Nottingham-based TimeSplitters developer Free Radical Design has officially unveiled its other project, the aptly named Second Sight, which we're told is now close to completion and should debut worldwide in late 2004 on PS2, Xbox and GameCube. You can see it for yourself thanks to these early screenshots.
Despite the apparently advanced state of development, however, it's difficult to gauge exactly how it will play. The press release describes it as "an immersive thriller storyline with paranormal psychic abilities" combined with "stealthy exploration and intense shooter action," and also says it "redefines the standards for action-adventure narrative and gameplay". Quite a claim. Quite a bunch of claims in fact.
Having read that we were a mite surprised when we subsequently found ourselves reading about the star of the game, one John Vattic, who apparently wakes up in a sinister American military facility wracked with amnesia, only to discover he's been subjected to traumatic surgery and experiments. Ah, that old chestnut.
However as he goes on, Vattic is haunted by fragments of his past, revealed to him in flashbacks, which indicate that he was involved in a covert military operation in Siberia to investigate psychic powers that went horribly wrong and, surprise surprise, empowered him with awesome psychic powers that no doubt led to his incarceration. Vattic begins searching for survivors, and gradually uncovers a fatal chain of events that point to a frightening conspiracy.
Perhaps it doesn't sound like much, but given Free Radical's obvious mastery of the console first-person shooter, it's clearly something to be hugely excited about. Some of these chaps worked on GoldenEye, remember, and we feel sure we're not the only people who thought TimeSplitters 2 handled like a dream. A wet one.
A Radical departure
Judging by the screenshots, however, we're probably dealing with a third-person title on this occasion, a bold if perhaps a mite disappointing move from this hardened TS2 fan's perspective. Graphically it looks to be on a par with if not a bit more detailed than TimeSplitters 2, and clearly relies on much of the same tech - the character models and general aesthetic are a dead giveaway.
The screenshots also point to MGS/Splinter Cell-like mechanics, and not just in the stealth department. In one shot Vattic is clearly seen using an enemy as a human shield while a pair of guards size him up with machine pistols. Another shot meanwhile offers some suggestion of how Vattic's latent psychic abilities come into play as he assumes a translucent, ghoulish sort of form to evade a guard - or perhaps manipulates his mind so he doesn't realise he's standing right next to the escapee.
Elsewhere we're given an idea of Vattic's plight as we see him crouched in sinister looking labs in front of caged gorillas, lurking in what appears to be a boarded up asylum complete with loony straightjacket-wearing residents, and dodging (not so ably on this occasion) the attentions of a trio of guards outside a railway tunnel in snowy Siberia.
Wait a second!
Those of you with a decent memory may recall that Second Sight was originally mooted back in May last year ahead of E3, where it subsequently failed to appear despite the alleged attachment of Activision as publisher. Since then it certainly hasn't figured in the publisher's financial statements, which could be deemed unusual, and this announcement actually comes to us directly from the developer, which is doubly unusual and very uncharacteristic for a game signed to a major publisher.
And in fact, as it turns out, Activision is not attached to publish. Since we first published this story mentioning the Activision connection - as mooted in C&VG last May - Free Radical has kindly responded to our questions. "Activision isn't connected to Second Sight," came the straightforward response to the first one. "We don't currently have a publisher, and haven't really started looking yet," the spokesperson added.
Despite the lack of a publisher at this stage, this is nevertheless a big project for the developer. FRD's David Doak couldn't help sounding exciting in the obligatory press quote. "Second Sight realises our ambitions to create exciting fresh IP and innovate in a new genre," he commented. "It brings together great gameplay and a compelling story - everyone at Free Radical is really excited about this one." Steve Ellis meanwhile says it "marks an important step in the expansion of Free Radical. The company has grown to two talented teams, developing two great original products. We've come a long way in 5 years."
Hopefully we'll get to see just how far come E3 in May, although that may depend on its attachment to a publisher. On the subject of E3, a Free Radical spokesperson said "we've yet to finalise our plans," although we'd bet good money that the developer will be there in some shape or form - not least of all because it recently signed FPS sequel TimeSplitters 3 to publishing powerhouse Electronic Arts.