Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox, PS2
Publisher
Midway
Developer
Midway
Genre
Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
 
Grade
The Good

• Great use of psychic abilities
• Havok engine is a blast to abuse

The Bad

• Game is pretty easy
• Could use some more originality

 
Grade
B

You have to give Midway credit where it's due - they are trying hard to up the quality of their content. Even if it isn't top-tier in terms of originality or play mechanics, recent efforts from the company have shown a desire to improve their gaming library with the likes of The Suffering and Shadow Hearts: Covenant. With Psi-Ops, Midway gives gamers a 3rd-person shooter with a nice twist: the ability to use a variety of psychic powers to aid in the gunplay.

Gamers play as Nick Scryer, a special psychic operative who gets a memory wipe to infiltrate the Movement. Once inside, he slowly regains his memories and abilities. Insert other plot devices we've seen before in other games where needed. Okay, so the plot and story is nothing new, but, that really doesn't seem to be a big issue as the story shows up enough to move you along. It's really only a means to deliver the action and keep you heading in the right direction.

At the game's core is an gameplay engine that really doesn't do anything that hasn't already been seen in the likes of Max Payne, Metal Gear Solid or Syphon Filter. In fact, the controls are pretty similar to Max Payne, minus the Bullet Time. You have the ability to sneak (by walking slowly when your enemy's back is turned) look around corners and run-and-gun with the best of them. Much like Halo, you're only limited to holding two guns at any time, so you'll have to be efficient with your ammo as you work through the game. The only real problem with this is that one of your weapons must always be the silenced pistol, which means you may be leaving a useful weapon behind because you can't toss an assault rifle loaded with ammo.

Luckily, Nick comes with a nice set of abilities that are handed out at often enough intervals to keep you entertained. Fortunately, the most useful ability is handed out early: telekinesis. Because the game runs on the Havok physics engine, using telekinesis is a blast. You can pick up objects and people and throw them about for good measure. Or just sick fun. Later on, you'll acquire Mind Control, Distant Viewing, Pyrokinesis and Aura View. Each of these has their uses and the game does a great job at making the player need to use these to continue on through the game.

While the enemy AI is decent, the fact that Nick comes with so many powerful abilities makes the game pretty easy to manage. Boss fights, while interesting and challenging, prove to be the real standouts in the game, forcing you to put away your guns and break out your mind powers to survive.

You can tell that Psi-Ops was built as a multiconsole release and doesn't really push around any serious power. Visually, it does show off a lot of detail and looks pretty good, but it doesn't shine like Max Payne 2 for the Xbox or Metal Gear Solid 3 for the PS2. The lighting and animation is pretty solid, even if the character models are only moderately detailed. During cutscenes, the game shows off some nice facial details, but the in-game models look pretty static. Before long, you may grow tired of looking at the same few enemies over and over again. Fortunately, there are enough visual effects and a wide range of locations to keep you interested.

The audio package is likewise up to snuff with a few minor quibbles that keeps it from greatness. Music and sound effects both work well for the game without really establishing a uniqueness from the rest of the genre. They aren't bad in any way, but they don't do anything extraordinary. Because of the story element, the game's voiceacting comes to the forefront of the audio portion. On the whole, the voice acting works well, much like actors doing an action cartoon. They have voices that fit the stereotypical parts, but don't really do much more to establish a certain level of character depth. Still, you'll be pleased with what you get.

Really, the only thing that holds Psi-Ops back is that it's still just a culmination of other games in the genre with a nice psychic ability angle to it. The fact that you can use telekinesis in tandem with the Havok physics engine is a nice plus and may keep some players more interested than the actual story does. If you're a big fan of the 3rd person shooter genre, definitely give this one a try.

- - Vane

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