could get me and flipped switches manually. The "puzzles" are also just activating something small that's out of your reach to open a door or something, so I wonder why there couldn't be more chances to use it. It's not even that useful for taking out guards despite the fact that it can be used from behind cover (unlike guns or the psychic missile), since guards tend to be armed and will almost always get several shots off while flying through the air. You might not get hurt by these shots, but the other guards tend to have ears, and silence is preferred.
The most challenging use the developers could think up for the powers is, sadly, possessing a guard and leading him behind a door that John Vattic (the main character, by the way) can't open and then wait for the guard to come back through the door so that the invisible you can sneak through while it's open. You do this twice, second time right after the first, and it really is the most creative way for you to use your powers in the game. Well, you can possess a guard and lead him to the women's restroom, but that sounds more fun than it actually is. I tried it, the woman in there didn't even scream.

There's lots of other things wrong with the level design, but in short my point is that everything else in Second Sight is so damn great and well done that I DEMAND a sequel. All they need to do is create better levels and just swap the "challenging" ambushes to easy but FUN situations, and we're set.
Slightly more interaction is what I ask.
I also have some ideas for more uses for the PSI powers. A possessed guard could, for example, be used to retrieve and drop an important item somewhere for the player to pick up, or unload his gun or even drop the gun so that in a firefight he'll realize that he's defenseless and perhaps surrender or run away. He might even be used to set up a trap made of gas canisters. A possessed guard you've used to kill someone could even realize what he's done and try to cover it up or just leave in terror or cry in a corner. As a side note the enemy AI should be improved because in Second Sight they don't seem to realize that the madman with a gun was the one who killed the other three guys around him, leading to alerts caused by overestimating the enemy's intelligence. A possessed enemy should also be able to off himself.
Projection could be used to just lure guards away, similar to what some NPCs with psychic powers in the game do.
Telekinesis could be used to get keys or guns off of guards, turn on and off televisions and radios to lure guards to check them, jam doors when they're open so you can pass through them before they slam shut or jam the doors while they're closed to prevent guards from coming in. Using telekinesis in this way shouldn't be too much to ask since Second Sight already has one moment when you cause a metal detector to malfunction with telekinesis while you go through, and you flip some sort of switches about four times throughout the game so why not flip some more to aid your stealthy activities.
New powers could be mind control and mind reading, being able to read passwords and other intel from people's minds and then planting thoughts of your own so you can get them to think they need to go to the bathroom, giving you time to access their computer. You could even make people see and hear things and make them freak out and even drive them mad so that you can slip by a guard checkpoint unnoticed while everybody's running after the guy who's urinating over somebody's desk. Being able to get in someone's mind could be done by a simple minigame that could vary from easy to impossible depending on how strong willed the NPC is. The minigame could slowly drain the PSI power and commands you could issue would demand a certain amount of power so that you'd have to do really well to be able to get the NPC to help you or even just to have them leave the room.
Another power could be a psychic shield that would drain some of the PSI power everytime it takes a hit, giving the powers a place in gunfights, too. In Second Sight the psychic attack drains half of the PSI bar in one attack making it ultimately useless for larger confrontations and the other powers are slow and render Vattic defenseless, so you don't use the powers alongside weapons too much, it's always either or. A shield power isn't even that insane of an idea since several NPCs with psychic powers in Second Sight already have it, only Vattic is missing it.
Charm could, when aimed, perhaps be used to persuade a receptionist to help you or get a guard to let you pass. In Second Sight charm is used to turn invisible (to human eyes) and to calm two crazy NPCs.
The player could perhaps even predict the future, be it a usable power or strictly tied to the story, and choose actions according to what he saw. Maybe walking through a door raises an alarm, enemies will pop out from every room and the commotion will have friendly NPCs killed, but seeing that would allow the player to find a way around it. Perhaps a ventilation shaft instead of the door, or deactivating the security system before entering at all.

I had some other neat ideas, but somewhere between placing the game back on the shelf and writing this post I forgot most of them. Generally I just came up with them as I was thinking of ways to improve the interactivity more than ways to set up challenges for the player. Sure powers like shield and being able to off the possessed guards sounds like something that would make the game ridiculously easy, but you must understand, Second Sight IS already ridiculously easy even when it tries to be challenging. More powers and more USES for the powers would at least make the levels more fun and worth replaying with different methods. I've already seen that work, in Hitman: Blood Money. Blood Money is incredibly easy (apart from "Requiem" *shudder*) but finding and perfecting all the ways to complete the levels is what makes it so fun and challenging. I mean, I once replayed one level in Blood Money for 9 hours straight just to try out different methods. Not many games can do the same, but with more interaction and viable options Second Sight could even beat Blood Money in the replay value department. It's got most everything else perfected.

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