The traditional approach to shooters has been relatively unchanged since id Software's Doom series took the PC industry by storm. Sure, Call of Duty: Black Ops is prettier, and you've got more complex control options, but the core concept is the game. You play a guy with a gun, and you shoot people while exploring a hostile environment. If you die, you restart at the most recent checkpoint. Well, what if the person as whom you were playing wasn't really you, and death didn't necessarily mean a respawn, but simply the need to find another body? Welcome to Mindjack.
Remotely controlling other characters has been done before in video games, such as in Vin Diesel's The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, but we're hard-pressed to think of a title that made it a core feature of gameplay, as Mindjack promises to do.
Describing the concept behind Mindjack is a lot like merging ideas from popular sci-fi such as the Matrix movies and the Shadowrun universe. Mindjack occurs in the real world, but just like Hugo Weaving's imposing Agent character in the Wachowski brothers' films, you're not limited to using just your own two hands. When the occasion arises, you can take control of others on the field of battle and put them to use.
Taking control of someone consists of two stages. The first step is called "mind slaving." Once someone has been mind-slaved, he's at your back and call. A friendly AI powers those under your spell, so they can act as support fighters. You also have the option of jumping directly into people who you've mind-slaved. Do that, and you control them directly. This can be anything from a rough-and-tumble fighter to a random flight attendant wandering through the concourse.
Initially, it doesn't seem like that big a deal, until you start to think about the types of decoys and redirect maneuvers you can set up. After all, who cares about a mind slave? Why not send a random out to draw fire, while you flank from the side?
It's a trick that would likely fool an AI almost all of the time, but that's the other surprise up Mindjack's sleeve: using humans to play as your opponents.
As planned, each game of Mindjack will support up to six players, three blue team members and three red team members. The blue team members are the host and two other friends who are attempting to play through the story mode. Their goal is simply to fight off the opposition and move the story forward. The red team members are there to provide opposition. Fighting as the bad guys in the game, the red team members have to eliminate all of the blue team to win. Of course, that's not as easy as it sounds when the people you're trying to kill aren't actually in the bodies that are shooting at you.
Sounds confusing? It is initially, but once you see the game in action, things start to make a lot more sense. The developers have managed a solid flow that builds on traditional FPS play while encouraging you to experiment with the new Mindjack mechanics.
Like we mentioned before, one requirement to progressing the story is clearing out each area of opponents. What we didn't touch on is the flexibility that the game offers in kills. First, you need to injure your enemy enough to get him down to the ground. Once there, you can either finish him off or merely let him bleed out. Harsh.
If guns aren't your thing, you also have the ability to get up close and personal. Every character in the game has a melee attack. It's difficult to tell how useful this will be when everyone around you has big guns, but if implemented well, it could be a nice change of pace.
Finishing levels in the game earns you XP, which can then be used to equip various skills referred to as "Arts" in the game. Skills vary, but two that were confirmed to exist are stealth and a shortened respawn timer.
Mindjack is a title that excites us simply because of the way it approaches a fairly established genre. It's difficult to tell how well the developers will execute on the concept at this point, though the fact that they're not rushing it out for the holiday season is promising. Assuming Mindjack holds up to its promise, it could end up being a surprise hit of 2011.
We'll let you know how this one is progressing as soon as we get a chance to jack in for an extended period.
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