Every so often a game comes out of no where and just screams to be played. It is because of a unique game mechanic, a strong storyline or because it's unlike anything else seen before. Psi Ops is one of these games and will no doubt go down as one of the biggest sleeper hits on console this year. The premise of the game may not be original, but the execution of the game is, and the developers have crafted one of the most unique games of 2004 using some of the industries best technology.
Psi Ops tells the story of Nick Scryer, an American Psi Ops soldier captured by The Movement, a rogue organization who is planning to use their abundant Psi powers to take over the world and are creating soldiers of their own. The game revolves around a conspiracy of ex-US soldiers who defect and create their own organization after the US government shuts the program down. Nick must escape his prison and then uncover the conspiracy to save his squad members and take The Movement down.
The game is played from a third person perspective which greatly assists in using the various powers that nick has on offer to him as well as the weapons you come across in the game. Each mission you will receive tasks such as meeting up with Sara, an inside agent helping you escape, planting bombs to destroy a base, infiltrating a base and much more. In many respects the game follows a very old school path except in a 3D format. Basically you finish a few levels and then come across a boss. Discover the attack patterns of the character and they are as good as dead. While it is true that you could for most of the game use a weapon, that defeats the purpose of the game and makes it a very average experience. It is the Psi powers and how they have been implemented which differentiates the game.
At the beginning of the game, Nick will have no powers and has to rely on weaponry but before long he starts to remember the power he once had. When a power is reawakened, the game cuts to a training mission which can be skipped. Nick has a variety of powers such as telekinesis, mind control and others. To use the powers Nick requires Psi power, which is obtained either in vials or by draining enemies brains of their power. You really need to think outside the square when playing Psi Ops because the puzzles you encounter are directly related to the powers Nick has. For instance in one area you are trapped in a glass room with toxic gas quickly filling. It is not long before you realize to get out you will have to smash the glass with large objects via your Psi powers. You may have to refer to a guide and some are available.
The Psi powers also give a great deal of replay value to the game and offer much variety to the gameplay. The enemies are fairly smart and will seek out cover but you definitely have the upper advantage with your powers. For instance if an enemy crouches behind a box, pick the box up and throw it to expose them, or even pick them up and throw them at the wall. Pick up a gas cylinder and throw it to ignite it. Throughout the levels anything that can move can basically be picked up and thrown at enemies or even the characters themselves or take control of an enemy and start blasting away at his so called friends. So many choices are on offer and you will discover many ways to dispose of your foes.
The levels in the game are huge and a map has been included to help move around for each level. After escaping the base you infiltrate Mindgate headquarters which offers a little stealth gameplay and visit places such as a train yard, dock and warehouse, while in the earlier sections of the game in the base you will move through areas where soldiers are built and repaired. Visually the game offers some pleasing eye candy especially with the special powers Nick has although the lack of variety with enemies can hamper the gameplay. The voice acting is fairly well done and music only appears to add atmosphere and a cinematic style to the game.
Multiplayer could have been a great addition especially with the way the powers have been implemented but the replay value comes from a variety of mini levels (unlocked via cheats or goals) which have been implemented into the game. Overall though the game is a great experience and the replay value comes from how you play the game rather than the developer packing it full of collect a key to unlock concept art style play or multiplayer which truly shows just how refined the actual gameplay is. Psi Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy is a great game that features some unique ideas and some fantastic gameplay which helps dampen the impact of the fairly cliche and weak storyline.
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