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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Feel Plus
Genre: Third-Person Shooter
Players: 1-2 (2-6 online)
Rated: M for Mature (Blood, Language, Violence)
Release Date: January 18, 2011
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written By: Anthony Cara

February 8, 2011 - After just finishing the canceled Joss Wedon TV series (is there any other kind?) Dollhouse, the idea of hacking into minds and leaping from body to body with the greatest of ease was relatively fresh in my head. When I sat down to review Square Enix and Feelplus’s latest release I was cautiously optimistic despite what I’d been hearing. After playing through it, however, I see what all the anti-hype was about. Mindjack takes key elements from Left 4 Dead and Demon’s Souls and still manages to create a pretty horrible game play experience. If you are in the mood for a terribly generic and thoroughly flawed third person shooter ripe with linearity, this game may be just the diversion you need.

The graphics and sound will no doubt be the first things you notice - the sound, because it’s incredibly irritating, and the graphics because of the constant frame-rate tearing. When you are in your “Wanderer” state, there is a constant cacophony of mind breaking static, and when you hack into your first body things get a bit more tolerable. As you blast your way through foes, the pops and cracks are sufficiently satisfying and the same 4 or 5 grunts of pain and death can be heard throughout the game. The textures and effects are adequately detailed, but nothing that really pushes the limits of the PS3. Once you get past that, you will at least find some enjoyment in the game play and more than a few laughs at the ridiculous story.

The idea behind Mindjack is that you are some agent- actually some blue amorphous blob of hacker-ectoplasm who has hacked into his mind – and you are sent to tail known activist and rabble-rouser Rebecca Weiss. What ends up happening is a whole lot of random as the two of you join forces to mow down hundreds of wicked-generic foes and uncover a great conspiracy known as mind-hacking. Needless to say there are secrets and betrayals along the way and an ultimately unsatisfying ending that “thankfully” leaves the game open for a sequel. Perhaps the hardest thing to stomach is the myriad of questions the story raises in the form of ridiculous logic and just plain stupid plot holes. No, I’m not just talking about the fact that every random citizen happens to be packing heat once you hack their mind! The main problem I have is that your hero has the ability to make slaves out of enemies. Jim Corbin consistently makes use of this “Mindhack” technology and yet when he first hears it spoken aloud he’s shocked and awed at the concept. So… you didn’t realize people’s minds could be hacked and controlled, yet just a few seconds ago you had 4 Squawkers helping you take down a giant gorilla? Oh and you somehow lose your guns, grenades, and ammo when you walk from one room to the next! That’s just plain silly!

Now the meat and potatoes of the game: it’s totally awesome game play! For all my cynicism, I must admit I had a couple of fun moments in my 8 hours of Mindjacking it. You begin your game by setting whether or not you want hackers to pop in. Selecting no is the equivalent to playing Demon’s Souls in offline mode: not recommended. So you begin your game and wonder what all that hacker business was. You shoot, you duck behind cover, you pick up 1 of 5 lame weapons and kill 1 of 5 lame bad guys as you progress through scenes like a train on a track. It actually felt like playing Time Crisis but without the fun arcade feeling. There were RPG elements like level gaining and power up-unlockin’ but no sense of exploration or freedom. You move from point A to point B and you had better like it!

After clearing a few of these scenes, you may notice something’s a little different. One enemy seems to have a name at all times and behaves…halfway intelligent! You, my friend, have just been hacked! Players can randomly (or by invitation) enter your game and take on the roll of any of the innocent bystanders or enemies available. As you start to get brutally beaten by an enemy who actually tries to kill you, the odds can be slightly evened by having a blue hacker jump in and fight by your side. I thought the mechanic was pretty cool at first, but I quickly came to realize it’s unfairly slanted toward the red hacker. As mentioned, a red hacker can jump into just about any enemy and innocent bystander. A blue hacker can only jump into innocent bystanders and already defeated mind-slaves. In other words, if a game begins and the red team takes all of the innocent bystanders in the area, the blue team will have to wander around waiting for the host to kill something so they can take a body. Needless to say this makes it very easy for the red team to just brutally beat down the competition – even though the host gets to benefit from healing!

So the multiplayer aspect is kind of cool and the game is a standard, mediocre shooter. The part where things go bad (again) is the sluggish unresponsive play controls. For some reason, it feels like every button is context-sensitive rather than having hard-wired functions. You wanna melee that guy? Good luck! Circle is “close range combo attack only when it feels like it.” Square is “sometimes pickup ammo but never when you really need it.” And X is “maybe jump out of cover like an idiot, maybe duck behind something, maybe roll – why don’t you press it and find out?” Enemies take an insane amount of bullets to kill, and in the beginning it’s hard to tell if headshots really matter or not (the game insists they do but I didn’t really see it until much later in the game). Finally, there is a distinct lack of variety or pizzazz in the shootout scenes. There is some weak cover that leaves you completely exposed and there are plenty of things that look like they would explode when you shoot them but they sadly don’t. The only combustibles are the red blinking containers –and you have to wonder why they were even left there; whereas, a fire extinguisher in an office makes perfect sense but doesn’t explode! There is also a fun, useless mechanic that allows you to take a human shield hostage and fire away at other bad guys. The big flaw is that unlike the Hitman games where you can mercilessly finish this guy off with a snap n’ tug, you just have to let the guy go. If that guy happened to be holding a shotgun when you took him as a human shield, you’re basically screwed at this point.

And then there’s the AI.

So Mindjack has a lot of computer-controlled characters. It’s inevitable in a game like this after all. The problem is, sometimes those characters are important and sometimes they act like they rode the short bus to combat training school. Hacking into random innocent people is cool right? The only problem is, once you leave Jim Corbin’s body, you are putting your life in the hands of the most inept AI control I have ever seen. The game is highly cover-based, and your AI friends take cover about as well as Chopper in One Piece. So hack into another body at your own risk, and know that your important characters are fighting with very little regard for their own safety! On an amusing side note, the second-to-last boss fight takes place in a room full of bookshelves and a desk. There is never a moment where the boss was “hiding” and I couldn’t shoot him right in the face with a shotgun. It was most amusing.

So is it worth your precious time and money? I suppose it all depends on how much enjoyment you derive from this short game’s multiplayer. If you like to jump into people’s games and prevent them from progressing, you may find more than your fair share of replay value in this title. If you like to help people out, jacking in as a blue-hacker will provide hours of endless co-op goodness. There is something fun about knowing the game really isn’t depending on you, but you get to help out anyway (and hack the useless Gorilla-bot while you are at it!


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