Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
Lens Flare used to be amazing. The first time I saw it, on a friend's souped-up Pentium playing Privateer 2: The Darkening, I spent full minutes flying towards distant stars and then turning slightly away - ogling the pretty light refracting on the screen. Now it's just another notch on an endless list of things that used to be amazing, but are now firmly in the realm of the mundane; like Pop Tarts or (according to some of my older work-mates), Cherry Coke.
Physics then, is the new lens flare. It's still new enough to provoke a flurry of gravity guns, but in a year or two's time it'll be as everyday as a Monday or a Tuesday. Today though, despite the fact that physics are so thoroughly the spirit of the age, the number of games that have used the tools available to their full potential are few. This is why, then, that in such an age of physical saturation, a bogstandard console port can be uttered in the same breath as Half-Life 2, Max Payne 2 and Far Cry. Y'see, Psi-Ops may not be that pretty and may not be from round these parts, but it nails the integration of Havok and gameplay together as well as the rest of 'em.
Far From Home
In every single way. Psi-Ops screams at you that it belongs on a PS2 - it looks, sounds and feels like any number of cheap third-person Metal Gear knockoffs that you might care to mention. The story is rubbish (it's here that Second Sight, gets its first of two measly holds on Psi-Ops) and runs thus: bad psychic men called The Movement' turn good, honest soldiers into more bad men, while you kill them all and blow up everything they own. Some of the bad men are bigger than others, they're called bosses, and there's a woman or two on hand as well -in case you get bored and want to imagine doing sex. It's not rocket science.
It does, however, manage to conjure up a strange whiff of bygone coin-op beat 'em ups and mid-90s blaster-thons -nowhere better demonstrated than with its raft of eclectic bosses that include a giant Kingpin-esque black guy, a blind Asian man with funny hair and techno glasses and a Chinese woman who plays with your mind in ingenious ways.
So far, so nostalgic - but Psi-Ops comes into its own with its vast array of psychic powers that gradually unlock as you work through the game, giving you a vast number of ways to kill people. To demonstrate, imagine a lonesome grunt in a dangerous environment and tot up exactly how many ways you could off him. First, you could lift him up with your telekinesis skills (TK) and throw his forlorn ragdoll with a swift nudge of the mouse - off a ledge, into a wall or into some handy nearby appliance (a giant gut-shredding fan for example). Second, you could lob furniture at him - preferably items that explode on impact. Third, you could sneak up behind and give him a neat bump on the head, or raise him up into the air and suck all the mental juice out of him until his head explodes. Fourth, you could take over his mind and get him to commit suicide by shooting a nearby gas tank. Fifth, you could set fire to him with pyrokinesis. Sixth, you could go with the traditional approach and shoot him with your big gun. Psi-Ops is as much fun as it is sadistic - and the variety of gory approaches on offer ensures it's never boring.
Meanwhile, level design is bogstandard, occasionally straying to very good, with a fair amount of getting lost for five minutes and having to consult a confusing map screen. Patchy is the word. There are, however, some sublime moments of gameplay, specifically boss battles that are wonderfully inventive and provide the first viable Luke versus Vader in Empere'-style telekinesis bout I've ever seen in a game.
Elsewhere, some occasions are sheer videogame magic -such as when you find yourself sealed in a room filling with gas and have to repeatedly slam an enemy into a sheet of glass until it smashes and you can get a gulp of air. Class.
One issue that arises in Psi-Ops is that there are almost too many things to do and buttons to press. For example, there's all manner of stealth stuff that becomes fairly redundant when you realise that setting people on fire is far more fun. Likewise, there's a button you can tap to hug walls and duck around corners that I forgot I even had until I accidentally pressed it while attempting to throw boulders at passing evil mechanics. In terms of controls, the port isn't too sloppy. For instance, when you chuck someone through the air, the game assumes you want them to hit something painful and plays with your launch angle, so mouse control never needs to be all that precise. Plus, camera angles are never the bugbear that they are in the far inferior Second Sight. The most obvious danker here though, is that little effort has been made to tart up the graphics -so Psi-Ops ends up looking pretty dated. Also, console menu screens remain abundant, as they have in games of this ilk since the times of cavemen.
Fun as it is, there's no doubt that this is a graphically-dated game better enjoyed when sitting on a sofa - and as such is hard to recommend for the PC. It remains, however, the best console port since The Suffering and an enjoyable experience, if a little reminiscent of macho games of yore.
If all goes well, we'll all be laughing at Psi-Ops in a year, by then bathed with games that have pushed physics so far into gameplay that they've become at one with the Cherry Cokes, lens flares and Pop Tarts of this world. Until then though, we'll treat it as a dirty, guilty pleasure - and a good one at that.
Download Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
Sometimes, the best games aren't the ones that innovate or try something entirely new. Sometimes, the best games aren't the ones that have a major name behind it, whether it is a publisher, developer, or intellectual property. Sometimes, the best games aren't the ones with a ton of hype surrounding them. No, sometimes the best games are the ones that take an established genre and then twists it, creating something entirely new and refreshing. Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, the newest action game from Midway, follows this path and comes out on top.
So what's the twist in Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy? You're given special psychic powers, which let you perform incredible feats with your mind. On paper, it sounds kinda cheesy, but it works really well in the context of the game. At its roots, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy is a pretty standard mission-based third-person shooter. The Run-n-Gun missions aren't too varied and the level design isn't stellar, but they're entertaining enough. Really, though, it seems they were designed with one intention in mind: letting the player wreak havoc on the environments they're in.
Usually, wreaking havoc calls for explosions to satisfy the player's appetite for destruction, but this does it in a few different ways with the psychic powers. Perhaps the most notable one is the telekinesis power that lets you pick up objects, including enemies, and throw them around. It works so well partly because the controls are spot on: they're not so easy that it makes the game trivial, but they're intuitive enough that your psychic powers soon became your main source of attack. It also works so well because throwing around enemies like a rag doll is pure entertainment. All of the other psychic powers are integrated into the puzzles really well too, ensuring that you'll be using each one throughout the missions, and all the while it adds a bit of variety into the game. Unfortunately, Psi-Ops is a fairly short game, but there are enough unlockables to make it worth playing through a couple times. And really, screwing around with the telekinesis powers never gets old.
Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy won't be known for its visuals or audio, but they certainly get the job done since there's an undeniable polish to them both. There are some nice effects mixed in that make the sometimes plain environments a bit more pleasing to look at. Likewise, the voice acting is all well done, but it's too bad that's it's all for a fairly weak story.
Midway has really made a complete turn-around with their last few titles, and it cements their transformation as one of the premier publishers in the biz. Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy came out of left field, a relatively unknown game with a sketchy premise, but turned out to be a fantastic title that's well worth the time.
This game is my latest addiction. It is basically a straight forward military tactics third-person shooter with one twist, and it's a doozie- your character has major psychic abilities. I think that's why I love this game so much; there is nothing as fun as telekinetically grabbing a bad guy from across the room, lifting him into the air ala Darth Vader and slamming him repeatedly into a wall until he goes limp. I guess I must have a God complex, because I love the omnipotence of this game.
In the game you play Nick Scryer, an operative for a secret government agency who has immense psychic abilities. You're thrust into the thick of things after having a deliberate mind wipe. After being imprisoned, it's up to you to take out the bad guys from the inside. But there's one problem - you don't remember how to use your abilities or that you even had them. As the game progresses you abilities return one by one, making you increasingly stronger. It's a great concept and works well to slowly introduce your assorted psychic arsenal.
Although the game has impressive graphics, a real physics engine that has bodies flopping all over the place and a good plot, it's really the abilities that make this game a keeper. All said you end up with five abilities, here's a run down:
- Telekinesis allows you to lift object and people with your mind, you can also do cool things like lifting the object you are standing on and tele-surfing
- Remote viewing allows you to see through doors and spy on the bad guy from afar
- Mind Control allows you to take over another person (for instance you can take control of one bad and kill the other bad guys in the area and just walk your "puppet" into a nearby lake or spinning turbine to finish him off)
- Mind Drain allows you to suck the psychic ability out of a person with deadly consequences
- Aura View allows you to detect the recent past (for instance you can see old writing on the wall)
- Pyrokinesis lets your create instant fires - fun stuff
The game lets you utilize the powers to wipe out enemies with ease, but more importantly it uses the powers as necessary to solve the plethora of puzzles in the game. Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy ends far too quickly however, taking up a mere 15 or so hours to complete, and unfortunately there's no multiplayer action.
Despite its relatively short shelf life, Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy is a definite keeper you need to play and once you start you won't be able to put down the controller until you've beaten it.
Snapshots and Media
- Alien Trilogy
- Clive Barker's Undying
- Final Doom
- Gears of War
- Half-Life 2: Orange
- Red Alert: A Path Beyond
- Sniper: Ghost Warrior
- Unreal: Anthology
- Return to Castle Wolfenstein
- Serious Sam 3: BFE
- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
- Darkest Of Days
- Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death
- Men Of Valor
- Red Faction II
- Red Ocean
- SiN Episodes: Emergence
- The Devil Inside
- The Regiment