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Uplink: Hacker Elite (Windows)

72
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.9
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Dave Schenet (130)
Written on  :  Oct 20, 2002
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars

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Summary

Hacking for fun and profit!

The Good

Uplink is one of those rare, unique games, that isn't a first-person shooter, or a realtime strategy game, or a sim. You don't see too many of those, nowadays.

Introversion took a big chance with this game, and it seems to have paid off.

The entire game is designed to look like Windows Of The Future(tm). The interface is intuative; you've got something resembling a "Start" button to launch programs from, a window on the right corner of the screen for emails and other updates, and a center window where all the action happens.

There's not much need to talk about the interface further, because it's so minimalistic. I think that's a good thing.

Your character (who you never actually see directly) starts off as a lowly newbie. You get hacking missions from Uplink's BBS, and as you complete missions, your Uplink rating goes up, which unlocks even more complex, higher-paying missions, and so on and so forth. Pretty solid concept for a game.

As you make money, you can upgrade your Gateway computer - purchasing additional memory, processors, or just replace the entire thing with a slicker model. And, of course, there are always faster and more powerful versions of your software.

But you aren't just limited to the missions being offered. The game is freeform; you can do your own hacks. Don't like a particular company? Hack their mainframe and shut it down. There are a number of other things you can do on your own, but they all involve spoilers, so I won't list them here.

In addition to the randomly-generated missions, there are also "storyline" missions. These appear after a certain amount of time has passed within the game, and there are two "story branches" you can follow. Or not follow, if you prefer, it's up to you. There are also a small handful of "secret" missions, totally unrelated to the storyline itself. You've got to figure those out on your own.

Lastly, I should mention the AI. Uplink Corporation doesn't just employ you; they have a large number of computer-controlled agents at their disposal. They take missions and hack systems, just like you do. And if you manage to hack a system, another random Uplink agent is employed to track you down, so always cover your tracks. This forces you to think a little bit about each hacking job you do.

The latest patch, code-named "Nakatomi", not only fixed a number of bugs, but also added LANs to the game world, which are a completely new mechanic. You can even create your own LANs, although there is no Introversion-supplied tool for doing this; you've got to open up a text editor. Luckily, the fan community has probably come up with one or two tools to streamline this process.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the shipped version is extremely buggy. There are a number of patches available; before even creating a new character, one should always snag the latest patch from Introversion.

Also, there comes a point where there are no more missions. Once you reach a certain Uplink level (probably Grade 6), you have access to all mission types, even though Grade 1 is the highest Uplink rating.

There are also a few mission types that are bugged, with regard to logfile timestamps. Without going into spoilers, they all involve missions where you need to purposefully leave logfiles behind. When the AI encounters a log entry with a timestamp of "12:05", for example, it parses it as "12:5". Since this doesn't match the "12:05" that it's looking for, this causes all kinds of problems with particular missions. While it hasn't been fixed yet, a good workaround is to always start a mission where the time has no leading zeros. So if it's "07:01", fast-forward time until it's "10:10". Annoying, but it seems to do the trick.

Also, while it's great fun playing this game for the first time, once you reach the point where all missions are unlocked, the game suddenly runs out of steam. There's no longer anything new to experience by now, since you've "done it all".

There are also a number of graphics glitches; sometimes text has a tendancy to keep drawing itself over and over, cascading down your screen like an ascii waterfall. Quite messy, but thankfully, it's rare.

One final problem: there are no women in this game! When you scroll through countless records in the Social Security Database, or the International Academic Database, all of the records are male. There are also only a small handful of mugshot photos attatched to these records (probably a total of ten or so). I suppose this was done to make the task of programming the game easier (since every randomly-generated mission can use the pronoun "he"), but it still irks me a bit. :)

The Bottom Line

It's a fun diversion. You can play for hours, or you can just load up the game for a quick five-minute hack. And at about half the cost of a "normal" game, the price is right too.