Switch bodies and hack into other people's games in Mindjack, a third-person action game that hinges its success on a couple interesting ideas… and nothing else. This latest import from Square Enix desperately wants to be Gears of War with psychic powers but stays firmly in the last gen box of mediocre design.
- Mindjacking is cool...in theory
- Always on multiplayer is cool...in theory
- Taking over dead bodies is fun
- Boring repetitive gameplay
- Mediocre presentation
- Absurdly bad story
- No ability to pause the game
You can’t blame Square Enix for trying: with the popularity of western-developed games like Gears of War, it’s only natural that Japanese developers would try to jump into the crowded third-person shooter waters. With Sega’s recent Vanquish, it’s clear the results can be good. Sadly, Mindjack is squarely in the opposite end of the pool. It’s a shoveled out last-gen game that is doomed for bargain-bin obscurity.
Psychic Warfare...Now with Guns!
There is a story here, but frankly, it’s hardly worth trying to unravel. You play a psychic secret agent man named Jim, who somehow tags some stereotypical video game hottie at the beginning to follow him around and help shoot bad guys. Why? Who? What? Doesn’t matter. The story is muddled, convoluted, and worse than usual—even by Japanese action game standards.
What is important about Jim is the psychic bit. See, Jim can jack peoples’ minds, man. Groovy. Actually, he can hack into not just people, but robots, cyborg apes, and even computers. Mindjacking is the whole claim to fame novelty of the game’s design, but astute gamers might remember a quaint, if flawed Gamecube game called Geist that did exactly the same thing years ago. Thankfully, your friends and internet strangers can actually “hack” your single-player game and mindjack enemies and bystanders while you play through the story.
To AI or Not to AI?
Admittedly, the online connectivity is a pretty keen idea. It works and, more importantly, it makes the enemies more interesting. That said, good luck finding players using this feature, which shy players can thankfully turn off. On the more idiotic side of things--and presumably because of this toggleable multiplayer function--you can’t actually pause the game.
When just playing the single player game alone, Mindjack allows players to bear witness to what may be the worst AI this side of the original PlayStation. Enemies might be enhanced with big guns and armor, but that can’t hide their complete inability to function. Some might use cover, or just decide to stand there and, we imagine, have second thoughts about their lot in virtual life. Friendly AI is mostly just fodder to get the attention of the enemies that can shoot straight.
And yet, the silver lining of having friendly AI is that you can create new allies simply by mindjacking fallen, but not yet dead enemies. Turning foes into mindslaves is actually a lot of fun and since you can have several mindless slaves at once. This also makes the generally large battles feel a bit more active. Oddly, Jim can only actually take over other bodies when he is one step from death, which is a bizarre design decision. He can’t actually die—after a brief rest of uselessness, he pops right back up again. Yet if his mind inhabits someone else’s body, you can’t flip back until that body is dead. How he’s controlling two bodies at once is another mystery.
Run, Gun, Rinse, Repeat, Yawn
Finding bodies to control by flipping through all available targets with the shoulder buttons is a ponderous task as well. There’s no intelligence at work here, no targeting or the game helping you by putting the best options first. Instead, you zip through the whole lineup until you find a body that’s appealing.
Beyond all that trippy, poorly-done body snatching, the rest of the game is just a boring run, gun, and cover affair. In fact, the whole psychic stuff really takes a back seat to run-of-the-mill gunplay. The cover system works, but lacks refinement. Some cover doesn’t actually cover you, the mechanics to quickly auto-zip to more cover are frequently broken, and none of the action is smooth or even particularly engaging.
The weapons are the standard array of pistols and machine guns for the most part, and the game annoyingly resets you to a pistol at the start of each map. Finally, the presentation is straight from the last gen. The visuals have a bland, yet overly shiny sheen. Characters all look like mannequins, with stilted animation, and the maps are unimaginative and simple.
A Bad Mind Trip
Mindjack looked as if it might be a fun, second-tier sleeper from Japan. The cool body-switching hook and innovative multiplayer gimmick work, but can’t stem the overwhelming tide of mediocrity that make up this boring, asleep at the wheel shooter.