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Video Game: Second Sight

Second Sight is a third person action/adventure game developed by Free Radical Design and published by Codemasters, in which you take on the role of John Vattic, an amnesiac scientist who wakes up in a medical facility only to discover he has psychic powers.

The game is a Third-Person Shooter with Stealth gameplay and Psychic Powers thrown into the mix, with stealth being the preferred method of solving missions, especially in the early chapters. John unlocks his powers slowly, and even though they are progressively strengthened he is rarely ever a match for more than two well armed opponents. That said, once he gets his full complement of powers at full strength— Telekinesis, healing, projection, possession, energy blasts and invisibility— let's just say that the Videogame Cruelty Potential and Difficulty Level both rise accordingly.

The story itself is top notch, and has perhaps one of the best uses of Time Travel or rather, precognition in any game in recent memory; it's worth playing through for that alone. John Vattic is a professional skeptic and psychic debunker, seconded on a mission to find out if the legendary Soviet parapsychologist Dr. Grienko is alive, and just what he's been up to. Long story short, something goes horribly wrong and he wakes up months later with no memory of the events and psychic powers. Throughout the game he progressively unlocks those memories, and in doing so learns more about his present. It seems a Sinister Government Conspiracy is after Grienko's research to reliably create and empower psychics, and means to kill and discredit the heroes.


This game provides examples of:

  • Arc Words: In the first half or so of the game, "No one else can save us."
  • Badass Bookworm: John himself. As Cortelli puts it: "You may be a pen-pusher, but it looks like you keep yourself in good shape."
  • Badass Crew: WinterICE and the Vipers.
  • Bald Black Leader Guy: Starke is the leader of WinterICE, although he only has his head shaved in the levels set in the present: in the Russian levels he wears a crew cut.
  • Bald of Awesome: Starke in the present has shaved his head but he's always a badass.
    • Similarly, the present version of Vattic sports a shaved head from his time in the Osiris Medical Facility, and is a good deal more badass than his past self- at least until the later flashbacks.
  • Blessed with Suck: Sure, he's got cool power, but an entire army's trying to kill him, he's lost his memory, his friends keep dying or going insane, and he gets crippling headaches when a power comes back...and then it turns out that all of these events are harmless precognitive visions, and everyone he likes is fine.
  • Boom, Headshot: Well, it's hardly "boom" in a T-rated game, but it's always a One-Hit Kill (or knockout with tranquillizers).
  • Bottomless Magazines: On the tranquilizer pistol, a blessing for people who want to play Technical Pacifist.
  • Break the Haughty: John comes across as rather arrogant and superior in the earlier flashbacks, but after his experiences in Russia, he has become a desperate, terrified shell of a man.
  • Camera Abuse: Snow sometimes lands and melts on the screen in the Russian missions.
    • When you exhaust your psychic powers, there's first a heavy distortion, then a strong grain filter obfuscates the visual for a few instants (although this is perhaps more akin to Painting the Medium, as a way of visually representing John's mental state).
  • The Chick: Jayne.
  • Cold Sniper: Franklin. Not quite as cold as many examples of this trope, but still rather standoffish.
  • Climax Boss: The five psychic soldiers (who have all John's powers, plus barriers) that John fights just before confronting the Big Bad in the second-to-last level.
  • Cutting the Knot: The Big Bad hides behind bullet/psi proof glass at the end of the game, too bad the FRAME isn't...
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cortelli, particularly in the mission "Teamwork".
  • Deflector Shields: The Psychic-powered Barrier Warrior Super Soldier crews you have to fight. They get shields. You don't.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything:
    • If you decide to lure the two first guards back into the room you were trapped in, and close them in, they have a frustrated conversation, and then one kills the other.
  • Eleventh Hour Superpower: Played with. The last psychic power Vattic becomes aware of is one he's been using throughout the entire game.
  • Elite Mooks: The Big Bad's elite gas mask-wearing Shock Troopers, who are equipped with submachineguns and psychic energy shields.
  • Escort Mission: Two missions involve escorting an unarmed and easily frightened Jayne out of a mental asylum. In the later Russian missions, the player will fail if any of WinterICE die, though in this case they are at least capable of defending themselves.
  • Everybody Lives: An interesting example. Just about every member of WinterICE is dead at the beginning of the game, except Vattic himself, but by the end they've all survived.
  • A Father to His Men: Starke has shades of this.
  • Five-Token Band: WinterICE includes a black man, a woman, a black woman, and a Hispanic man, in addition to four white American men, one of whom is of Italian descent. It's done in an agreeably non-patronising manner, however.
  • Footprints Of Muck: You do this if you step in blood or water, and the Mooks react accordingly, particularly if you're in their line of sight but invisible.
    • There's even an in-game counter for it.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Subverted.
  • For Science!: Grienko did all his experiments to ostensibly help mankind, and genuinely loves, and is loved by, the children he experimented on. Yet, for every non-mutated child psychic, there seemed to be two that were. Interestingly, his research does state that the results were replicable and had become fine tuned. The Corrupt Corporate Executive even manages to further improve the results by giving the powers to adults.
  • Go Among Mad People: Jayne ends up committed to a mental hospital following the mission to Dubrensk. Given that it's Penfold Asylum, the results aren't too pretty. Oddly, she starts to make a bit more sense after escaping the asylum; maybe the stress of being shot at cleared the drugs from her system.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In the Confrontation level's ending, once Vattic has a flashback migraine, it cuts to the floor of Hanson's office, a gunshot goes off ,and Jayne screams (She had a gun pointed to her head).
    • It looks more like the Shock Trooper on the other side shot Vattic, and Jayne screamed in horror.
    • Then there's Hanson's death scene. It cuts to John's face as he looks on. Since one of the Zener kids bit Hanson on the leg, we can likely assume they made dinner out of him.
  • Groin Attack: On very rare occasions, the killing shot may land between the legs of an enemy, who will bring his hands there, stay there trembling for several seconds, and finally collapse.
  • Heroic BSOD//Sanity Slippage: Vattic suffers these in the "Enigma" endings. By the final ending, the knowledge of his failure and the psychological torture have reduced him to a sobbing wreck of a human being.
  • Heroic RROD: If you use up all of Vattic's psychic power, the screen goes all fuzzy and the sound is dulled. If you try to strain your powers (e.g. by trying to use Charm on someone who wants to kill you), you get the same effect.
  • Hope Spot: Kind of inverted. Whenever things look at their worst in the present, John has another flashback, and something's changed for the better when he comes back. When faced with a no-win situation at the end, he discovers that the present isn't, and his "flashbacks" are actually the present; he's been experiencing precognition, and the future isn't set in stone.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The network password at the asylum is "mad2behere". Vattic and the doctor share a forced-sounding snicker.
  • Instant Sedation: Tranquillizer darts work like this on enemies, provided the dart strikes the head or neck.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: The "Enigmas" that occur if one of your allies in the flashbacks dies. The "Psycho" enigma also counts as a Videogame Cruelty Punishment—you get it if you find a machine gun, kill someone with it in the tutorial level, and end up killed by the ensuing swarm of mooks.
  • It's Up to You: John was told his role in WinterICE was "strictly advisory", has no combat experience aside from an hour's basic military training, and is not even a member of the armed forces. And yet he is ordered to carry out virtually every mission-critical objective in the Russian missions. It's even lampshaded by the game's Arc Words: when Vattic initially attempts to refuse the call, Jayne replies "A pity, because no one else can save us."
  • Justified Tutorial: John has no military training at the start of the game, and is urged to undergo a rudimentary training course prior to the Russian excursion.
  • Karma Meter: The "Morality" statistic. It doesn't factor into the gameplay, however.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Poor guy can't even remember his name to start with.
  • Meaningful Name: John Vattic: 'vatic' means 'prophet' (think 'Vatican', which used to be where the prophets of Rome would meet).
    • The game's title as well: Second Sight is also another name for Precognition.
  • Mental Time Travel: Subverted.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Vattic's psychic powers always seem to manifest when the need arises. Surrounded by Mooks? No problem, he gets an upgraded Psychic Burst attack allowing him to exude a shockwave, blowing them away.
    • Justified with a side helping of medical accuracy. He's not spontaneously developing these new powers so much as he's instinctively accessing them when he needs them, in spite of having no recollection of acquiring them. It's not so different to when he finally finds a car and makes his getaway at the end of the first mission; he didn't recall taking his driving test, but he still knew how to drive. This is actually a somewhat common presentation of amnesia in Real Life.
  • No-Gear Level: The earlier Flash Backs to Russia... kind of. You have to do without your Psychic Powers, but you get access to more and better guns instead, not to mention AI allies.
  • Non-Linear Character: It's revealed at the end that John is (or perhaps was) one of these; what he perceives to be the present is a hypothetical future, and what he perceives to be the past is the present.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: The aforementioned "Enigma" endings.
  • Not So Different: Hanson's speech to John about "the bodies you've stepped over to get here."
  • One Dose Fits All: Any enemy hit by a single tranquillizer dart will be out cold indefinitely, regardless of size or constitution. A body shot will take some time to take effect, whereas hitting them in the head or neck will knock them out instantly.
  • Only Six Faces: Combines hilariously with a self-made TakeThat. If you talk to them, you learn all the patients in the insane asylum were former video game developers. And they all look the same!.
  • Optional Stealth: The very broad selection of Psychic Powers available to the main character means you always have the option of sneaking through a level vs. running through with guns blazing, though there are points where only one or the other is feasible. The game keeps a "morality" statistic and humanises some of the mooks in order to encourage stealth via Videogame Caring Potential.
  • Pacifist Run: Possible when given a tranquilizer or just given the option to avoid combat whenever possible. The game tracks how many people you've killed in a "Morality" statistic.
  • Paintball Episode: The run-and-gun part of the Justified Tutorial.
  • Pamphlet Shelf: All over the place; Penfold Asylum, for example, has an article on Follie A Deux...
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: Used and subverted: one password is SNOW, but most times John has a stab at figuring out the password.
  • Pet the Dog: One of the most notable indications that Grienko isn't the real villain of the game is that he and his staff genuinely care about the Zener Children; Grienko in particular is horrified to learn that Hanson plans to kill the Children for tissue samples.
    • At some point in the Teamwork mission, Ballard stays in the front line of fire and takes a lot of damage. Very responsible from who should care about the health of the others, uh?
  • The Plan: Turns out your escape and struggle for survival falls into this for Hanson in the possible future.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Not only are the headshots quite pretty indeed, but bullets don't seem to leave wounds of any kind anywhere on the body (though there are bloodstains).
  • Psychic Powers: Often appearing at convenient times, but usually hazardous to anyone standing near.
  • Quest for Identity: Who is John Vattic?
  • Ragdoll Physics: The enemies, once killed, can be made to flop around amusingly with telekinesis.
    • After the Telekinesis gets upgraded, you can do the same while they are alive. The tougher ones may fall un-graciously, but will somehow manage to put all the limbs back in position and get up.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Justified on the cover, as the protagonist is mentally unstable, possibly even suicidal.
  • Refusal of the Call: John initially has no desire to accompany WinterICE to Siberia, though Jayne wins him over.
  • Respawning Enemies: In certain levels, there is no end of guards that can turn up; these levels take place in a possible future, so they aren't actually happening, or the siege in Russia with an endless wave of mercenaries.
  • Save Point: Irritating for PC players, as it was designed for the console market.
    • Even a console gamer would have liked to load at least from a checkpoint, instead of being forced to play a mission from the beginning if he didn't have enough time during the previous session!
  • Self-Defeating Prophecy: What is actually happening whenever you're in the "future" levels. Suffice to say that predestination does not exist in this universe.
  • Shoehorned First Letter: In one level, two guards are playing "I Spy" and the letter is "E". The guesser tries "eeediot".
  • Sounding It Out: Standard implementation.
  • Stealth-Based Game: The player is rarely forced to use stealth, but it soon becomes the most reliable strategy. The game's biggest innovation is probably its integration of stealth and Psychic Powers - the player can sneak past guards using Charm, or create distractions, hide bodies, and disable security cameras with Telekinesis. There are also a handful of missions where the player is forced to run and gun.
  • Subsystem Damage: The most basic sort—when you get hurt, you limp.
  • Superpowered Mooks: The mass produced psychic soldiers.
  • Take Cover: Interestingly, you are better off not using the cover system as intended, because John must pop his entire body out to attack. You are better off just crouching behind it and taking a few steps back, or at least just standing behind it.
  • Talking to Themself: In the "Enigma" obtained if an ally dies during the Teamwork level, Hanson taunts Vattic from behind a one-way mirror. Clever camera angles make it look at first like Vattic's own reflection is mocking him.
  • Time Travel: Subverted.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Subverted.
  • Took a Level in Badass: As the mission to Dubrensk carries on, Vattic stops being a reluctant tagalong and starts taking levels: first, he proves himself a capable member of the team; then he and Jayne manage to hold off an entire unit of soldiers by themselves. In the next flashback, he covertly tranquilizes an entire building full of soldiers without any of them noticing. Then he gains psychic powers...
  • Tomato Surprise: A surprisingly original one - what John believes to be the present is in fact a hypothetical future he is experiencing due to his precognitive abilities - the "flashbacks" are actually in the present.
  • Too Spicy for Yog Sothoth: Using charm power on enemies can result in psychic burnout if they already want to kill you.
  • Tranquilizer Dart: People stagger around for a few moments after being hit with tranquilizer darts, then reacting like they have been punched in the chest and falling over. Hitting them in the head takes them down instantly. It's worth noting that on the few occasions where you're shot with one yourself, it slowly saps your health rather than knocking you out (although the game treats knocked out enemies more or less the same as dead ones and the cutscenes that play after you're defeated would indicate that you survive whatever takes you down).
  • Twin Telepathy: And psychic powers!
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: An optional version. On some levels, you can take a break from your infiltrations and play what amounts to Space Invaders.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Seems to be this at first, but near the end it is played with in an interesting way: WinterICE didn't get better because they never died in the first place. Anyone who's played the game will know what's going on.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: A curious example - in the initial version of the present, John and Jayne are the only surviving members of WinterICE, with all the others killed in action. This includes Franklin, a female Cold Sniper who is much less feminine than Jayne. However, by the end of the game, Franklin survives as well.
  • Wham Line: "This isn't the past. It's the present."
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: This game has an odd treatment of this trope. You still massacre your way through them with little visible remorse, but there's little touches that makes you think the developers are aware of this trope. In the very beginning there's a running IM conversation on the personal computer of a guard you've just killed from his wife, telling him how she misses him. While non-lethal options are scant, presumably a no-killing run is possible... but then again, most Mooks do genuinely want you dead, and KOs are near impossible even with a tranquilizer gun.
    • Much later in the game, when you infiltrate NSE's building, there's a cleaning woman engaged with one of the guards. Like the above example, you may not find this out... which may be better for your conscience.
    • Subverted though, when it turns out that anyone who you might feel bad about killing only exists in a possible future which is prevented by the ending. The enemies who are killed in the parts that actually happen are dangerous mercenaries, so there is no need to feel bad about killing them.
    • Additionally, in all versions of the game, once you complete a mission, you can look at various stats for how you completed the mission (distance travelled, ammunition expended etc.), one of which is "Morality", which tallies who you killed, who you knocked out, who you avoided entirely and so on, so you're at least somewhat encouraged not to kill everyone in sight.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Go ahead. Attack any of the WinterICE team with live ammo when you get the chance.
    • Or keep shooting at the other participants in the above-mentioned Paintball Episode. Hit the same guy enough times and he'll basically say "screw this" and hunt you down.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: John is able to use Telekinesis to move around unconscious or dead bodies from the beginning of the game, but only gains the ability to lift people that are still conscious a few missions later. Could arguably be justified by enemies struggling against his psychic powers, but it's still a bit of a Fridge Logic moment.


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alternative title(s): Second Sight
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