Posted on December 5, 2007, Jonathan Please Make Me! Psi-Ops 2
Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy was a gem when it came out in 2004 for the PS2, Xbox, and PC. Sure, the graphics weren’t that great, the story was ridiculous, and the subtitle sounded more like the name of an indie rock band; but that didn’t matter because you could throw things around with your mind. The game seriously did “Force powers” better than any Star Wars game (take note, Force Unleashed). I have a strong appreciation for shooters that allow you to take out enemies without even firing a shot, and Psi-Ops did this better than most.
The game had you playing a special psychically-trained agent, which gave you a number of different powers that were unlocked as the story progressed: telekinesis, pyrokinesis, mind control, mind drain, and more. Basically, you could walk into a room full of enemies with a whole range of methods to take them out. Take control of one guard and have him start blasting his friends. Send out a wave of fire and fry them in their armor. Sneak behind one and make his head pop with mind drain. Or my personal favorite, throw an enemy against a wall repeatedly with telekinesis until he leaves just a bloody stain. Telekinesis alone opened up it’s own range of death-dealing options. Besides lifting and throwing objects and enemies around, you could even stand on, say, a metal grate, lift it into the air, and ride around on it. You were basically Magneto with an assault rifle.
The story…well, the story was stupid (and allegedly stolen from a screenwriter who is now suing Midway). Something about psychically enhanced super-villains using mind-wiped soldiers to take over the world with psychically enhanced artifacts. I don’t remember the details too well; I just remember a series of random surprises that made almost no sense. There was even something about an evil twin, to make it all seem like some science fiction show from the 70′s.
The original game was not without its flaws, but that’s just what sequels are for. Of course the first thing needed would have to be a next-gen graphical upgrade; that should really just be standard these days. While the gunplay wasn’t too bad, a follow-up to this game would need to keep the gameplay focused squarely on the psychic abilities. It might also be nice to add a few new abilities; being able to guide a bullet and instantly setting people on fire come to mind, like in Clive Barker’s Jericho and BioShock, respectively. Or maybe these powers could be slowly upgraded and made more powerful, so you can lift progressively heavier objects, shoot wider arcs of flame, and such. The most memorable part of the original game’s story for me is at the beginning when one villain uses telekinesis to lift a tanker truck. That was cool, but I didn’t want to just watch some guy do that; I wanted to be that guy.
The story could be discounted if the psychic abilities were made truly awe-inspiring; but let’s not just rehash the same premise. Maybe I’ve seen to many superhero movies that show a protagonist having difficulty with his powers and such, but I’d like to see more character development. Just how does one become a psychic soldier for a special task force? That doesn’t seem like something you could get a degree in.
For the sequel though, please please please leave out the “Aura Monsters.” These were floating demons in one level that could grab you and practically kill you if you didn’t have “aura vision” switched on. It was the only level that resulted in numerous controller-shattering moments for me, and I get tired of buying new controllers. Also get a soundtrack that isn’t by a terrible rock band. I felt pretty satisfied at the end of the game, right up until the credits began to roll with Cold’s “In My Mind.” It was like eating a delicious slice of pie and then looking down and finding a roach sitting on your plate. It just tainted the whole experience a little.
Apparently the team that worked on the original Psi-Ops moved on to bigger and better things with John Woo’s Stranglehold, and have even gone on record saying they have no intention of making a sequel to the game at this time. But I know I’m not the only one out there still hoping a sequel gets made for the one game that actually made you feel like you had psychic powers.