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Review: Mindjack

Mindjack Cover

Mindjack has got stiff combat, abysmal voice acting, frustrating bugs and an awful story.

I will never trade in Mindjack.

Cyberpunk runs in my veins. I've been a rabid fan of Ghost In The Shell since high school, play Shadowrun (the tabletop RPG, the Sega Genesis game...not the unfortunate Xbox 360 title), have a tattoo of a cybernetic right arm...it runs deep. Mindjack was made for people like me. Suckers.

SquareEnix has flexed their producing muscles once again with developer feelplus. Their history isn't studded with a lot of deep original content, much less action shooters and it shows immediately. Mindjack suffers from quite a few things, but underneath it there's a special light worth investigating...but not by everyone.

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Right off the bat you get the feeling that Mindjack's designers loved their genre. The designs of all the menus, all the buildings and clothing of the characters is very well polished (aside from some sketchy facial animation). feelplus' work on Star Ocean shows, and I reaped the benefits. Crisp floating computer screens, close fitting jeans studded with ammo pouches and a commlink in every ear. The only jarring visual is the shift into the "Wanderer" mode, when you're searching for a fresh target to hack. The screen effect is harsh on the eyes. The harshness doesn't end there.

There is very little say about the sound of the game. The music is predictably Hollywood score, the sound effects are beepy and blippy and very "Cyber" sounding. The worst thing on top of it all is the voice acting. The English cast sounds flat and completely unnatural (fits the animation though), and every single time battle starts the hero Jim opens with "Here we go!", and when a character is down they moan incessantly. But it's not really a deal breaker.

Mindjack's shining beacon of hope is in its game play. I saved talking about it for last because I wanted to end the review on a positive note. The game play is the reason I adore the game, and it's why I will always keep it, and why I know it probably won't get a sequel.

Combat is not a very fluid affair. Sticking to cover, carefully aiming your shots and shooting for the head are keys to victory, but sometimes bugs get in the way like throwing grenades into walls, or the iffy cover system. It's hard to judge how much damage you're doing to an enemy and that can be a major problem. Once you've wounded an enemy though, you have the opportunity to Mind Slave them and have them fight for you. Fast and easy, it turns the tides of battle. You have to let your Mind Energy recharge naturally to do it more than a few times but once you've got a little cadre of enemies on your side it's go time. You can leave your body at anytime and hack slaved enemies, civilians, drones, Gorillas...the list is pretty impressive. But that's not the best part: at anytime during Single Player another Mindjack player can hack into your game, and take control of one the AI enemies you'd normally be fighting. This makes each level into a potential melee against some truly challenging opponents. The game ramps up sharply when fighting against human opponents, and you realize why Mindjack has merit: it's a damned cool idea. The drop-in, drop-out game play worked for Demon Souls, worked for Fable II and III and it's awesome to see more people mixing their single and multi-player. Mindjack at its best is exciting and engaging, and the hacking mechanic has got something going for it.

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Mindjack is targeting a demographic that's just a little too small and a little too smart to fall for their world, and the reviews for it will be just a little too rough to make it a smash hit. With that kind of response it'll be hard to expect a rebuttal from feelplus but I can, and would love to, stand corrected. The people that keep it will support it, and it's a valiant effort, but it's just effort in the end and not results.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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