Mindjack: Review

So, feeling that we needed a cover shooter with a twist, Square Enix published a game in which you can control a Cyborg Gorilla.

Yeah, that looks badass

My original notes before starting the review for this game went as follows:

  • Thanks Japan
  • Been spending most my life livin’ in a Griefers paradise
  • Jim Corbijn – seriously?

Mindjack is a clumsy mess. The narrative makes little to no sense with the voice acting merely bland one moment and downright atrocious the next. The visual style of the game is somewhere between Minority Report (the Xbox game) and Headhunter Redemption (also last generation). It’s all sparkling blues and metal struts with washed-out, overly bright whites, which makes the sets look like the Jean Claude Van Damme film Timecop. Which leads me to the game’s character designs (on which the mullet JCVD sported wouldn’t look out of place), a completely uninspired copy/paste from every bad Resident Evil game. Protagonist Jim Corbijn and his partner Lyle Fernandez look like reality show rejects dressed up in leathers that might only have looked cool in the 80s.

I hate you Lyle

For a cover-based shooter it’s a shame to say that the cover system only works most of the time, with occasional moments when your character will combat roll out into the middle of gun fight instead of sidling up to the protective cover you pointed him at. The shooting is reasonably solid but that is hardly a plus point; really it’s expected behaviour.

The partner and antagonist AI is verging on braindead. Frequently during my playthrough I witnessed enemies walk headlong into walls whilst I ambled up behind them and melee-attacked them to death (that’s when the melee prompt worked, at least).

Flawed doesn’t even come close to most of Mindjack’s execution. And yet I loved every minute of it because under Mindjack’s fumbling, gauche exterior is some kind of savant.

Before you are even allowed into the front end menus the game introduces you to mind hacking: the ability to jump into any friendly or neutral NPC in the level and control them personally. It is presented in such a blunt manner that it isn’t until about two levels in that you start to appreciate the delicious possibilities for play using this function.

Who hasn't wanted an army of fighting monkeys with machine guns on their backs?

After this brief mind hacking experience (which has some narrative connotations later on if you care about story) you are given the option to either Open A Portal, meaning start a campaign, or Hack A Portal, meaning jump into someone else’s campaign.

Playing this game completely offline is missing out on what makes this game a stroke of genius and, simultaneously, utterly frustrating. In the online portion the game is at the height of its idiotic best, as anyone can jump into your game and will appear as either an ominous red hacker or friendly blue.

The game completely changes as soon you get your first red hacker; your priorities will change and your eye is only half on the drone enemies whilst you instead try to keep track of the glowing red orb darting around the level. It can possess any character that isn’t directly affiliated with your side and this provides excellent added spice to the playthrough, especially with the right group. It can be hilarious how rivalries develop as players slip past the campaign player, possess an inconspicuous civilian and then gun down the protagonist from behind.

The cross section of randoms I played with were also interesting given the open invite for griefers. They alternated between tentative new guys to achievement and XP hunters so the game was always different; interesting even, although not always fun.

Every kill feeds into a levelling system that allows you to use new 'plug ins' from better health to harder difficulties

One guy whose campaign I hacked into was clearly after the ‘Get hacked 100 times‘ achievement and had parked himself, safely inactive, at the end of a level and permanently away from controller. That kind of experience can dampen your enthusiasm somewhat but the behaviour of the players is hardly the fault of the game. Mindjack offers you a playground and sometimes the people who play within it just don’t want to play nice. I respect the developers for not trying to sanitise the experience (even if a bit of balancing could have been done as killing the campaign player nets you way too much XP – giving a little too much incentive toward griefing). The problem is that there are moments where it becomes evident that without everyone cooperating (red hackers included) it is actually impossible to beat the campaign. This imbalance will lead to you having to opt for the offline portion of the game that is nowhere near as interesting.

That said, it is still refreshing that you can’t judge this game by its utterly terrible cover (a generic sci-fi cover with angry shooting mans). There is a heart beating in here somewhere and, if you find it and nurture it, it provides a gratifying multiplayer alternative to the only other griefing based game I know: Left 4 Dead.

I have enjoyed every jerky, broken moment of Mindjack. It is to video games what Death Race 2000 and Evil Dead 2 are to films. An unabashed attempt at something different, no matter how hackneyed it might be it is still a mile better than another safe game with nothing to offer. It’s proudly incompetent and totally deserves whatever random fanbase it might have.

Also it has Cyborg Gorillas and monkeys.

Remember, be the monkey.

For more information on Mindjack, why not check out the Wiki?