If you wait at the title screen of Mindjack for a few minutes, you can see a video that is better than the game itself. In the short clip, you see disembodied minds zipping through the air and hijacking people as they go about their daily business. These minds turn policemen against their fellow officers and lovers against their partners, transforming an ordinary day into a brutal firefight. It’s a menacing scenario that, regrettably, Mindjack fails to deliver on.
You can indeed take control of civilians, enemies, and robots during combat, but they all move with a lumbering awkwardness that hampers the action significantly. Both enemy and friendly AI are lackluster, often ignoring the bullets hitting them or forgetting to shoot their foes. The multiplayer options liven things up a bit, because you can join each other’s games as either a cooperative ally or a counteroperative enemy. But even the sinister delight of playing the villain soon wears thin because poorly executed gameplay mechanics continually plague Mindjack.
The idea of a non-corporeal consciousness that can fly through the air and invade a human brain is intriguing and frightening, but the story of Mindjack barely scratches the surface of the profound societal changes this kind of technology could create. Instead, it begins as a bog-standard spy drama, complete with “unlikely” allies and “unexpected” twists that unfold in a very predictable fashion.
Worse, once the plot attempts to engage its dark subject matter, it is so out of sync with the rest of the action that you’re likely to wonder if you’re misinterpreting things (you’re not). The cliche banter between the hotshot male agent and the standoffish female agent offers no respite from the weak story, though you might get some inadvertent chuckles from the guy, who often sounds like he is yelling at inappropriate moments.
While your remarkable abilities don’t seem to play an important role in the story, they do factor heavily into the action. The easiest way to leverage your brain power is to mind-slave weakened enemies and turn them into allies. Their intelligence doesn’t improve at all, but they give your enemies a handy bullet sponge to target while you take potshots in peace. You can also pop out of the main character’s body and zip into an enslaved enemy, an idle robot, or a cowering civilian. This move certainly has some novel appeal and is a great way to pull off some deadly flanking maneuvers.
Turning an enemy’s floating rocket drone against him is definitely satisfying, while making a terrified businesswoman stand up and coolly blast an enemy’s brains out is a different kind of thrill. It is empowering, in a way, but civilians are less resilient than most of the other characters in the game.
You might burn through three repairmen during the course of a skirmish, and while this sort of carelessness has no gameplay consequences (as long as the two protagonists survive, you’re good to go), you are basically using innocents as disposable footsoldiers. This is a grim vision of the future, but Mindjack barely manages to set the stage. It’s up to you to put on the show and weigh the significance of your actions.
Yet even the thrill of being the bad guy dulls before too long because Mindjack’s gameplay mechanics are so inelegant. It’s hard to enjoy a game when you can’t move the way you want to move, and beyond the cool premise and intriguing mindhacking ability, Mindjack doesn’t do you any favors. Whether it’s your friendly AI parking itself in your gunsights, or the dull bosses that can barely muster the energy to dodge your attacks, every part of this game is tainted. Mindjack does have a few bright spots, but they are smothered beneath the weight of the awkward controls and squandered potential.