Written Wednesday, February 02, 2011 By Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
Welcome to the world of Mindjack, which sounds like a borderline innuendo, but in fact, the only mindfuck in this game comes when you start to wonder why you actually decided to play it to begin with. It’s a head-scratcher, it really is, although if we're being honest, the premise is pretty nifty. In Mindjack’s grimly painted future, people are free to hack into each other’s minds in a bid to use them for their own means, which admittedly is an interesting and original start, prompting us to think that it could lead to an innovative and sleeper hit for Square Enix. Or so we thought. When translated into game form though, unfortunately the only thing that’ll have been jacked upon playing this is your hard earned cash. Ouch!
"Oh, a mech! Yay for mechs! Boo, for everything else."
The premise here is a pretty good one, but that’s about as far as our praise goes. Taking place in the year 2031, the game revolves around two agents embroiled in some hi-tech sci-fi shenanigans and government conspiracies galore. It’s a time when jacking into other people’s minds to use them as a pawn is a reality – thus the game name, duh – but that’s about as interesting as it gets. From a gameplay perspective, basically, you can play through the game as normal, but at any time other human players, via the wonderful invention of Xbox Live, can ‘hack’ into your story in a bid to either help or hinder you. Genius, right? Well, it is, at least until you end up getting beaten up by three other players with no recourse for escape and only your dull A.I. companion as back up. Imagine playing any multiplayer game you can think off, but it’s three against one. Think you can win? Think you’ll have much fun? Doubt it. It’s at this point that you’ll probably switch off the ability for multiplayer and go through Mindjack on your lonesome. Only then, instead of living through the torment of other people ruining your game, you actually get to experience one of the dullest shooters ever conceived. An interesting trade-off, that’s for sure.
Shall we start at the beginning with all this hacking malarkey then? Basically, one player hosts the game during which they can play through the story as normal with the aid of some A.I. back up. Now at any point other players can hop in and join the blue (friendly) or red (enemy) team in a bid to spice things up. During this time players can take over a variety of characters, soldiers and mechs, where they can make the host’s journey that much easier or that much harder. The issue comes from the fact that players can easily gang up on the host and generally have more access to destructive weaponry with which to cause untold chaos. The one boon is the fact that the host can limit the number and access of other players, as well as setting certain ‘plug-ins’ that can alter the gameplay experience. However, it just seems like the host is a big old target for other people to gang up on and as a result, the game becomes that much harder when you allow other people to join the other side. Funnily enough, the game’s biggest selling point pretty much becomes its biggest weakness.
"One bullet and this awful game will go away forever."
Matters are not really helped when you go it solo either, as the glaring issues with the game’s A.I., graphics, soundtrack, story and melee all rear their ugly head. The multiplayer’s not perfect but at least playing against other human opponents helps to distract you from some of the issues. In pure single player though, you begin to notice the drab, monotonous corridors that seemingly make up every level; the appalling textures on some of the scenery; and the flat out terrible dialogue that makes up the story. I died a little inside when our hero was handed a bazooka, which he accepted with a grin and one raised eyebrow. Oh, the humanity. Things certainly don’t pick up as the game progresses either, with the futuristic setting really doing nothing to hide the ‘beware evil corporations’ message that pervades every scene.
The general gameplay does nothing to help raise the experience either, as this is little more than an average cover based shooter, and one where the cover system doesn’t work that well to start with. Great! Essentially, enemies come at you in waves, and when you kill them all, you move onto the next area and do it all again. When you’re in cover you can still inexplicably be shot, not to mention the fact that some cover will actually block your shots even when you can clearly see your enemies. Speaking of enemies, what specimens they are as well. When they aren’t just standing out in the open, they’ll just run straight past you and let you shoot them in the back. Occasionally, they’ll not even move or shoot until you put a clip of ammo into them and to make matters worse, the fact that you’re A.I partner is just as dumb is a huge annoyance.
The mechanics of the game allow you to hack fallen enemies too in order to turn them into allies, but all too often they’ll die before that can happen or the button prompt to ‘mindjack’ them will not even appear on screen. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also leave your body to invade one of the other character’s bodies or any mechs that are lying around – assuming you’re prepared for the terrible controls, feeble health and weak attacks that they dish out.
"I’m in your head fool!"
It’s hard to find one aspect of the game that really stands out in a good way, as everything is so underwhelming that you’ll just be glad to finish the game – assuming you can get that far. Even aside from the tawdry gameplay, you’ll also have to put up with a distinct lack of checkpoints and the fact that you can’t even pause the game, as the action just continues in the background. The melee and action targeting are also broken beyond repair, as you can stand inches away from an enemy and still manage to swipe at thin air. It seems that for every clever idea, there are two more absolutely terrible design decisions made to go alongside it.
Even a quick browse of the achievement list does nothing to soothe your fears, as most of the points come from playing the game through to completion. Along the way you can also snag achievements for using melee attacks, hacking your foes or using certain mechs to rack up kills; all in all, nothing too spectacular. The real issue will come from having people hack into your game, or you hacking into theirs, as there are a bunch of tasks tied into those facets of the game and unlocking them will be a frustrating feat unless you have a buddy.
The core idea at the heart of Mindjack is a good one, but without the proper checks and balances it soon becomes obvious that the host has a raw deal when it comes right down to it. It doesn’t help that the overall package on offer here is staggeringly under par either, and the mediocre combat and story will hardly have you begging for more. This is an idea that needed a lot more care and attention to get the best out of it, ultimately resulting in a sloppy excuse for a game.
Do you enjoy terrible music and the worst dialogue since the first Resident Evil? Then this game is for you. All sane people can report elsewhere.
Some typically lush cutscenes are ruined by drab character designs and cardboard cut out environments. Where did it all go wrong?
The hacking gimmick never quite takes off and you’re left with a shallow and dull shooter that does not really stack up well with the leaders in the genre.
The multiplayer aspect can veer between interesting and incredibly frustrating, while every other aspect of the game feels rushed and repetitive.
An average list, but one that relies on the presence of other players to complete, which is going to be a trial considering the almost non-existent community already.
One good idea does not always translate into a great game, but the potential here is what makes the whole experience that much worse. With a bit more thought and a more polished story, Mindjack could have been something special. Instead, it’s something to avoid.
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