Into the Red: MindJack

As the adage goes, “without darkness, there is no light.” With that in mind, this is Into the Red, a monthly feature where we discuss games with an average score that leaves them in Metacritic‘s red zone. You can checkout last month's edition of Into the Red here and last week's edition of the Backlog here.

There are times when great ideas come to those who use their creativity and ingenuity to make these ideas an earth-shattering reality. Fully-realized worlds that us gamers get lost in and become a part of. Places we want to stay in or places that scare us to the point where we hope no such reality ever exists. MindJack sets up this premise with a video at the title screen, one that paints a perfect picture filled with promise. It then goes on to destroy that promise by smashing bad dialogue, awful gameplay, and an incoherent story into the face of that oh-so-promising premise, but more on that in a bit.

The idea behind MindJack is that there are those who can “mind hack” (why they use the term hack and not jack is beyond me) into the minds of others and control their bodies. Imagine a world where mega-corporations are enslaving the public to do their bidding not just in a metaphorical way but in a way that is eerily Big Brother. These hackers take over the minds of others and use these civilians, police officers, and robo-gorillas to fight a war that has the most unwilling participants. It’s a scary thought, to be walking down the street when suddenly your mind is taken over, you have no control, and you begin murdering countless others. However, that tension and that possibility is not even considered in MindJack.

Instead, we are treated to bland characters, bland environments, bland gameplay (when it works), and bland plot elements as well. You play Jim; he’s a dude with a headset, a gun, and a terrible voice actor behind his badly constructed face. I don’t mean to say Jim is an ugly guy; rather, he's a poorly constructed videogame character. Luckily Jim is not alone as everyone in this grey world looks awful. The interior and exterior decorators of this “futuristic” setting must’ve loved grey because that’s all you see. Jim and his poorly crafted pals run around grey hallways and grey outside environments while shooting at grey enemies with grey guns.

I’d try and explain the plot of MindJack but I’m not sure the game knows what the hell is going on anyway so that’s a lost cause. There isn’t even a plot section for the game’s Wikipedia article. What I got out of it was Jim and the girl he awkwardly stalks need to stop something bad from happening but that bad thing has nothing to do with the fact that this mind hacking power should be able to rip the world apart at its seams. It’s like having a friend come up with a brilliant idea, one that you know will change the world itself, and then watching him or her create something that is so distasteful and pointless you unfriend them on all social media platforms, move far, far away from their place of residence, and hope you never have another thought about them as long as you live. That seems harsh, and it is, but that’s how I felt when MindJack dropped the ball as hard as it did.

Gameplay is a boring mix of third-person cover-based shooting with the small addition of mind hacking. Mind hacking lets the player jump out of their body, like an astral projection of sorts, and take over the body of an enemy or civilian, or robo-gorilla. This ability sounds interesting and unique but in practice it was somewhat pointless. The game’s AI has a bad habit of just deciding that it's no longer fun to duck behind cover and leave it, beginning to just wander around. Why should I mind hack an enemy who is behind cover when I know he’ll walk out in a few seconds? Similarly, when I did give the ability the benefit of the doubt and use it I found Jim, the body I had left alone for a moment, walking out into fire because he was now controlled by the game’s miserable AI. Jim, if you want me to use your cool power then you need to stay behind cover, otherwise there is no more Mr. MindJack, or mind hack, or whatever.

I don’t want to go on about other problems because to do so would be a waste of time. This wasn’t a practice to review a game I already knew was bad. It was to see how a promising idea that is teeming with brilliance can be squandered and then chopped and formed into industrial garbage that has no right calling itself anything other than garbage.

That's it for this week's Into the Red. Check back next week for  the Hall of Fame. Until then, tell us what you thought of MindJack.