Sailing the Blue Skies since 2001.
Welcome to Overrated Vs. Underappreciated. Here I'll discuss games I've played that did little to nothing for my enjoyment, yet seem to be quite popular for reasons unbeknownst to me. Also, I'll highlight a game that was largely ignored by the gaming populace that I think deserves the attention and fandom the more popular game receives.
OVERRATED - Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2/Xbox)
First off, let me state that yes, I appreciate what this series has done for the expansion of the sandbox method of gameplay prevalent in many games today. The GTA series has opened up new possibilities into gaming in terms of level design, replay value and gameplay opportunities. I also have to say that I did have a fair amount of gaming bliss while playing GTA:SA. The open-ended gameplay was a lot of fun...for a while.
The problem I had with GTA:SA lies in one fundamental flaw that popped up over and over again, and that was in the tightness of the controls...or lack thereof. The cars didn't feel right when you drove them, turning very poorly and not reacting much to environmental changes. CJ's aim was horribly inaccurate, and the lock-on feature was incredibly busted. And those two issues were enough to lose any sense of enjoyment because THEY ARE EVERYTHING TO THE GAME. This game is all about shooting and driving, and these two elements are broken. Trying to fight off gangsters is difficult enough with the shoddy accuracy the game gives you when you don't use the auto-aim; it flies into sheer frustration when you press the button to aim at some unknowing pedestrian halfway across the block that isn't doing anything to you while the guy two feet away from you with a machine gun is blasting your life meter to ribbons. It sucks. Hit and run missions are also terrible because your AI buddies can't aim very well either, and your car doesn't handle the way it's supposed to, making it all the more aggravating to watch the car blow up as you run off with your tail between your legs because you couldn't turn the corner the way it needed to be done to hit those rival gang members.
And don't even get me started on the mission where you and Big Smoke shoot gangsters on the train on a motorbike, because I HATED that mission. How many bullets does it take to kill someone? 50? Yeesh. The bikes were probably the most fun vehicle I played with, but they handled too loose (which is better than not loose enough, like most the cars) to be effective in most missions, and the chase with Freddie was annoying because of it. Sure, FREDDIE'S AI can handle that run without a hitch, but the twists and tight alleys were a pain for anyone else to maneuver through, and your AI buddy was stupid, whose routine was too tightly scripted for you to catch up with Freddie if you fell off one too many times...I can't count how many times I got back on the bike and he just stood there, like he WASN'T wanting to do his long-plotted revenge anymore. Grrr.
UNDERAPPRECIATED - Second Sight (PS2/Xbox/GC)
Second Sight is from Free Radical, the ex-Rare guys who left after Goldeneye to later make the Timesplitters series for the PS2. It's a rather good action game involving psychic powers and a cohesive plot relating to how you got said powers. Your character, John Vattic, wakes up in a hospital room with a splitting headache and no recollection of who he is, and finds that he can somehow move objects with his mind. As you go through the game, more powers begin to appear at your disposal, like healing and psi-blasts. John also has some firearms training, so he can handle an array of weapons, too. The game bounces back and forth between two timelines, the past and the present. As you get deeper into the game, the plot throws some excellent loops into the cycle. It's a thrilling ride to its finish.
The game's look is akin to Free Radical's Timesplitters series, but it's a touch more realistic here. The game offers up a sizable amount of interaction (although you can easily glitch the game with telekinesis), and there's a lot of leeway in the level design (as I'll get to momentarily). The voice work is pretty solid, with very few poorly delivered lines and nothing too cringe-worthy. The music is fitting for the motif, but outside of the main intro, nothing about it springs to mind as memorable or classic.
The game's control scheme is deep - Second Sight can be played in a run-and-gun style, but that limits its potential. It's best to utilize the many opportunities of being stealthy to reap the game's level design rewards. Between using your Psychic Powers like Telekinesis, Charm (invisibility) and Projection and the game's environment, Free Radical gives patient players a great time in its levels. The controls are a bit unwieldy and there is a hefty adjustment period to get used to them (every button on the GC pad is used for something somewhat important), but the game is fairly understanding to that, offering a tutorial for both psychic powers and the complex stealth routines. Once those humps are cleared, though, then it's off to the races for some great gameplay experiences.
The game isn't perfect. But I was pretty satisfied with the experience it provided, and it's quite fun to play. You can find it used for pretty cheap. It may not be to your tastes, but it's still worth a go in my mind.
Considering Free Radical has now bit the dust, I can say that this is their finest work. Give it a fair shot.