Mindjack – first look

What happens when you can be anyone, and anyone can be an enemy?

Mindjack appears at a glance to be any old third-person shooter, set in any old future society. At this point, it's easy to guess we're about to reveal a twist, so let's get right to it: As Jim, an FBI-type dude, the player has the ability to hack into human minds. With a button tap you can leave Jim's body and float around as a “ghost” while AI takes control of Jim so he doesn't just stand there like an idiot getting killed. In order to “possess” an NPC, you'll have to stun them first with a couple of potshots, and then hit them with the Mindslave ability, which turns NPCs into AI-controlled “pets” of yours. You can have up to three of these slaves, and then at any time you can leave your body and take control of a slave.

Above: Just another day in the future

So why would you want to swap bodies? Well, first of all, regular citizens are faster moving but easier to kill, so they work well as recon units. They also might be located on high ground or in other advantageous positions to help you take out entrenched foes. And no matter what, if a slave dies, you can always return to your original body. You can find bodies to take over either by manually floating around, or by quick button taps that will cycle through all available targets so you don't have to waste time looking for a specific person.

The other major hook of Mindjack is that it is a single-player and multiplayer integrated experience, similar to how Demon's Souls works. If you want to play alone you can, but it probably won't be as interesting, because if you have multiplayer enabled, other players can join into your single-player campaign. Players can join your side, or they can become enemies, possessing NPCs and potentially making your enemies more challenging, and certainly more interesting. You'll have to watch your back, because any NPC could suddenly turn on you.

Above: Human guards and robot sentries are all ripe for possession

The question becomes, what's in it for all parties involved? No matter how you play, you'll gain experience to unlock Arts, which are like spells but all cyber-powered. If you invade another player's single-player game, you'll gain experience if you can prevent him or her from advancing. The game world is divided into discrete areas, so they function sort of like rounds in a traditional competitive multiplayer match. If the enemy team fails to prevent the host (whoever started the single-player game) and his teammates from moving on to the next area, then the enemy team loses the round (and loses experience).

Mindjack also throws a few weird futuristic things at the player, like hovering robot sentries (which you can also possess) and at one point, a great, fanged, cyborg gorilla. The bad guys in the story like to make use of other cyber-animals as well, although we haven't gotten to see any of those yet. It definitely points to some of the goofy aspects of the game – another of which we saw was the dress of certain NPCs – they seemed to be wearing only underwear in public, also while carrying sniper rifles.

Above: Dian Fossey would not approve

So Mindjack has a simultaneously slick and silly tone with its straight-faced shooting and less serious NPC designs. We haven't gotten a chance to play it yet, so we don't know how well it all works. Its approach to multiplayer could be one of the first steps into blurring the lines of solo, co-op, and competitive play that we're expecting many games to start integrating. It will take some real hands-on to see how fun it could be facing human opponents in a single-player campaign. Until then, Mindjack will be an interesting concept with a big question mark over its execution.

Aug 10, 2010

We recommend