Mindjack

Review

posted 2/17/2011 by Peter Skerritt
other articles by Peter Skerritt
One Page Platforms: 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. 
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