"You're sure this will help my back problems?" "Trust me, I'm a doctor!"
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 Travelor 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."
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).
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.
Five-Token Band: WinterICE includes a black man, a woman, a black woman, and a Hispanic man, in addition to several white men, one of whom is part Italian. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 ckeckpoint, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 lessthe same as dead ones and the cutscenes that play after you're defeated would indicate that you survive whatever takes you down).
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.
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.