hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Second Sight

The Story of Second Sight

4:00 PM on 06.21.2011 // Jim Sterling

Second Sight is a game remembered more for its bad timing than for what it did as a piece of interactive entertainment. Before Free Radical released this game, our opportunity to play with psychic powers in videogames was particularly limited. 

Not even a genuine psychic could have predicted that, after years with that open gap in the market, Second Sight would have to compete with another game that offered the exact same gimmick -- Midway's Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

As it happens, neither game was a huge success, but it's Second Sight that can claim a de facto victory, gaining favor as a cult classic in spite of its less than spectacular commercial success. That's with good reason too, as it was a fine game indeed. 

One that deserves to have its story told.


Free Radical is most commonly associated with the Timesplitters series, but had things gone differently, Second Sight might have been the studio's premier offering. It was originally called Redemption, and it was set to be Free Radical's first ever game. 

"Originally the game had a working title of Redemption and was initially intended to be the first game developed by Free Radical Design," remembers Karl Hilton, now the managing director of Crytek UK. "From the outset, the premise of how your actions in the game change the course of the story and how failure would result in a cyclical re-telling of a story that had gone badly for the player was key. We pitched it to several publishers who all were very enthusiastic about it.

"When the launch of the PS2 moved back slightly, we realized there was an opportunity to get a less narratively complex multiplayer game out in time for launch and so at that point Redemption was put on hold while we developed the first TimeSplitters game. Interestingly, I don’t recall us ever having too much in the way of documentation for the game when we first pitched it to publishers. We had a business plan but our game planning was still in its early stages."

Timesplitters was released in 2000, where it garnered positive reviews and kickstarted a series that is still loved by gamers today. The unique art direction was a big part of what Timesplitters so memorable, a style that continued in Redemption, which had not been forgotten in spite of Free Radical's success with its multiplayer shooter. 

Second Thoughts

Second Sight was officially announced on February 24, 2004, but it had been in development far longer. In fact, we'd have heard about the title considerably earlier had the game's first potential publisher not gotten cold feet.

"The original publisher unfortunately changed their mind about it quite far in to development and so, for a while, it was without a publisher," says Karl. "This meant we didn't start to publicize the game as early as we wanted to do. Codemasters, who we eventually signed it up with, were very enthusiastic about it and gave us as much publicity as we could generate together at very short notice (particularly for E3 that year). It certainly wasn’t an ideal situation."

The game itself had unfortunately suffered a difficult development. The team had gotten pretty adept at first-person-shooters, but it tried to run before it could walk with the third-person psychic gameplay of Second Sight

"Partly because it was our first third person game, Second Sight had quite a protracted and sometimes difficult development process. We were a little over-ambitious in the early stages and had to reduce the size of some of the levels we were building. However it was very refreshing to be working in third person for the graphics and we were all enthusiastic about the originality of the story we were telling and how we were telling it. We were also very confident about the overall quality of the game."

Despite arriving late to the party, Second Sight certainly got some decent coverage. I personally remember seeing a fair few magazine stories on the title, which is how I got quite excited for the title. It looked gorgeous for its time, and the gameplay was incredibly promising, not to mention unique. 

At least, it was unique until people took notice of another title with the exact same premise -- Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

A Situation No Psychic Could Have Predicted

"We were certainly a little surprised when we first heard about it but you always have to allow for competitors arriving in your 'market space' whether deliberately or coincidentally," expresses Hilton. "We didn’t let Psi-Ops influence Second Sight in any way as we were confident that what we were making was sufficiently different, despite some of the higher level similarities."

In a manner that perhaps mirrored this generation's "inFAMOUS vs. Prototype" conflict, press outlets and gamers alike couldn't help comparing and contrasting the two visually distinct, but eerily similar games. There were a few notable difference, of course. Second Sight was the more atmospheric game, with a focus on narrative and a great reliance on stealth and tactics. Psi-Ops took the mentally powered gameplay in a more action-oriented direction, with more realistic visuals and a comparatively direct storyline. 

The differences don't matter in a marketplace that has two games revolving around psychic powers where previously there were none. At the time, you couldn't bring up one game without the other getting mentioned, and there was a definite case of gamers deciding to choose between the two. 

Looking back, Karl Hilton doesn't think he can even guess whether or not the conflict helped or harmed Second Sight in any way, but that at least the fight between the two games generated some discussion and kept the game in the spotlight.

"It’s impossible to say whether it affected sales or not. In one sense it was good to have the extra coverage that the two games 'competing' with each other generated."

It could almost be said that neither game really "won" in the end. Both titles failed to become blockbuster success stories and neither one got a sequel. For Second Sight, Hilton believes the game just didn't have enough time to get the attention that new intellectual property needs. Codemasters supported the game as best it could, but the delayed announcement and failure to generate enough hype in time led to a less than glorious launch.

"As a developer you always automatically want more marketing as it is always a positive and should help your game to sell more. However, I think the lack of a proper ‘build up’ phase when we didn’t have a publisher hurt us more in the long run. A new IP needs to build anticipation and hype in the gaming community and Second Sight didn’t get that chance. In terms of press reviews, it certainly didn’t get the overwhelmingly positive response that you always hope for. Most reviewers 'liked' it and it got a mix of reasonable scores for story, graphics, sound etc. but nothing outstanding."

The idea of Second Sight enjoying a "reasonable" ride extended to sales as well, with Karl stating they were, "Okay but not great." All told, the game generated just shy of one million sales after its launch.

No Second Outing

Unfortunately, it seems that we will never get to see Second Sight again. Crytek UK holds the full rights to the game and could theoretically make a sequel if it chose to, but it sees no need to revisit the IP.

"Overall it didn’t generate sufficient interest for us to feel it was worth making a sequel," Hilton states. "We had some ideas ready, but we decided it didn’t have any momentum as a new franchise. Codemasters gave Second Sight good support and we even released a PC version (which wasn’t part of the original release plan). Ultimately history appears to have been much kinder to the game than we would have thought after its initial release. 

"Second Sight does crop up occasionally in discussions in the gaming community about good narrative in games and games that were ‘sleeper’ hits (although you could never describe the final sales figures as a hit)."

Overall, one gets the impression that Crytek UK is pleased to have made the game, but remains happy to let the past be the past. It had a crack of the whip, didn't quite get the desired results, and put it to bed. As someone who loved Second Sight, I feel it's a shame that the game didn't get a chance to expand its story and further grow into something special, but I'm glad I got to play it and that I can still talk about the game today. 

Having achieved at least a cult legacy for itself, I dare say there will be a few open arms welcoming another Second Sight game. With enough marketing, it could have the potential to do amazingly well, because we have not had another game quite like it. I'd say BioShock is the closest we've come, but it's still not quite the game. 

In any case, let it be known that there are still Second Sight fans out there who would love another game, should Crytek UK ever decide to pull it from the vault. 

Jim Sterling, Former Reviews Editor
 Follow Blog + disclosure JimSterling Tips
Destructoid reviews editor, responsible for running and maintaining the cutting edge videogame critique that people ignore because all they want to see are the scores at the end. Also a regular f... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

extatix avatarextatix
Heading off to Spiel in a bit. A whole lot of games there, just of the cardboard variety. I love me some board games.
absolutfreak avatarabsolutfreak
Finally finished The Witcher 3. Definitely one of the best games I've played in my 30 years or so of gaming. Now onward to Ground Zeroes/Phantom Pain.
Nathan D avatarNathan D
*playing an old ps1 game* "START and SELECT don't bring the menu up?! WELL WHAT THE FU-oh, it's Triangle..."
TheDefenestrator avatarTheDefenestrator
If anyone's playing Marvel Puzzle Quest (any platform) you should join my Alliance, RedRightHand, and help me kick some Galactus butt for their second anniversary event. (Please?)
Shinta avatarShinta
MGS Online Day 3. I have 3 character up to level 10 now, one in each class. They're all pretty handy, but I do miss the scout's mark speed the most on other classes.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
The SW: Battlefront is pretty and has great sound design, but the gameplay is so shallow and has seemingly no depth! If the full game is like this I will be disappointed.
Torchman avatarTorchman
*looks at Amazon preorder* This one's for you Chib'
CJ Andriessen avatarCJ Andriessen
Dear Playboy: Love your video game coverage, but how about you start making some topless unboxing videos? Seeing someone unwrap a copy of Call of Duty is boring. Seeing a topless Playmate unwrap a copy of anything is awesome!
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
In happier news, Level-5 is already talking Yo-Kai Watch 2's Western release, and better/worse yet, they're considering amiibo support for the series! And hey, if they can't get Jibanyan into Smash, that'd be one way to get the West's attention.
gajknight avatargajknight
I drank a glass of Ovaltine for the first time in years today. It was nice. Like drinking a glass of my childhood, complete with ignorance, embarrassing angst, tears (so many tears) and night terrors. Ah, the good 'ol days.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
[img][/img] This is just depressing. Digital classics on consoles are such a great idea, but it's like not a single company wants to really go through with it.
StriderHoang avatarStriderHoang
My heart will always be yours, Papyrus #2spoopy4me
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
I recently beat Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow again, but this time I played on Hard mode from scratch. Outside of dying a few times due to me being an idiot, and enemies hitting harder, it was actually easy. Like really easy.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Today I replated bacteria that I made take up a plamid hopefully stitched onto the genes generatlight. Taken from other dead bacteria and put into a non glowing species, to make it glow. Fucking microbiology is the best.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
It seems fairy farts are a fragrance, a soap, incense, a vaping liquid and a kind of nail polish. I'm clearly in the wrong line of work and need to eat more chili.
Cannibal Steven avatarCannibal Steven
"You gave the Lost Soul a big smile, like you remember she likes to do... For some reason she sort of wants to smile back..." I'm not crying. Not one bit.
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Just tried 'The Last Of Us' on PSNow Trial, only to be told... 'Something went wrong. Try again.' Game-appropriate error message or quickie plot-summary?
TheAngriestCarp avatarTheAngriestCarp
I hate when people say crap like "I admit that [thing] in games is problematic, but I still enjoy it" because it's an underhanded way of contradicting your own views while convincing yourself that you aren't a hypocrite.
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
Well shit. I knew I was more than likely going to enjoy Star Wars Battlefront (cause you know, giant Star Wars nerd and all) but holy cow, the beta is fucking great! I need the full game like, now.
SpielerDad avatarSpielerDad
Anyone here going to NYC Comic Con? Always wanted to go and lived so close, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.
more quickposts


destructoid's previous coverage:
Second Sight

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -