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Reviewed: Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: July 8th, 2004
Page: 2

Psi-Ops is, in plotline at least, your standard special-ops type of game with bosses thrown in. Your objective in each level, ultimately, is to kill the level boss. You don't get his powers from this, but each boss does tend to be the embodiment of a power - one is a master of mind control, another of telekinesis, and so on.

Story in short: you're Nick Scryer, an elite psi-ops (that's psychic operations, a division of special ops involving mind powers) agent for a company called Mindgate that is loosely a branch of the government. You've had your brain wiped clean, so that you could be "captured" by the Movement, an army of drones set up by a man called the General (your general all-purpose evil villain bent on taking over the world) to, surprise surprise, take over the world. The General doesn't have any psychic powers of his own, but he's a born leader and all his lieutenants do... so watch out. Their ultimate goal is an ancient alien artifact, so your goal - naturally - is to see that they don't get it.

As you enter the game, you've been captured, but your counterpart agent already under cover jabs you with a needle and injects stuff to return your memories and, with them, your powers. Slowly as you go through the game they'll reawaken - telekinesis, out-of-body experience (useful for seeing through walls), mind control, the ability to suck energy from dead or living bodies (as long as their head is intact), and the ultimate goodie, pyrokinesis (fire tossing). A few screens of your psychic abilities are below (screens courtesy of Midway).

Toss fire at enemies and watch 'em burn.

Suck the energy out of enemies... and watch their heads explode.

Toss 'em into the air, then shoot 'em while they're helpless. 

The name of the game is Psi-Ops and this means that as soon as you have them, psychic abilities are going to take center stage. When you've got telekinesis and can toss enemies around, wasting ammo with guns seems sort of pointless. Once you can walk up and just make their heads explode, or can suck mental energy from the corpses, using your abilities becomes rather trivial - it's very difficult, unless you're just wasting power, to run out. Ultimately, in terms of usefulness, your big three will be Mind Drain, used to replenish your mental energy; Telekinesis, used to kill enemies in any way possible (toss them into working crematoriums, off ledges, bludgeon them with flying heavy objects, toss them into live electrical arcs and watch them fry... basically cause any sort of "accident" you possibly can); and, of course, Pyrokinesis, the ability to just toss fire around and be a real pyromaniac. Secondary are Aura View (which gives you hints), Remote Viewing (a sort of out-of-body experience to help figure out where enemies are if you're feeling sneaky), and Mind Control, which is nifty enough in that you can cause enemies to turn on their own or even suicide, but loses its luster a bit as opposed to wading into the action with TK or Pyro.

Get onto a tossable object and TK throw it, and you can even "surf" on top of it to reach high-off areas or cross gaps. How's that for cool?

In terms of combat, it's a very good thing that you've got nearly unlimited (if you're slightly cautious) mental energy, because unfortunately the game's sneak modes are a joke, as are (pretty much) the weapons. One weapon you're carrying at ALL times, no choice about it, is your standard pistol; 12 shots per clip, pretty crappy damage, and slow reloading. Its saving grace is that, if you're peering around a corner and need to shoot something to make it go kaboom, you'll not waste ammo doing so. As for the rest, there's shotguns, multiple sorts of machine guns (machine gun, assault gun, etc) and a sniper rifle, but all wind up being rather redundant; basically, you're going to run around and just grab the one with the most ammo available, then ignore it because it's cheaper and quicker to just slam your enemies into walls or each other with TK. The one exception is the sniper rifle, but in most instances that's little help too; shooting it off will cause a loud enough bang to alert every nearby enemy to your position.

Sneaking is the real joke. You're equipped with ducking and slow mobility, as well as the ability to press up on walls and lean around corners to aim, but most of this is spoiled by the fact that the enemy is (a) all mind-controlled and (b) incredibly, incredibly alert. It also doesn't help in level 3 to have to "sneak" past spotlights that can go past solid objects if you're not hiding behind them just right; of course, even if you set the spotlight off, the enemies in the area aren't too hard to clean out.

What saves this game? Good level and story design, and decent controls. When you switch environments, they tell you WHY you're doing so, and the enemies found there make sense; likewise too the number of enemies located in a given area, which can be the saving grace for difficulty; while you're a figurative superman, when you're up against 40-some drones, they still HURT. Plus, your powers can't be used against that many multiple enemies at once, with the possible exception of TK being used to bowl over multiple enemies long enough to squeeze off some highly-inaccurate gunfire or grab a nearby object to use as a bludgeon.

As far as the controls, just about every TK power is easy to activate, and they're what you'll use most often; the only annoying aspect is that the jump button, and activation button, are the SAME button. If you're not standing perfectly still or lined up on a switch, you'll jump instead. In bad situations, this can get you shot if you're trying to duck back into a hallway to mow down enemies as they come through a bottleneck; in good, you'll look like a moron jumping around instead of opening the door or activating the switch.

If you're not into frustration, this game's not for you, but if you can handle a bit of it and enjoy MGS-style gameplay with the added bonus of making people's heads explode and being a raging, psychic-powered pyromaniac, it's worth a look.

Added:  Thursday, July 08, 2004
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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