It's always a sad day when a great game from back in the day gets harder to play. That's what happened to Second Sight when it disappeared from Steam back in 2012. After more than eight years, the game has suddenly reappeared on Steam, finally giving people the chance to get their hands on the game again. Since there are probably a fair few people who've never played or never heard of Second Sight, now is the perfect opportunity to sing the game's praises in an attempt to get more people to try it out.
What Happened to Second Sight?
You're probably wondering what happened to Second Sight in the first place. It's not like games disappear for no reason. Like with many nearly abandoned games out there, it's all to do with licensing. In 2012, when the game was dropped from many storefronts, a GOG staffer took to the forum to warn potential buyers, citing the ever-elusive "legal issues" surrounding the game.
Considering that this is about the time that the game's developer, Free Radical, was bought by Crytek and became Crytek UK, there's a chance the licensing squabbles broke out between them and the game's publisher, Codemasters. It's possible we might never know the exact details of why Second Sight was dragged away, but at least it's back for now.
Why You Should Play Second Sight
Second Sight is an action-stealth game starring a man called John Vattic, a scientist who wakes up in a hospital one day with no memory of who he is. Discovering he is developing strange psychic powers, he must piece together what has happened to him by digging through the fragments of his shattered mind while coming to terms with the strange new abilities he suddenly finds himself with.
You have to remember that back in 2004, it was a bit of a simpler time. The 'amnesia' trope hadn't quite been run into the ground at that point, and even if it had, it's impossible to separate the game from that sort of story element. What you have with Second Sight is akin to a big-budget sci-fi B movie. You have a semi-schlocky plot, driven by the amnesia of the main character. The entire game is spent flickering back and forwards between flashbacks to fill in the history and current levels to progress the plot further.
This sci-fi schlock feeling carries over into the character design and animation as well. Most games from this era that try to represent human beings accurately look... quaint, by today's standards. The ones that manage to age well are games that approach their graphics with more of a sense for style than accuracy, and Second Sight certainly does that.
Just take a look at the opening cinematic. The characters have some pretty exaggerated animation, and their designs have an almost soft edge to them, making them look somewhere between a cartoon character and a real person. While that may not necessarily lend itself to you becoming attached to the characters, it's the perfect fit for a sci-fi story that is just the wrong side of plausible.
That's not to say that the story has no weight to it, but it just doesn't take itself too seriously. You're a scientist who somehow manages to fight off and sneak around wave after wave of trained military personnel. If it tried to take itself seriously, it'd probably implode in on itself. The true draw of the game, at least at the time, was actually the gameplay.
It's your standard 3D action-adventure style of game. You have weapons, and you have powers, and you have to progress through the level, completing various objectives. It's up to you how stealthy you are while completing these objectives, but since you lose all your guns at the start of every level, most of the time, you'll probably be starting out more sneakily. At the time, the variety of powers you had at your disposal was unheard of and gave you a wealth of options about how to progress through a level.
You could just turn on psychic invisibility and sprint through everything, you could use telekinesis to distract people and walk right past them, or if you're in a really bad mood, you can just bust out a psychic shockwave and blast everyone away from you. The thing that's really interesting about this is that Second Sight doesn't really have a binary moral choice system, which was pretty popular at the time thanks to games like Knights of the Old Republic from the year previously.
As you make your way through the game, you come across scientists, doctors, and various other innocent people who happen to be between you and your goal. If you want, you can tear them apart with your evil psychic powers to stop them from alerting all the guards. At no point will you be admonished for this; no character reacts to you differently, and no matter how much of a murderous bastard you've been, the story and ending do not change. The most you get is a tally in the statistics menu. What you're getting with Second Sight is a self-contained and structured story, free of any outside influence from the player.
If you really want a reason to play Second Sight, it's the fact that you're getting a great, entertaining storyline and some really solid action-adventure gameplay in the mix as well. It's like playing through a season of Fringe four years before it ever released, minus the senile man making friends with a cow. The story is a very basic amnesia-based mystery, but because it's so unashamed of that, it revels in it. Regardless of how many times you may have seen these tropes before, Second Sight keeps you wanting to learn more, right up until that final moment. Then you'll just be wondering why they never made a sequel to the damn thing.
Making Second Sight Playable
So I've got you interested in playing the game, now what? It's true that Second Sight is a 17-year-old game, and this release is completely unchanged from that time, so there are a few tweaks you should probably do to get it playing at its best. The main thing you'll need is to get the resolution up to HD; almost everything else is optional at best. You have two approaches when it comes to getting the game looking good.
The first option is to go into the game's files and find "secondsight.cfg," then the find the lines "scr_height=XXX," "scr_hz=60," and "scr_width=XXX." Then change those Xs to whatever your screen height and width are. The game seems to support up to 4K resolutions, so even with a fancy monitor, you can have the game looking fresh. The downside here is that it doesn't make the UI any bigger, and at higher resolutions, it becomes impossible to read them.
The second option is to use Peixoto's Patch, a piece of software that contains improvements for various PC titles. Using this software, you can run Second Sight in maximum resolution, with various advanced effects, and best of all, the UI will actually be scaled up to match your resolution. This option is pretty easy but comes with the drawback that you can't use the Steam overlay or take screenshots of your game this way.
Hopefully, I'll have convinced a few people to try out Second Sight now that it's easily available again. If you do feel like checking it out, you can find the game's page on Steam here.