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Video Game / Second Sight

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Second Sight is a 2004 third person Action-Adventure game developed by Free Radical Design of TimeSplitters fame and published by Codemasters for PC, Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube. In this game, 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 a creative Twist Ending, worth playing through for that alone. The main character awakens in a research facility with no memory and powerful psychic abilities. He has a flashback to his past, learning he is John Vattic, professional skeptic and psychic debunker. He was recruited on a mission to find out if the legendary Soviet parapsychologist Dr. Grienko is alive, and just what he's been up to. Something on that mission went horribly wrong, leading John to where he is now. Throughout the game John progressively unlocks his missing 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 those who would oppose them.


Not to be confused with Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, another game with a similar premise that came out in the same period.

This game provides examples of:

  • Action-Based Mission: Stealth is encouraged for the most part, but several of the missions effectively force the player to run and gun (especially the earlier Russian missions, before John has acquired any psychic powers).
  • Anachronic Order: As the amnesiac John Vattic recovers memories of his own past we flashback to those events. As a result the game will have several scenes in the present, then several scenes set in the past, and continue to shift between the two time periods as Vattic regains his memories.
  • 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 powers, 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.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Shockingly averted for a T-rated game. Blood not only sprays with every shot but it splatters walls and leaves pools on the ground; which can be stepped in to create footprints.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Developers' Foresight: 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 discussion that will soon escalate and end up with one of them killing the other.
  • 11th-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.
  • Enemy Chatter: The game features enemy chatter at several points if you're stealthy enough. A few examples include one instance where two security guards play a game of "I spy", another features a Russian soldier bragging about his high score in an arcade game, with his friend questioning how he can play the game when there's no electricity in the building. The game also features a non-enemy version of this trope in the Teamwork mission where you can hide just outside a building and listen to Cortelli and J.C. talk/complain about you. If they spot you in the middle of their conversation, they quickly change the subject and pretend they're talking about something else.
  • 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: While seeming like a hardass at first, Starke quickly proves to be this, not only sticking his neck out for the people under his command, but consoling and encouraging a shaken John throughout the Dubrensk mission. Additionally you'll be hearing him say "Good work!" every time John or any other WinterICE member completes their task, so he's definitely into positive reinforcement as well.
  • 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.
  • 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,) leaving it ambiguous as to whether John or Jayne got shot.
    • 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: 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 can already see you and is actively killing you or on a security camera), 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.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Vattic's eighth psychic power is evidently his ability to pull massive assault rifles literally out of nowhere.
  • 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 Video Game 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.
  • Mirror Boss: Near the end of the game, Vattic encounters several enemies who have the same Psychic Powers as him, except these ones can block bullets too.
  • 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.
  • The '90s: Set in '97.
  • 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 that occur when you go postal and kill your teammates. From "Teamwork" onward, dying in any of the past levels will play one of the Enigma endings.
  • Not So Different: Hanson's speech to John about "the bodies you've stepped over to get here." Through the game you're likely to use your psychic powers in increasingly inventive ways, so Hanson has more of a point than one'd realize.
  • 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 Flesh Is Safe: The telekinesis power initially doesn't work on living opponents. The upgrade solves that problem.
  • 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.
  • 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 compuer password early on is SNOW which Jayne gleans from the mind of a recently dead guard nearby. Otherwise, John rarely figures out the password on his own, instead usually relying on finding it out elsewhere or from someone. If he doesn't he usually has a stab at what the password is, trying random words that never works. And for those wondering, "PASSWORD" is never 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 the one 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, as a large scale of test of psychic supersoldier effectiveness in the field.
  • 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.
    • Telekinesis: Can lift or interract with any object. At first you can only lift dead bodies in terms of enemy combatants, but an upgrade gives John the power to lift living combatants.
    • Psi Blast: Either in the form of a concentrated mind shot, or a wide range psi-explosion to repel enemies and get some breathing room.
    • Psychic Projection: John can pass through certain obstacles and interract with certain switches from long range. A later upgrade gives him:
    • Possession: Control enemies briefly, either to attack their fellow men or open up access for John. Hilariously you can possess your allies as well.
    • Charm: used on allies to calm them down, and on yourself to make people ignore you as a form of Invisibility. Using it on those who already know you're there and are actively attacking you is not recommended, and mechanical effects (lasers and cameras) are completely unaffected.
    • Healing Hands: Via accelerated metabolism, which is why overdoing it will zonk you out. John can later use this power on others, including Ballard funnily enough.
    • Precognition: Jayne's power and later revealed to be John's as well.
  • 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.
    • Everyone also seems to have terrible trigger discipline. John's just a civilian, so it's somewhat forgivable for him. But the rest of WinterICE keep their fingers on the trigger even when they're not aiming. Additionally, they do not use eye/hearing protection during firearms training.
  • Refusal of the Call: John initially has no desire to accompany WinterICE to Siberia, though Jayne wins him over.
  • Regenerating Health: In a roundabout way: one of Vattic's psychic powers is Healing, which is powered by his psi energy. Vattic's health does not regenerate automatically, but his psi energy does, so he can always heal himself as long as he has enough psi energy.
  • 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.
  • The Reveal: One of the best in gaming history, no less! John eventually figures out that his visions of the past are not "visions" at all- it's actually the present, and what John thought was the present is really a potential Bad Future. Indeed, John's first and most powerful ability is his ability to see the future, but his confusing and disorienting situation has caused him to blur the line between present and future and mix up which is which. You're actually playing as John seeing into the future.
  • Safely Secluded Science Center: The remote Siberian village of Dubrensk harbours an underground research facility. The heart of Project Zener, it was used to study and harness psychic powers for the benefit of the USSR, with potential Psychic Children being brought in from all over Russia to be experimented on. Unfortunately, though chief scientist Victor Grienko was successful in unlocking their powers, the Zener Children were not cooperative, having been left unable to age and often disfigured thanks to the medical procedures. The project was judged a failure by the Kremlin and shut down, but thanks to Dubrensk's isolation, Grienko was able to secretly continue his experiments independently until - following the collapse of the Soviet Union - he got the attention of the NSE and cut a deal with them, prompting the events of the game.
  • 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".
  • Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: In the tutorial, when Franklin is giving Vattic sniper training, she explicitly refers to sniping at a distance of 15-30m as "long range". Most gunfights happen at very short range, and the player rarely has the opportunity to snipe someone more than 100m away.
  • Skeptic No Longer: Vattic begins the story (chronologically) as a scientist who has made something of a name for himself by debunking psychics. To his credit he actually does seem to keep an open mind. When Colonel Starke tells him Jayne's premonitions allowed them to stop a terrorist plot, he does not try to argue about alternate explanations. Later when he has premonitions himself and sees ghostly apparitions no one else seems to notice, his first instinct is to investigate, and he quickly accepts them as real at a point where that is frankly the most reasonable explanation.
  • 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 (allowing the player to turn effectively invisible to other people is practically a Game-Breaker in its own right), 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.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Every time Vattic uncovers about something important from his forgotten past, he has a vision of the event where he can interfere with the outcome, which somehow allows him to alter the present. This is actually a subversion and the big final reveal of the game: Vattic is not changing the past. What he thinks is the present is in fact a potential Bad Future as seen through his precognitive powers and the "past" is what is actually taking place in the real world.
  • 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...
    • In the present well, possible future, Vattic goes from a scared amnesic trying to figure out what's going on to a serious and collected man who walks right into the Big Bad's office, calmly tells the guard his name, and when the receptionist realizes who he is knocks him out with a pistol and steals his key card in order to start his one-man assault to save Jane and stop Hanson.
  • 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 see you and 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).
  • Trickster Game: The game has the protagonist psychic, John Vattic, travelling back in time to prior incidents and able to change the events with the knowledge of the future. Except that he's not travelling into the past. He's in the past and is having precognitive visions of what will happen unless he acts.
  • Twin Telepathy: Two of the children that are being experimented on are twins and have psychic powers.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: An optional version. On some levels, you can take a break from your infiltrations and play minigames that amount to Space Invaders and Asteroids.
  • 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. (and what makes it worse is that if you choose to tranquilize him, it is revealed later that he was allergic to the tranquilizer solution and died anyway). 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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