Seeing Through The Haze – A Retrospective On Free Radical, Part 2

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Part 2 of my article looking back at Free Radical Design, creators of the Timesplitters series, Second Sight and Haze before closing down and being bought and changed into the new Crytek UK office. You can find part one here.


Timesplitters 2

This was the first game from Free Radical Design that I ever came into contact with. I had vaguely heard of Timesplitters before, but it had never really interested me, being out of my reach on a console system I would never own. However, in the two years between the original and the sequel, I would get an Xbox and as a result a new lease on my video gaming life. As I recall, which is slightly difficult, due to the mists of time fogging up my memory glasses, Timesplitters 2 was either one of or the first game I purchased for the console, and having spent all my money on the blasted system, I couldn’t afford another game for quite a while. Luckily, the game I had chosen was a good one.

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The style of the second game was completely different, I would find years later, from it’s predecessor. It was still very much a go-here, do-that affair, but the way it did it and the characters it introduced along the way really made you feel like you wanted to go the way the game was asking you to. It was also remarkably good at keeping a sense on continuity going throughout the levels, despite you starting each in a completely different place and time period.

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Another major difference from the last game was the major expansion of the non-story mode single player options. The new Challenge Mode held an incredible amount of replayable little missions which were both fun and nerve racking with their award system and unlockable content (Behead The Undead was my personal favourite).

Second Sight

The first time Free Radical had moved away from their Timesplitters series, Second Sight nevertheless kept a lot of the original art direction from the second game, but with significant graphical advances. Forgoing the arcade and multiplayer styles in favour of a continuous and actually fairly compelling storyline, Second Sight followed the character of John Vattic (a man apparently blessed with psychic powers) as he attempts to find out what the hell is going on.

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The game itself was pretty much as linear as the Timesplitters games, but there was a lot more scope for variety in the way you apporached a problem, depending on which powers you have available and your play style. There were conventional weapons available, as well as your newly-aquired psychic powers, and there was often a choice between all out warfare or a subtle stealth approach. It was also the first and only game Free Radical released on PC, and despite being a direct port from the XBox and PS2 versions, it worked surprisingly well.

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However, the lack of a multiplayer element or any real reason to play though more than once meant that the game had limited play time and was quickly forgotten, at least by me, in favour of Timesplitters 2 again.

Part 3 will be up soon.

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