Mindjack? More like [naughty pun]!
My mind is full of fuck.
I'm sorry, I was planning to do an audio version of this review to convey my rage at this game, but because my mic decided to crap out and I didn't want to use my shitty laptop mic for this one, you're getting the wall of text. So the few of you who actually have the patience to read? Read on.
[Oooh, I just thought of a clever title! " Mindjack? More like MindJack-off!" Yeah! I wonder if I'm allowed to put that in the title of this review?]
Anyone remember the game Geist? It had an interesting mechanic where you could possess anything from a dog to a fully armed soldier as long as you scared it shitless first. The game largely sucked, but the only reason we really remember it is because few games tried this before, giving you an option to literally dive into an enemy in the middle of a game and turn his gun on his bretheren. That, and it was one of the last Gamecube exclusives.
Fast forward to today. A better developer and producer team have come together to expand on this concept, giving you a third-person shooter with the ability to mind-hack into anything from NPCs to mechanical gun turrets. But after playing this, I can say that what sounded good on paper does not work in practice. No wait, that's putting it mildly. What I meant to say is that either the testers fell asleep on the job, or Square Enix took their concerns and wiped their ass with them before they shipped this abomination anyway to book revenue, hoping to break even after the epic failure of their Final Fantasy 14 launch.
The gameplay is standard third-person shooter with the same weapons you've found in every game. You have a pistol, a submachinegun, a burst-firing rifle, a shotgun, and in some places you get a sniper rifle or rocket launcher. That's it. That's all you get. Oh wait, there are also grenades, but the radius is so small that unless your aim is really good they are just a waste of time. Do we at least get to keep the weapons? The game decides to take them away from you every scene transition, leaving you with only a starting pistol. This is particularly infuriating when you come across sections that are literally just you running down a small corridor, killing two guys, and hitting a checkpoint.
It's got a cover system like Gears of War, which is decent, except for the fact that you cannot move from cover to cover. You can do a "combat roll," but it is unknown if this actually does anything useful. There is a button to do melee attacks, but the game treats this as more of a suggestion than a command. You have to be close enough to breathe on the enemy, and then hope he doesn't move while you mash the B button ten times.
The unique "mindhacking" feature allows you to "mindslave" a wounded enemy (provided you haven't already killed them) and make him fight for you. Also, you can jump into the body of an NPC or even some mechanical enemies on the field. In theory, this means you can have an army of soldiers at your command, but the AI does not help. Also, at the end of every firefight section, everyone but the two hero characters die of an aneurysm with no explanation.
Does the AI at least provide a challenge? No. Hell, the AI is so crappy in this game that I'd even call it Artificial Retardation. Whether the AI controlled characters are with or against your team, they will constantly wander out of cover into the open where they can be shot. Sure, they take cover on occasion, but if you plant them behind a wall and try to mind-hack a civilian they will suddenly start following an ant they saw on the ground, ignoring all the gunfire in front of them until you are forced to restart the level.
But of course, the attacking AI is functionally retarded too. They will shoot at walls. They won't stare at you as you take their comrades down. During one sorta-boss fight, when you have to fight a mechanical gorilla (don't ask) I was able to avoid its attacks by taking cover behind a pillar and shooting it while it kept swiping at the pillar, hoping to break through it to get to me. No dice.
And in one scene, where some special forces guys with awesome lightning blades that appeared cool in a cutscene? The one room you fight them in consists of them throwing flash grenades and running way. That, and the fact that Jim or his companion felt the need to shout "LOOK OUT, GRENADE" every 3 seconds nearly made me snap the disc in two.
And the boss fights...these are some of the most pointless fucking boss fights I have ever seen in a game that has them. There are occasional levels where you will find yourself facing a large mech, or a gorilla. And you know how you beat them? You shoot the same fucking mooks that you've been mowing down in waves for the past few hours until the mech either blows up or flies away out of embarrassment for being in this awful game. Why even bother having a boss fight if you're not going to make us fight the boss?
Sometimes it will actually let you fight a boss by spawning a big, slow guy with a rocket launcher. Unfortunately, the same guy can use the rocket launcher on you until you defeat him. So you have to keep waiting for the same guy with the rocket launcher to spawn just to beat the boss, there's no other strategy involved. And that's assuming that the enemy who took control of him didn't already waste all the ammo in the weapon before you pick it up.
I guess this is where we segue into the part where I talk about multiplayer, right? One of the game's selling points is the seamless transition between single- and multi-player matches, where anyone on the net can either become your friend or your enemy. Unfortunately, the mechanics involved mean that you can have 3 people ganging up on you as you try to defeat the level, which mostly consists of you and your partner getting shot until you quit in a nerd rage. And if you want to balance the teams? Oh ho ho, you have to play the game and level up to earn the perk that gives you the right to balance the teams. What is a standard option in several other games is now a sign of dedication.
Yes, this game gives you perks as you earn exp and level up like "extra HP" or "better aim" as they are obligated to have in Call of Duty and similar shooters now, but I can barely tell the difference.
So the gameplay sucks, but what about the rest of the game? The graphics range from metallic gray to rustic brown. Take your pick. The character models are okay, but the textures in the world could probably have been emulated on a PS2 with little difference.
The story puts you in the shoes of Jim Corbijn (yes, silent "j" included), an FIA agent who does not know the meaning of the word "subtle." After he accidentally kills an undercover agent while tailing a suspected terrorist, he finds himself being attacked by legions of FIA agents, policemen, and other faceless bad guys who look exactly like each other (yes, there's a reason nearly every enemy has a facemask: so they don't have to make many unique models). With no one to rely on other than the rebel he accidentally rescued, Jim must find the truth behind the reason he and his companion are being targeted for death.
Unfortunately, the voice actors mostly go through their lines like they're told to read off a term paper in front of class. I know, it's difficult to emote when you aren't even shown the context where the line is to be spoken, but it just makes it harder for the player to care about the story. For all its faults, Alpha Protocol at least had a good story where your choices really did affect the outcome of things. After investing several hours into this game, I still don't know what FIA stands for, or even whether you're really playing Jim or just a Wanderer who keeps mind-hacking him.
There's one cutscene where your partner Weiss talks about mind-hacking and Jim acts like this is the first time he's ever heard of it. Even if that's true, then you think he would be a little more surprised that some enemies mysteriously got up from their bullet wounds and started shooting their friends? Did he think he was calmly suggesting "By the way, can you shoot your buddy Chad behind that wall? Yeah, he stole your sandwich from the break room last week." when the "Mindslave" action came up? What the fuck do you think happened over the past six hours Jim?
So the gameplay sucks, the graphics are mediocre, and the story makes no fucking sense. This game might have worked better as a sequel to Time Crisis if you could play it with a light gun in an arcade with people. But because there are no arcades anymore outside of parts of southern California and Seattle? We get this shit instead. This game is terrible. Do not give it to anyone, unless you want to give a little kid a present, and only if you want him to stop playing with your Xbox 360.
Maybe that's how they should market this game: "Mindjack, it will make your kids turn off their video games and go read a book!"