While the great masses of other gamers may be into Call of Duty or Halo, I’ve been happily rocking Mindjack with a small, but dedicated collection of online scrubs, losers, and miscreants. I love it, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I stumbled into Square Enix’s third-person action game while researching a column about dead multiplayer arenas. The one-star game has become sort of a joke around G4’s offices, and I was hoping to find an occasional straggler still logging in to this backwoods of the multiplayer world and ask: “Why the hell are you playing this terrible game?” But when I actually gave Mindjack a fair look, I ended up liking it a lot.
Instead of strolling into a virtual ghost town or an unplayable crap-fest, I chanced into a small, but relatively dedicated community of players and a game that is quirky, weird and sort of great.
I don’t disagree with much of G4’s review of the game. There are huge problems with Mindjack– rough edges, inexplicable design decisions, terrible single-player campaign, and uncomfortably amateurish moments – but overall, it’s a little like punk rock. The musical form is really basic, and it’s played inexpertly, so at first, all you notice are the mistakes, but after you develop a taste for the style, you start to love the rough edges themselves.
The main hook/gimmick of Mindjack is the ability to change into a cyber-ghost (or something) at will and “hack” into other character’s bodies. In single-player, you can switch to a nearby pawn and flank enemies or even take over turrets and monkeys. This mechanic quickly becomes repetitive in the single-player campaign, but the option of jumping into someone else’s campaign is awesome in multiplayer. Think of it like Demon Souls if it were a sci-fi shooter designed by gifted amateurs and enthusiastic 12 year-olds.
Crappiness aside, the joy of jumping into someone else’s campaign and either helping them by jumping into a co-op game, or bedeviling them by taking on the enemies’ AI and shooting them in the face can’t be denied.
Other than floating around like a ghost, Mindjack is a very basic third-person shooter, like a gimped-out version of Gears of War. The controls and response is a little clunky, but serviceable, the cover system usually works, and you can take a lot of damage without dying (or, rather, being forced to vacate your body and take over another one – there’s no real death in the game). All of which makes it perfect for a beginner or someone who isn’t “serious” about multiplayer. Mindjack even offers a rudimentary perk system, so you can earn extra damage, armor or other help through the game.
The game’s very lack of perfect tuning and polish make it great for people who just want to have a little stupid fun and run around shooting people -- no “serious” multiplayer fan will be caught dead playing this instead of Gears 3. Because there aren’t many “veteran” players online, you’re generally only pitted against people who, frankly, kind of suck. But, I suck too, so we’re like one big sucky family.
The steady stream of low-rent newcomers means that you can basically have fun, get a little better, and not get totally owned every five seconds by someone who has devoted his entire life to playing a video game. And if you lose, who cares? It’s Mindjack for god’s sake. It’s impossible to embarrass yourself further. You’ve already surrendered any gamer cred by being there in the first place, what difference is being a bullet-sponge for a few minutes going to make?
Plus entering someone else’s single player campaign feels like griefing, even though it’s officially sanctioned and part of the game. There’s nothing sweeter than changing upon someone else involved in a boss battle and having the ability to take over the AI on the NPC and make things even more difficult [Insert Evil Laugh Here]. The single-player AI sucks so bad, you can justify your pseudo-griefing by imagining you’re actually making the game more fun for the campaigner.
I like to think some of my opponents forgot to turn off the option that lets other people enter their game, and the lower population means it’s truly a surprise when I show up and start shooting them. Like they’re wondering why the AI just changed so significantly and game went from annoying-but-easy to very difficult in seconds. I’ve even received a profanity-laden message from a gamer who warned me to stay out of his game unless I wanted to play co-op. I consider that a victory.
Mindjack is also cheap. You can pick it up used on Amazon for like 6 bucks. So hopefully, I’ll see some of your guys soon. I’m usually Mindjackin’ it after 9 PST on weeknights. There are not many people online, so I’m sure we’ll run across each other. I’m the guy with the high level and extra perks – a medium size fish in a very, very small pond.