Uplink: Hacker Elite

Genre:   Simulation

Developer:    Introversion

Publisher:    Strategy First, Infogrames

Released:   2001, 2003 (US)

PC Requirements:    Linux or Windows 95 and upwards, OpenGL Accelerated Card, 20 MB Hard Disk Space, 32 MB Ram, Pentium Processor

 

 

 

 

by nickie

"In the event of you being charged with illegal operations, our corporation will be forced to disavow all knowledge of your actions"

Uplink Corporation

            Have you ever watched a movie where the techie is asked by the hero to locate some vital information through hacking into some computer system? The techie types speedily at the keyboard, glances at his computer screen, and then calm as a cucumber advises something along the lines of "Here is the data you needed from the CIA, the Internal Revenue, and the President's Diary" with the same inflection as ordering a tuna melt for lunch? Did you secretly wish that you could do it yourself? If so, this might be the game for you.

            Does the idea of staring at a computer screen filled with endless numbers, while a trace tracker is beeping loudly in the background to signify you are getting closer and closer to running out of time and being caught, sound like it approaches the enjoyment level of an approaching dentist's drill? Then this game is probably not what you are going to wish for in your Christmas stocking.

GAMEPLAY :

            The first screen of the game shows the Uplink public access server connecting to the Internet, and it is so realistic I swear I felt a few moments of unease as I checked to make sure that I really was not connected to cyberspace. Points go to the developers for making that opening stylishly effective and realistic. You enter a name and password (perhaps my entry of "Dingaling" and "whyamI" were omens for the future?), and are then advised to enter a number from a graph that was included with the game (ah, copy protection!). You are welcomed by Uplink as a new hacker for hire, told that you are being rented a computer, and can access the Uplink terminal for purchasing hacker software or computer upgrades, and for a changing list of possible employers seeking your meager talent.

You are encouraged to play the tutorial to see how to go about this, and they couldn't be more right, because there is no manual and the interface is largely non-intuitive. I personally think that is a bit mean spirited - especially since nowhere does it say that if you suddenly must leave the tutorial for some reason ( let's just say a for instance, like dinner burning) and elect to abort the tutorial, you can't go back to it. It's just gone! So you don't need to see what you must do for your real missions, and you don't have eager employees waiting with bated breath for your assistance. You will also not know that there is a button which will accelerate time, to the point where someone might actually come along and employ you. Instead you look at your make believe desktop that has all the excitement of watching paint dry. So back you go to start a new game, with a new tutorial.

During the tutorial, you learn that you will first be engaging in simple missions, breaking into a company computer and copying a file. You also learn that you have the bare basics in the way of computers and hacker software, and not enough cash to get more sophisticated programs and equipment that would ease the tasks at hand. It is necessary to buy two pieces of equipment before you can even begin the actual missions - a pitiful password breaker so that you can actually get into other computers, and a trace tracker, which lets you know how close the company's security system is to tracing your illegal entry. When (or if) you are successful with these early missions, you are paid in virtual cash, and it will be necessary to upgrade, for future missions will require much more in the way of software, such as a system to crack voice print security (this game takes place in the not too far off future).

There are a couple other problems with the tutorial as well as the problem with aborting it. It tells you what all the buttons on your screen indicate, but it doesn't really elaborate on how you use many items, and you can't see how they run until you use them in a mission. With the clock beeping, this may prove a challenge. It also tells you as you go, to close button X, when actually there is no button X and you press what you think will close that particular aspect of the tutorial only to find that you have closed the entire tutorial, and have to start at the beginning.

OK, you're vaguely ready for gameplay, and you select a waiting mission. You access your world map (the outline of one anyway) and you route your connection through various points before you connect to the target company, in order to make a trace on your activity more difficult. You activate your trace tracker, and then your password breaker to delve into the company files. Your palms are sweaty as your very slow password breaker takes up most of the time you have available (what runs that thing- hamsters on a wheel?) and you can proceed to the files. All the while, your trace tracker is beeping in the background, quicker tempo as you become closer and closer to being detected.

If you are successful at these low level missions, you are paid and gain experience points. A more difficult task may then be offered to you. To complete it, you will need better equipment. After a while, you begin to understand those hamsters, as you are doing jobs to make more money and get a better reputation, so you can get better equipment and better jobs offered, so you can make more money...Once you become familiar with it, the game can become repetitive until you reach a new level of difficulty.

As your skill progresses, you are required to do more than just copy files, and morals come into play. Do you change academic files? Do you alter arrest records? Do you ruin people's lives by getting them arrested? And then there is targeting  another Uplink hacker, and discrediting and destroying him. But be aware, someone else could be doing the same thing to you. There is a vague plot to all this, involving an evil company and viruses, but I won't ruin your fun.

But what happens if you are not successful with your missions? At the lower levels, you may just encounter a slap on the wrist from the targeted company, warning you to stay out of their files. Fewer people may be willing to chance employing you. But at some point, the Uplink Corporation will have had enough with your all thumbs approach to hacking, and you'll be thrown out of the company and staring at the "Game Over" screen.

And bless their pointy little heads, guess what the developers did, or actually didn't do - let you save at any point in the game. The game is autosaved, which means that if you get the "game over" screen, you have to start again at the very beginning. After many hours of the game, much of it repetitive, I was a tad displeased when this occurred. In fact to the point where I shuffled through the Internet looking for the developer's email, so that I could give them my salutations. But I digress.

GRAPHICS :

            Numbers and letters on a computer screen, with the added glory of a map outline. Strangely, it works well enough for this game.

SOUND :

            There is some relatively pleasing background instrumentals, but mostly you hear the fear inducing beep of the trace tracker.

TECHNICAL :

            This game is played from a single disc. I played with a Pentium 4, 2.5 Ghz, 512 MB with a 64 MB Graphics card, decidedly overkill for this game, which is easily handled by lower end computers.

WORTH MENTIONING :

            The idea for this game is fresh and different from anything on the market today. It is mainly the labor of love of one individual, Chris Delay, with assistance from his two friends. Unhappy with available games a few years ago, they created this from an unheard of budget (around a thousand pounds British sterling). They relied on word of mouth to initially sell the game, and were eventually discovered by reviewers as the new "revolutionaries" of the gaming world. Points should be given to them for this alone.  

SYNOPSIS : 

            A creative idea that will appeal to a niche market. Timed gameplay which may become repetitive for some, and frustrating for others. Very basic graphics, lack of a manual, aggravating tutorial and no personal saves.

SCORE :

            50%

copyright 2003 GameBoomers

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