Mindjack, as an idea, sounds great. The chance to bridge single player and multiplayer campaigns seamlessly with the ability to “hack” into other neutral players at a whim intrigued most of the gaming scene. The hype around the game set the expectation bar high when teaser trailers and screenshots were released prior to its launch.

This over-the-shoulder, cover-based third-person shooter has strong competition. It faces up to franchises such as Gears of War, Uncharted, and the recently successful Vanquish. How does Mindjack stack-up against the rest? Let’s see if this potentially brilliant concept, developed by feelplus and published by Square Enix, has what it takes to heat up the competition.

Wander around some more after the hack.

Story

Set in the not-too-distant future 2031, you play a special agent named Jim. After liaising with HQ over telecoms, you are instructed to follow a young lady, Rebecca, who just arrived off a terminal. You are to follow her and not engage by any means. At this point you learn the basic control system. It is then that you see her talking to an unidentified male. So what is the first thing Jim does? Runs right up to him and breaks his neck! Seriously, without question or moral, he just broke his neck. Jim obviously has either no ability to follow basic instructions, or has problems with authority.

It quickly became clear to me that Mindjack would carry a fairly poor story, and I was right. For example, about half way through the game, you discover that Jim has never heard about “Mind Hacking”. This leaves me to assume that he is either a complete moron, or you can actually “Mind Slave” people by using the force and shooting some sort of sparkly wisp from your body. I’m leaning to the latter. To make the point clear: the game can actually be improved by removing any story elements entirely.

I classify the story as C-Grade: I have heard and seen better voice acting and story development on Redtube. (Ed – A brave admission!)

Gameplay

When you start a new game, you are given the option to allow “hacker” access to your game, which essentially means that, at any point in the game, another player (via Xbox Live or the PSN) can join your game and select to play with or against you. If players join on your side, they are able to assist you by controlling the AI support character or the civilians. If the players join the enemy side, they can “Mind Hack” any enemy character, with the exception of boss characters. The objective, as with almost every game, is to make your way to the end point of the level. To do this, you fight through waves upon waves of enemies, until you’re told that you can finally proceed. Once you kill an enemy, you have a short window of time in which you can “Mind Slave” the enemy to force them to join your side and fight alongside you.Wash, rinse, repeat. You only know when a level is complete when the “Winner!” banner flashes. At this point, the game expels all hackers from the bodies they’re currently jacked into, and the host must make his way to the next checkpoint to continue.

From the beginning, you get that Gears of War feeling, which would be a good thing if it played anything remotely like it. There are similar action buttons: snap-to-cover, blind firing, roll-to-cover, etc. Mindjack just lacks the impact you get when playing a superior game in this genre.

The game AI, quite frankly, is terrible. Firstly, your teammates never take cover or pick up other weapons. They just stand there and fire randomly, hoping to hit a stray, passing enemy. Enemies follow a predetermined path before they split up in the level. And once they are dispersed, it’s extremely easy to hit them. Fish in a barrel does not begin to describe the experience. The cover system is poorly implemented as well. The amount of times I’ve taken cover while attempting to return fire has resulted in more bullets in walls than in enemy bodies. I can only assume that this is purely due to the developer’s negligence. (Ed – Or trying to rush the game to market!)

Not only does Mindjack attempt to diversify itself from the norm, it has completely revolutionized boss battles. Forget the days of defeating the level’s boss by shooting at it! No, now all you have to do is shoot your way through the enemy waves and then, all of a sudden, the boss is defeated. I find this a big fail. A huge boss that you can spend hours shooting at, just for nothing to happen, can become easily frustrating.

You can also gain experience by killing enemies, which allows you to level up and unlock better features. How you kill them determines the amount of XP you gain. At certain levels, the game allows you to unlock plug-ins, which come in two forms: rules and arts. Rules modify the gameplay mode, for example increasing or decreasing health regeneration. Arts modify your player statistics, for example increase damage and armour. You can only equip one rule and two arts at any given time, and you can only set this before the level starts, and not during.

It’s quite awesome having people drop in and out of your game while you progress through it. I’m sure that this kind of innovation could be used more effectively in other games, as seen in Demon Souls. At times Mindjack can be a grind, especially when three opponent hackers join your game and easily take your team, forcing you to repeat the level. This can be easily averted by either disabling the hacker system, or by enabling the plug-in rule for team balancing. However, the plug-in only becomes available at level 24.

Final Chapter

MJ-1

You are probably leaning towards the idea that Mindjack, simply put, is a game no one should play. But if you take Mindjack for what it is, a simple cover based shooter and you can look past the annoying glitches and shoddy cut-scenes, you’ll find something that could entertain you for a few hours on a rainy day. The trophies/achievements are reasonably easy with a few exceptions, and these exceptions require you to play with others online. I personally found this difficult due to a lack of players online (but I did manage to find a boosting partner for the final, platinum trophy).

If your looking for a game to pass the time without having to involve too much brain power, then maybe consider Mindjack. If you are looking for something more serious, however, you will probably not enjoy it. If more effort had gone into story, dialog, and AI, it might have made for a more passable game.

Score: 5/10