Immersion at its finest.
The premise behind Uplink is a surprisingly believable one.
The player is a hacker renting the services of the Uplink Corporation. The principle services are access to employment opportunities and the use of a gateway, a proxy computer through which the player may take on his jobs anonymously. Naturally, the Uplink Corporation wishes to remain distanced from the activities of its clients and will deny all knowledge of any illegal use of their services. To minimize risk, the player is taken through a "test" which functions as an adequate tutorial for the basics of the gameplay. Uplink will remove a regular fee from your bank account to pay for their services.
A typical job will have company A stealing research data from company B. The player will often scout the security measures of company B. For this example, Company B has a monitor, a level 3 firewall, is password protected and the file size is 5 gigaquads.
The player will usually run some form of a trace tracker to evaluate the time limit. The player bounces the connection through various servers across the globe to maximize the trace time using a world map. Once connected the player activates the password cracker and the firewall disabler. Once inside the system, the player won't be able to manipulate any tasks if the firewall is still active. However, since the password is the immediate obstacle, the player allocates the maximum number of cpu cycles to speed up the cracking process. Once the cracker has finished cracking, the player logs on, allocating the maximum number of cycles to the cycles to the firewall disabler. The player locates desired file, but has to wait for the firewall to be disabled. The trace tracker percentage keeps climbing. In order to have more cycles to allocate to the firewall disabler, the player reduces the number of cycles allocated to the trace tracker, reducing the frequency of the updates in the trace progress.
The firewall disabler finishes and the player opens his file copier and copies the files, realizing after the fact that there isn't enough space on his own hard drive to copy the files. The player opens the file deleter and deletes unneeded files and copies the data over. The hacker's job is not yet complete however. He uses his log deleter to remove the access logs of his intrusion. Once the last log is deleted, he hurriedly clicks the disconnect button.
He e-mails the file to the employer and the payment is deposited in his bank account. The funds can be used to upgrade your gateway's hard drive space, cpu, and security measures or purchase upgraded versions of your cracking programs, reducing the time it takes to complete tasks and the effectiveness of the programs. Successful jobs raise your reputation, allowing you to take on more difficult jobs. Depending on the seediness of the jobs taken, the players neuromancer rating could be affected, showing him to be less trustworthy, again affecting the jobs available.
Provided the player disconnected quickly enough and thoroughly erased the traces of his access, he will be go undetected. The penatlty for failure is steep, and your Uplink account will be terminated, forcing the player to start over again as a level one hacker. Starting over is a bummer, but the company names and jobs available change each time.
You will find yourself taking on the same types of jobs repeatedly: steal data, destroy data, change records. However the repetition of the jobs turns into an asset. I found myself getting cocky as I hacked into the international social security database for the twentieth time, changed a person's status to deceased, forgot to delete the logs, and was subsequently disavowed. Failure is a consequence for the players actions, not brutal gameplay or poor design. I lost because I was sloppy.
The presentation of the Uplink allows for a deep level of immersion. As with all Introversion games, the player has no avatar. The player simply sees the Uplink Corporation's text-heavy GUI. The looping hard techno music evokes the Hollywood underground hacking universe present in films like The Matrix or Swordfish.
And make no mistake, this IS Hollywood hacking. Exactly zero skills will transfer to actual hacking, save literacy. Still, the aforementioned cockiness was a result of this immersion. I was well on my way from feeling like I was good at playing a hacking video game, to actually feeling like I was a good ACTUAL hacker. This is the most immersive game I have ever played. Period.
The game has its faults. The steep penalty is such that it can be difficult to work up the will to create yet another account. Some of the methods to operate some programs aren't immediately apparent, though this is easily remedied by accessing the in-game help file or a game guide. I don't see the repition as a problem, but some players might.
And of course the gameplay can be broken down to "I need a type X disabler, of at least level Y to beat the same level of the same type of security." But, I feel if you break down the gameplay to this level, peel away that curtain, you are missing the point of a fantastic experience.