Mindjack

Mindjack

Written by Peter Skerritt on 2/17/2011 for 360  

Mindjack is a third-person shooter from FeelPlus, the same team that collaborated with Mistwalker on Lost Odyssey. The game follows Federal Intelligence Agent Jim Corbijn, as he unwittingly finds himself at the center of a controversy that revolves around Mind Jacking-- the ability to control other people by literally jacking into their brains. The story tries to deploy some twists and turns throughout, but the presentation is inconsistent and the pacing isn't steady enough to hold anyone's interest. There's betrayal, an attempt at romance, and plenty of odd flashbacks to be seen in Mindjack, but ultimately, very few players will be able to care about the characters involved. This is especially disappointing when you consider the pedigree of FeelPlus and Square-Enix. Storytelling and character development should be more important in the case of both of these companies, and yet Mindjack fails in both areas.

 

Mindjack
has a very specific flow that becomes rapidly predictable. Here's how it works: 
1. There's a cutscene that tries to advance the story.
2. Jim and his AI (or other player-controlled) partner walk a few feet, usually down a corridor, and grab weapons that just happen to be lying around.
3. A battle breaks out in the traditional third-person cover shooter mold as Jim and his partner take on several waves of the same few enemies.
4. Jim and his partner gain experience points and possibly level up, which can lead to unlocking perks like better aim, increased health, or various difficulty settings. 
5. Jim loses all of the weapons and ammo that he obtained. 
6. Repeat Step 1.
 
Honestly, that flow makes up about 85% percent of Mindjack. It's mind-numbingly repetitive, and when combined with the flaky story, the reasons to keep playing Mindjack to its conclusion become more and more scarce. 
 
The most unique parts of Mindjack come from the ability to transfer out of Jim's body and into another neutral character and the ability to revive fallen enemies and turn them into allies. The Mindjack ability isn't executed well; Jim's consciousness, which is represented by a white fog, must be forced out of his body (either purposely by pressing the L3 and R3 buttons or automatically if he is incapacitated) and then steered by the player until it finds an available host body to jack into. The process is slow and the play controls for this process aren't responsive enough. If the Mindjack occurs because Jim is killed, it seems pointless in many cases because, by the time a host is found for the Mindjack process, Jim has usually been revived by his partner. Since the game ends after ten seconds if both Jim and his partner go down at the same time, this slow process severely hampers any chance of survival. The Mind Slave ability works a bit better, and it definitely comes in handy. Once a player takes down an enemy, a Mind Slave option will sometime appear. With the press of a button, the fallen enemy will revive and fight for you. This ability can help to level the normally skewed playing field, especially if multiple enemies can be turned. Mind Slave is not a completely free ability, however; Jim has limited mind powers which recharge over time so a bit of strategic use is required.  
 
The problems with the gameplay in Mindjack are numerous. For starters, the cover system is broken. Jim (or whichever character that the player is controlling at the time) is supposed to be able to perform different cover actions, but these actions rarely work when they're supposed to. It should not take multiple button presses to direct a character to jump over an obstacle, but that's exactly what happens here. The cover action button is also the same button for running, so the on-screen character can get unintentionally stuck behind cover at an inopportune time. AI-controlled enemies aren't that smart, either; Mindjack relies on overwhelming odds to take players out, as well as inconsistently-powered weaponry. For the human player, it can literally  take four or five headshots to put down a low-level grunt; however, for AI-controlled enemies, sometimes only two or three shots anywhere on the body will take you down. Poor level design also leads to some frustrating moments as it's overly difficult to flank mechs or more powerful enemies based on the layout. The gameplay devolves quickly into a sub-standard third-person shooter with few variations or surprises. 
The few gameplay variations that Mindjack offers come in the way of boss encounters, and these simply are not well done at all. One battle pits Jim and his partner against a huge police mech, but the battle with the mech never takes place. Instead, the duo must evade the mech and take out tons of the same faceless enemies that they've faced up to that point. Another encounter involves three Special Forces agents that must be eliminated. These agents are fast and have a limitless supply of flash grenades to blind players with. Unlike most boss battles, which involve deciphering a pattern in order to succeed, this one has no such pattern and can take upwards of 30 minutes or more to get enough lucky shots in to subdue the trio. One last encounter of interest involves another giant mech; there are no life bars or indications of how to take the mech down in this case. This leaves players to shoot randomly at the mech-- even with the appropriate weapons-- until they figure out where the weak spot is. From there, it's a matter of guesswork and persistence. The worst part of that battle is that one more wave of soldiers appears once the mech is shut down, and if you wind up getting killed, you have to start all the way back before the boss battle even begins. That's poor game design. 
 

Two of Mindjack's boasted features are abilities to "hack" into another player's campaign and to allow other players to "hack" into your own. Depending on the side of each skirmish that hackers wind up being assigned to, this can either be a help or a serious hindrance. When a player hacks in and works with you, the experience tends to be more positive as it's natural for a human player to be a better supporting teammate. This is especially true for boss battles. If human players are on the opposite side, it potentially makes for a much more frustrating experience since the teams are so unevenly matched and it can literally halt any campaign progress. Since the default setup randomly assigns teams, it's tough to know what side a player will be on when hacking in. There are perks that allow for re-balancing of teams, but surprisingly these perks become available after leveling up significantly. The idea is solid, but the execution here ultimately falls short. 
 
 
The visuals in Mindjack are as inconsistent as the gameplay. There are definitely high points, such as the vehicle designs, futuristic setting, and the impressive mech designs. There are times when the game really impresses with details like particle effects after an explosion or seeing molten metal dripping from a scaffold damaged my an incoming missile. Unfortunately, generic character designs seem lazy and the frame rate isn't all that impressive, especially considering where we are in terms of this console generation's development cycle. The sound fares no better, punctuated by voice acting that isn't at all convincing and music that's as repetitive as the game's overall flow. It's an aesthetic package that falls on the short side of what should be expected from a full retail release.

It's really a shame that Mindjack turned out as badly as it did. There are some interesting ideas at play here, but between serious flaws and the overly repetitive game flow, there's no way to recommend this game to anyone, at any price. Mindjack feels like an attempt by FeelPlus to replicate the success of Western developers with shooters like this, and the attempt misses the target almost completely.
Mindjack is one of those games that brings unique ideas to the table but ultimately fails in overall execution. Repetition, a broken cover system, a weak story, and other problems should keep this game from jacking any of your hard-earned money. The option of "jacking" into non-player characters for strategic or life-saving purposes sure sounds like a good thing, and the idea of seamless transitions from solo to multiplayer gameplay can make for enjoyable skirmishes or unexpected assistance during a campaign. The world of Mindjack is reminiscent of Tron, with sleek vehicles, huge mechs, and sleek towers of glass and steel. Unfortunately, the repetitive and hollow gameplay experience that Mindjack offers quickly cancels out and actually overtakes many of the game's positive traits.

Rating: 6.5 Mediocre

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

Mindjack Mindjack Mindjack Mindjack Mindjack Mindjack

About Author

Peter has been playing video games for over three decades and has been part of the video gaming press community for the last 10 years, serving in a variety of roles from reviewer to copy editor to freelance writer. Console gaming is his passion, and he makes no secret of his love for "retro" games on platforms like the Nintendo Entertainment System, the TurboGrafx-16, and the Atari VCS. When he's not playing games, he's usually either selling them as a low-level manager for a prominent chain of video game retail stores or is writing about them in his Consoleation blog, which he started back in 2008. Peter is somewhat of an "armchair analyst" and frequently breaks down and discusses business trends and sales numbers within the industry. 

Fun fact: Peter has the distinction of holding the World Record for Mania Challenge (as officially recognized by Twin Galaxies) and held the record for Sea Wolf for nine years before losing the title in 2010. 
View Profile

comments powered by Disqus