A guest Review by Kev
Ready for another dose of spooky-action-horror-adventure-detective gaming? You better be, as you step into the role of Doctor John Vattic, a man with some very special gifts. A lot of the plot is explained via flashbacks, all playable of course, and is riddled with twists and turns. Are you a deranged psychic psychopath? Or are you the victim of some terrible cover up? What are those pesky Russians up to this time?
You awake armed with a range of funky psionic powers, ranging from telekinesis to charm, from a devastating Akira style psionic wave. Oh and guns, though they lack the joy of using your mind to throw people across rooms. The control system feels much like any other action shooter, but excels in its weapon and power selection system. Yes there are thumbsticks and a d-pad, so the trusty old fella is used well. The ability to change from preset to free roaming cameras, a feature used well here, has become one of the true advances in enjoyable 3D action gaming. Gone are the tiresome days of rotating on the spot stuck behind a corner. Second sights well crafted control system allows the ability to look around corners both in all the camera options. The vaunted team support option feels like a scaled down Full spectrum style command structure. Good move by the developers, who obviously didn't want to damage the fast moving action style. Your the doctor after all, not the general. Trying to straddle to many genres in one game seems to be a flaw more common, as games with no real gameplay are sold with tacked on bits and pieces that simply serve to confuse the gaming experience.
Now, heres where things get tricky. Although as graphically accomplished as any other PS2 title, it just seems bland. Haven't we seen this asylum/spooky old house before. It certainly feels like it. Unimaginative level design in many parts makes you feel much more lost than any of the cryptic clues ('From the directors of...' B-movie horror?) littering the games storyline. Not a bad story at that, but leaves something to be desired after almost ten years of resident evils plot, 'Bad guys experiment. You get involved. You stop Bad guys.'.
The sometimes jerky cutscenes underline the strangely rapid pace at which the limits of Sonys baby are being found, along with the limits of this reviewers patience. Im all for a cinematic experience, but I would still like to be PLAYING a game instead of WATCHING a game. Konami, et al, please take heed and stop stretching five hours of gameplay over seemingly endless drawn out cut scenes.
The flashbacks are fine, if tiring, for delivering plot twists but why must we spend levels running around without the thing that sets the game apart? Yes, there are a number of levels WITHOUT access to your powers. The Games called 'Second Sight', not 'Sometimes I'm a bit Psychic'.
Back to the engine, and we see more flaws. Yes, the rag doll tugging and throwing of the objects in the game is amusing. Not when you seem to be able to throw tables around by walking into them. Surely that should a been a psionic power on its own! The slightly unreal feel of the objects in the levels is just that, they feel IN the level, not actually part of it. You can trap objects against walls and walk most of the way into them, watching those polygons old in emotion engine confusion. Familiar little game archetypes like stupid guards and standard weapons seem to make up the bulk of the gameplay. Yes the game plays well, but this too is marred with the inclusion of a mandatory 'boot camp'. Yet again its assumed that none of us can figure out the nuances of the control without being gratuitously walked through them. Excuse me for being able to experiment and read manuals.
Don't get me wrong, this is an enjoyable, if samey, shoot and Psi roamer. Its just that I feel all the way here in 2004, we should be getting a lot more bang for our buck.