Saturday, 12 March 2005
The world of hacking has its perks, according to Chris. Hell, it can even be fun for the right reasons.
Just think - it was a mere two decades ago that industry-molding blockbusters were knocked up in a 'geek's' bedroom. Nowadays, as we all know, the massive teams and millions of pounds required to fund a game's development cycle has put an end to all that. Regardless, Introversion Software managed to conjure up Uplink on a particularly tight budget; could the era of bedroom programmers be upon us again?
The basic premise of Uplink is that you're a freelance hacker; you perform various tasks in exchange cash rewards, and gain various upgrades to your gateway. To start with, youíre able to select simple missions, involving hacking into one of a number of computer networks, and (for example) deleting a specific file. These are your bread and butter undertakings used to sharpen your skills to the point when you hit the bigtime; framing people for crimes they didn't commit, and bringing huge companies to their knees.
Uplink's premis is an interesting one. Even on the surface, the life of a hacker is lacking in the morals department, and although deleting a small file thatíll set back a company a week is one thing, ruining a faceless personís life in exchange for the almighty buck is another entirely. There are very few games that actually make it difficult to perform deeds that you simply couldnít 'do' in real life on a moral basis, and Uplink manages this with great aplomb.
Logging into the Uplink Internal Services server, youíll be faced with a menu telling you where to go next. After completing the exceptionally well created tutorial mission, youíll be ready to make a name for yourself. Youíll come across a news section, updating you on the goings on in the hacking circuit. and then thereís a long list of all available missions. However, It isnít so simple as to choose the highest grossing mission preparing to hack the planet. You require high skill levels to take on these big challenges, and this is usually the crippling error of games such as this, but lucky for us, Introversion have done the industry a service.
For starters, you've got yourself a rating, based on your past hacking experiences. Succeed in a mission and youíll gain greater respect from the 'community,' and climb another rung on the hacker's ladder. Not only that, but youíll also need to purchase upgrades for your hardware/software in order to have the necessary programs and hardware capabilities to perform the more complicated hackings.
The game isn't all freeform, though; that'd get boring. Just as your actions begin to grate through repetitions, you're presented with the storyline. While it's not wildly deep, and nothing to write home about creatively, it throws up a bunch of pre-determined missions and gives you that extra push to become the best hacker you can be.
Hacking itself isnít quite as complicated a process here as it is in real life. After bouncing your connection around the world (with absolutely no lag, incidentally), youíll perform security hacks to get into what you're required to access. After this, it depends entirely upon where the mission takes you; If youíre required to delete a file, youíll simply delete it using one of your special programs. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, what you need to remember is that as you get hacking, your internet connection will be being traced back to its source, cutting your unscrupulous doings from being done. Luckily you're able to see just how close your 'opponent' is to tracing you back to your gateway, which makes it all the more nerve-wracking an experience.
As you transfer more and more of your processor power to the task at hand, the tracking meter gets closer and closer to 100% and a failed attempt. The beeping sound effect partnering the visual effect gets quicker and quicker, and sweat drips off of your brow as your program gets closer to its conclusion. Itís all very frantic, and even hovers towards being too tense at times - but it's fantastic.
Obviously, a game such as this isnít going to have a cracking set of visuals. While the screen is nice and clear, the interface itself has an annoying knack of covering up the info you need, and at times it all becomes too heavily populated. This can all be combated with a few mouse clicks here and there, but it manages to spoil what was close to being quite the interface.
While the ideas behind Uplink may be sound, they've not been set out in as dazzling a way as they could've. While the lack of true visual quality can be overlooked, the slightly confusing, and at times overwhelming interface that you're presented with can add to the nerve wracking nature of the game. That being said, Introversion have given us something completely original and unstoppably addictive. For that alone they have to be commended. Just donít think yourself able to hack into Microsoft, based on your prowess in Uplink. You donít want any real jail time on the back of a PC game, do you? However, hacking now seems just a bit more enticing, if it gives anywhere near the satisfaction that Uplink offers.