Impressions: Mindjack

Mindjack, for all its issues, is still one of the more unique cover-based shooter experiences I’ve played this year, although that’s not really saying much. Developed by feelplus (Ju-On: The Grudge) and published by Square Enix, it’s an interesting concept backed up with some creative multiplayer and cooperative mechanics set inside a futuristic world that can truly be described as a hacker’s paradise. Unfortunately, its the rest of the game that’s the problem, as its marred by slow, uninspired shootouts, subpar graphics, and forgettable characters, all of which form a mediocre shell with a hefty load of squandered potential.

Set in a dystopian future (2031 AD to be precise), governments are falling to pieces, there’s panic in the streets, blah, blah, blah. You step into the shoes of a select few agents fighting on the side of truth and humanity. The tale is more than a little convoluted and hard to follow, but your protagonist and subsequent player characters all subscribe to the method of mindhacking (curiously, mind-hacking rather than mind-jacking), which is the primary way of getting through each of the game’s bite-sized levels.

Mindjack’s cover-based shooting mechanics take a backseat to hacking into the minds of enemy players, which is both simple and more than a little confusing. As you shoot your way through each mission, you’ll soon find that enemies don’t just fall down dead – before they’re completely eliminated. You have the option to “mindjack” into their brains and have them fight for you, attacking other enemies and/or assuming direct control, taking them over like mindless husks. This works in reverse as well. If an enemy takes you out, as long as you have enemies around a map you’ve hacked into, civilians in the vicinity, or computer-controlled friendly AI characters, you can jump from host to host and live on, possibly long enough to complete your objectives.

If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is. To its credit the gameplay is handled well and is fairly accessible, but quickly becomes disorienting as foe becomes friend and friend becomes foe. It’s a novel way to change up otherwise stagnant gameplay, but still does little to entertain or keep you coming back for more after each mission is completed.

Mindhacking bleeds into the other modes of the game as well. You can hack into other players’ existing games, work with or against them, and you can even play co-op as well. No matter which mode you choose to play there is still the option to hack into other players’ games, and any mode you pick to play, tough, you earn experience points with each and every kill and successful hack. These points can be used to purchase different clothing bonuses, gameplay perks, and a mishmash of other cool augments to keep things fast and ever-changing when the missions themselves begin to stagnate.

It’s the hacking and experience points that make Mindjack even a remotely enjoyable game. Beyond the terrible voice acting, fuzzy narrative, and boring, one-dimensional characters, there are some truly medieval cover mechanics that leave much to be desired; Gears of War this isn’t. And forget about being engaged in the events unfolding around you. Not only a few missions in, the plot becomes mired in a rut and ceases to successfully engross you in its dystopian pleasures. I for one was disappointed, but more so in the whole package. This offering reeks of wasted potential and a great idea that they just couldn’t flesh out completely. It has some very interesting high points, but unfortunately its low points make it quite difficult to recommend. Perhaps it can mind-hack into a better third-person cover shooter?

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