Is anything in gaming worse than realizing that you’ve seen everything a title has to offer within the first five minutes? Maybe that’s a little unfair to Feel Plus’ cover-based shooter Mindjack, but the only surprises waiting down the game’s generic, brushed-steel corridors are of the fury-inducing variety. Imagine an endless Mass Effect (not Mass Effect 2, mind you) side-quest with the solid voice-acting, graphical polish, and sturdy mechanics all siphoned off, and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
It’s 2031, a year when hacking into another person’s mind and Svengali-ing them into doing your bidding qualifies as too mundane an activity to ever fully explain to the player. Thorny philosophical issues aside, Mindjack is completely by-the-numbers: You take on the role of Agent Jim Corbijn, an FIA (Federal Intelligence Agency) officer sent to apprehend a flinty, mysterious woman named Rebecca Weiss. Within moments of the opening cutscene, everything goes to hell and the two are trading weak-sauce banter, shooting computer monitors to open blast doors, and generally refusing to explain their motivations or why the player should care.
Presumably, the game’s hacking gimmick is supposed to accomplish that. You’re able to transform into a sentient, pink mist reminiscent of a Transmet foglet and take over the body of civilians, mechs, and enemies that have already been weakened and converted to your cause. Unfortunately, enemies often fail to recognize when a civilian is shooting them, and transitioning between host bodies is a clunky affair that often leaves you more bewildered about the battlefield layout than in any position to turn the tables. The game’s multiplayer, which allows others to hack into the campaign mode at will and fight alongside or against the protagonists, is fairly thrilling, remedying as it does some of the game’s AI woes, but the deck is stacked outrageously in favor of the bad guys, as every CPU is a potential host for a human player.
That bump in difficulty means lots of repeat playthroughs of the game’s Apple-store-inspired levels. Even if you give other players the boot, too few checkpoints sometimes means replaying 20 minutes of content, and mowing down scores of low-IQ, undifferentiated thugs (and the occasional cybernetically enhanced ape), while contending with flabby controls, invisible edges that soak up bullets, and cover mechanics that feel grandfathered in from a previous generation of third-person shooter. Messiah plus Gears Of War with an intriguing multiplayer twist sounds like a solid core concept for a shooter; it’s just waiting for the right execution.