Welcome to the future. In this future, technology allows us to ‘jack’ into the minds of other people and use them as puppets. This is the basis for Mindjack, developed by feelplus and published by Square Enix. Unfortunately, the jacking mechanic is so central to Mindjack that feelplus forgot about all the other important elements that go into a good game.
Mindjack puts you in the shoes of Jim, a special agent trying to infiltrate the headquarters of the evil corporation NERKAS alongside co-protagonist Rebecca. Exactly why you’re trying to get to NERKAS has something to do with the evil corporation using mindjacking for warfare and some stock moral high ground the protagonists are taking. I spent more than eight hours with this game and beat it, but that’s still all I got out of the story.
Mindjack is a third-person shooter (TPS) that utilizes a cover system, much like other TPS games such as Gears of War and Uncharted. Mindjack pales in comparison to those games, however. The shooting mechanics work just fine, but the non-adjustable control configuration (R1 is reload, square is for picking up new weapons) along with un-intuitive cover commands mean you’ll die as much from control confusion as anything else. Cover objects often have invisible edges extending out of them and grenades are effective, but nigh un-aimable.
Enemy types are few and horribly stupid. Basic soldiers always go for cover but can easily be taken out when they pop up to try to kill you. There are armored soldiers that plod around like heavily-armed Frankenstein’s monsters. You do get to occasionally fight gun-toting monkeys, but other than those, only the bosses provide any real challenge. These bosses are often large Metal Gear-like tanks or an occasional cyborg gorilla.
Where Mindjack brings some innovation is the only bright spot of the game. Jim’s mindjacking powers add a couple elements to the game that can quickly turn a battle. Once you’ve knocked an enemy to his knees with enough gunfire, you can “mindslave” them, which is like charm in an RPG. This turns that enemy to your side for the rest of the battle or until they are fell by their fellow soldiers. There are also lightly-armed civilians cowering around the maps. You can jack out of Jim and fly around like a poltergeist until you find one of these civilians (or Rebecca) to jack into. This can grant you sudden flanking where you had none before.
Unfortunately, jacking out of Jim reveals another very bad problem in Mindjack: friendly AI. When you’re using Jim, Rebecca will pretend she’s Rambo and fire out of cover a lot, forcing you to revive her. When you jack out of Jim, he behaves just like Rebecca, forgetting altogether the safety cover can provide. When both Jim and Rebecca are down for too long, it’s game over, restart the mission.
Speaking of missions, this reveals another frustration of Mindjack. After each mission, the game will ask if you want to continue as opposed to stopping. That – in itself – breaks up any flow the game could have. What’s worse is when you start the next mission (which will take place but mere minutes after the previous mission) you are stripped back to your starting weapon. There aren’t very many weapons to begin with, they’re all generic, and the variety is very low, but I still don’t want to restart with nothing but a sidearm every mission.
The mindjacking mechanic extends into the limited multiplayer offering Mindjack provides. More similar to Demon’s Souls than a shooter, Mindjack’s multiplayer allows for other players to jack into Rebecca, civilians, or mind slaved enemies to help you. They can also jack into civilians and enemy soldiers to fight against you. You can turn off this setting when you play and you can kick players from your game at any time. While the concept sounds very cool, what it really amounts to is a lot of griefing. My game was jacked into over a dozen times over the course of my playthrough and only once did somebody jack in as an ally.
Finally, Mindjack features an experience point system. However, as you gain levels you don’t become more powerful or unlock better weapons. What you unlock are plug-ins. These plug-ins allow you to alter the game difficulty or add passive abilities to Jim. These can be better defense, aiming, or the ability to passively gain XP while wandering the map like a ghost. These are actually nicely done, allowing you to select plug-ins that compensate for your own deficiencies as a player.
Mindjack doesn’t look any better than it plays. It is filled with dreadfully dated graphics, uninteresting character designs, bland environments, and uninspired enemies. Okay, the cyborg gorillas and monkeys were pretty awesome, but those are rare exceptions to the rest of the game.
The voice actors in Mindjack were definitely phoning it in. Granted, they didn’t have much of a script to work with, but the lines are delivered without any life or feeling. The rest of the sound isn’t very good either. The soundtrack is bland and not entertaining and the game makes almost no use of surround sound, pumping all sounds to all channels at once.
In terms of value, the multiplayer is built into the single-player campaign. You can go around hacking into other players’ games, but you’re still playing through the same missions over and over again. Since none of those missions are very good, it’s hard to see the value in Mindjack.
Mindjack is what happens when you have one great idea for a gameplay mechanic and build a whole game around it. A good game needs great characters, story, gameplay, and graphics. feelplus took their mindjacking mechanic and ran with it, forgetting all the other necessary ingredients to make a good game.