We were so excited by Second Sight when we cast our mentalist third eye over it last issue, we were convinced that someone at Free Radical was twisting our thoughts using their mind-bending psychic powers.
This time though, we've strapped on our lead helmets to be sure we've blocked out any subverting brain-rays and get a closer look at this conspiracy-laden supernatural stealth and shoot 'em up.
Jump In Vatt's Flash
We've played through a whole season's worth of Alias-style plot-twists and paranoia-inducing government tinkering now, and we're STILL dribbling over Second Sight's skilful blend of action and sneakery. Although you'll find a fair mix of both styles throughout the game's many levels, the emphasis shifts depending on the time period they take place in.
You see, after waking up memory-less and balder than a yeti in a candle shop, your character John Vattic not only has to contend with his newfound psychic powers and escape from the shadowy organisation that's shackled him up in a high-security medical facility, but he must grapple with the frequent playable flashbacks of his last military expedition into the snowy wastelands of deepest Siberia.
Time To Die
Once you've played with the game's basic Psi-busting mechanics in the first lab-based level, you're thrust six months back in time to relive your military training. This not only provides you with ample opportunity to brush up on stealth and shooting skills in the lengthy yet invaluable tutorial, but sets the scene for the rest of the game.
Levels alternate between your search for the truth behind Vattic's incarceration in the present and your fateful final mission to uncover the grisly psychic research of a nefarious rogue scientist in the past. Later levels are more action-based, full of frenzied set pieces meant to get both your adrenaline and trigger finger pumping, but present day levels boast a more free-roaming structure, demanding careful combinations of your many Psi skills and stealth to proceed.
Right now, the flashback sequences are the slicker, more enjoyable segments, as Free Radical's experience in hi-octane bullet-blazers creates an expert atmosphere of pump-action bedlam. There's a ton of meaty weapons to lock and load during the huge open-air stand-offs, from sniper rifles, fat-ass guns and tranquillisers to pistols - each often requiring a new set of intuitively implemented thumb skills to wield with real effect.
What's great is the way the unfolding action is fast and frantic but allows some creativity as to how you tackle missions. During one trek into a disused rail bunker we could either take out all the guards in the building with a tranquilliser gun and proceed peacefully, or raise the roof with a rifle and go gung-ho gun crazy as enemy reinforcements pour in.
Look Ma, No Handa!
We're not as convinced by the claustrophobic present day stealth stuff just yet though. You'll move from the medical facility out to a spooky lunatic asylum, piecing together your missing memories, breaking out an old colleague and getting your paranormal pecker up over Vattic's niftier abilities - including aura projection that lets you be in two places at once, and a snazzy possession trick that forces enemies to do your bidding.
While we love the freedom you're given to tackle the obstacles ahead, the sheer number of possibilities can be overwhelming, occasionally diluting the frenetic focus found in the flashback sequences. We'd like to see Free Radical implementing some more ability-specific puzzles to reign in the action and pick up the slack a bit.