By Mento 3 Comments
18/05/12 - Game #16
The source: The Humble Introversion Bundle.
The pre-amble: Uplink: Hacker Elite is a strategy game where you play as a neophyte hacker attempting to make a name for themselves across cyberspace, taking on increasingly difficult hacking jobs while updating and upgrading their software and hardware to compensate. Start with simple jobs taking files from secured databases and build up to erasing Sandra Bullock's identity and talking WOPR out of starting World War 3. I'm not entirely sure if those are really the final missions since I'm pretty sure I'm never going to reach that level.
The playthrough: Good gravy. I really should've gleaned what I was getting myself into with this game's subtitle of "Hacker Elite", but holy hell did I get lost fast. Programming languages have always seemed like just that to me: a completely different language. So in essence, this isn't like trying to wrap one's head around an in-depth strategy game like Crusader Kings; it's trying to do so when everything's written in Cantonese. I will say that the game does a good job of acclimatizing you with the basics, with a trio of helpful tutorials that sets you up to achieve the first few missions the game has to offer. Simple stuff (conceptually at least) like hacking into a company's database and stealing/deleting files. Very soon, though, it starts getting absolutely cray-cray.
For instance, if you're not vigilantly deleting any traces you leave - such as visitor logs on the sites you're breaking into - you start getting angry incriminating emails from your victims. Then you start getting veiled threats about other Agents cottoning on to your business. There's a real-time clock ticking away as you're doing anything in the world, giving security firms and all manner of cyber-douches time to mess with you when you're trying to complete more jobs so you can upgrade your elementary system to the point where you stop getting shanked by these netiquette-impaired people. Of course, no amount of upgrades will help if you actually do get rumbled, since those situations will usually result in frantically self-destructing your lovingly-built supercomputer and absconding through the nearest window like every hacker in every movie ever.
The game does strike a good balance between the verisimilitude of being some Gibson-esque cyber-dystopian neuromancer while keeping the actual gameplay part grounded sufficiently where you can actually figure out what the hell you're doing. It's sort of like the clever implementation of hacking in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, with its worm viruses and server caches, in that it's an easy mini-game to grasp yet still resembles the incredibly complex actual deal closely enough, or at least to the extent of what we regular computer-illiterate folk believe is actual hacking from watching too many terrible movie examples involving Fisher Stevens on skateboards or Unix-espousing dinosaur park survivors. But man is it all just a little too intense for me, especially when there's so much going on concurrently that I have to keep checking up on. I have a hard enough time with RTS games already without them preying on my insecurity of being unable to set up a router properly.
The verdict: Oh, gosh. It's an interesting game, but I don't think it's for me. It did make me want to watch Sneakers again though.