Have you ever wished that you could move objects with your mind, like Luke Skywalker did while training with Yoda? Ever wish you could be at your desk and find out what is going on in a meeting behind closed doors? Ever want to suck the brain-power out of your co-workers (assuming they have any)? Ever wish you could force someone to do your bidding? Welcome to the world of Psi-Ops.
Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy finds you in the shoes of Nick Scryer. Nick has had a string of bad luck lately. He has been tortured, and most of his memory is gone. He also will get massive migraines, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Nick is a soldier trained by the Mindgate Department of the government. He is set out to infiltrate the Movement, an evil group bent on ruling the world, by having his memory erased and getting a little plastic surgery. After infiltrating the Movement, he causes a ruckus in front of the psychopathic leader and is sent to solitary confinement. During this display, a mysterious woman recognizes Nick and decides to help him. She rescues him from solitary confinement and gives him a gun to help him fend for himself.
Psi-Ops is played from a third-person perspective. This allows you to see more of the surrounding environment. Crates and boxes are cluttered throughout the levels. Lights emanate throughout the building, showing the way. Floodlights cast realistic shadows. Pipes leak fire or mist. Little touches like these help make the environments realistic.
Nick looks good in action. His movements are fluid whether he is running, jumping, shooting, or sneaking around. However, he really comes alive while using his psi-powers. Boxes or enemies will glow while Nick uses his Telekinesis on them. While using his Remote Viewing, the screen has a ghost-like effect. Using the Mind Drain will shoot lightning and cause the enemy body to writhe.
Nick’s enemies are all well-animated as well. The rag-doll physics engine really makes bodies move realistically. When lifting a body up in the air it goes limp, while an explosion throws the body across the air. Slamming an enemy against the wall leaves a nice blood splatter on the wall.
However, all of the boxes look the same, all the crates look the same, and the sheet-covered crate stacks all look the same. The rag-doll physics make enemies look a bit too much like rag dolls. The bodies just don’t look natural and are a bit loose. Occasionally the models look a bit blocky and there is the infrequent clipping issue. However, this doesn’t happen often, and the frame rate clips along at a steady rate.
The ambiance of the buildings is heard throughout the game. A low hum around machinery buzzes in your ears. Computer terminals whistle. Explosions boom loudly. Electricity crackles.
The psi-powers also have their own sound effects. The Remote Vision will move through with a wind-like whoosh, while the return trip will cause a rewind-type sound. Mind Drain has a low sounding noise that slowly rises in pitch. When using Mind Drain on a live enemy, the enemy will start speaking gibberish.
The voice acting is done well, never seeming to be over-the-top, even when some of the dialogue is. Nick is a rough guy, while your mystery liaison definitely has the right touch of femininity and toughness. The Kingpin-like character has a deep voice similar to Michael Clark Duncan, while the other leaders of the Movement all speak with authority.
Psi-Ops doesn’t have any music to mention during the game. There is some during the cutscenes to set up the mood, but the game concentrates on the use of the ambient noise instead of music.
Psi-Ops does a good job with the controls for all the psi-powers. Most of the game is controlled like a typical shooter where the left analog stick controls movement and the right stick controls aim. A jumps and performs actions, B squats, and X performs a melee attack. The right trigger shoots a weapon, while the left trigger activates Telekinesis. Telekinesis is used in connection with the right trigger to move the object. Down on the D-pad switches weapons while left activates the Remote View. The Black button activates the Mind Drain. A few other buttons are used, but I don’t want to give too much of the game away.
Start pauses the game, and the Back button accesses the Inventory, Map, and Objectives screens.
The control is smooth and Nick moves well through the levels. However, moving objects with Telekenesis can be difficult. Getting the correct depth for objects can be a challenge. Moving around where you want to while using Remote Vision can be a challenge too.
When Psi-Ops starts, Nick is equipped with only a pistol and his wits, so stealth is valued during this time. Nick is able to pick up weapons that dead enemies have dropped, so he will gain a nice arsenal quickly. Although Nick can go into situations with guns ablazing, Psi-Ops gives you the choice on how to play the game.
The camera is usually set behind Nick. However, when Nick gets close to a wall, the camera moves almost to a first-person view. Once he moves away from the wall, the camera moves back into position. The camera is one of the best I’ve seen in a third-person adventure game like this.
A reticule is used for aiming. When you can use your psi-power on an object, the reticule will turn yellow and a red dot will appear. Using the red dot effectively is important, because if it isn’t on the right object, you’ll pick up the wrong object or person.
Remember those migraines I mentioned before? When Nick gets one of these, one of his psi-powers is reawakened. When this happens, a flashback sequence of Nick in training occurs. During this part of the game, a short tutorial on how to use the power is given. This is an excellent way to get you adjusted to using the new psi-powers.
Once you get the psi-powers, taking care of enemies is pretty simple. Telekinesis is incredibly powerful. Nick can shoot enemies while they are hanging in the air, slap them up against the wall, shove explosive canisters against enemies, or push them off ledges or into hazards. This psi-power can also be used to stack crates. This is useful for getting to some areas where Nick reach by jumping.
While the Remote Viewing psi-power is useful, there is one part that is a bit annoying. Nick can only use the psi-power through doors. If Nick can see through doors, why can’t he see past walls?
Two bars indicate Nick’s status. One bar is for his health, and the other is for his psi-energy. Nick can pick up medical kits to heal himself. These are stored in his inventory so they don’t have to be used right away. When Nick uses his psi-powers, it drains his psi-energy bar. He can replenish them with psi-vials or the Mind Drain technique.
Nick can use Mind Drain in two ways. If he uses the Mind Drain on a dead enemy, he will get a little bit of psi-energy back. However, if Nick is able to sneak up on an enemy, he can use his Mind Drain to suck a much larger amount of psi-energy. The enemy flails around in the air, and if Nick drains the enemy for too long, the enemies head literally pops.
The environments aren’t as interactive as they possibly could be. After hitting or shooting a computer terminal, I expected it to short out or explode, especially with the amount of interactivity throughout the environment.
While Nick is exploring large environments, the levels feel fairly linear in their progression. A fair amount of back tracking is also needed throughout the levels to complete them.
The psi-powers don’t get more powerful throughout the game, and they probably could have been spaced a little more evenly throughout the game. The plethora of boxes, crates, and combustible material makes using the psi-powers fun, but it makes the game a bit easier that it should be.
Psi-Ops is longer than the recently released Chronicles of Riddick. However, it isn’t too much longer. I would estimate that it would take an average player 10 to 15 hours to complete. The game is incredibly fun for that time.
However, I found out during E3 that there are special items that you can’t find at first, so Midway has given incentive to play the game again. These hidden items unlock bonus material that you can’t get the first time through. It’s also a lot of fun trying out the different psi-powers and figuring out new and inventive ways to eliminate enemies.