Uplink PC Review

There are Linux and Macintosh OS versions available as well, this review is based on the Windows PC version.

This is the sleeper hit of 2002, no doubt. It came from nowhere to create a ruckus among many gamers who were unaware that a hacking game could be pulled off, let alone well. Set in 2010, Introversion have pulled the rabbit out of the hat and produced a truly enjoyable hacking game, with stealth and speed in mind.

Graphics

Not much to say really. They’ve obviously not spent a huge amount of time on the graphics, mainly as they didn’t need to. You have several different screens, most with simple graphics so as not to confuse the gamer. There’s not very much here. But this is the point of the game, as it’s a game much like Championship Manager in that it wants you to really enjoy the game and not simply wonder at the marvellous graphics of the top end games like Halo and Splinter Cell.

You can get newer computers later on, some of which look stunning but not graphically. They look stunning because the game is set in 2010 and it amazes me how advanced computers may become. With one computer having 16 parallel CPU slots, that is the fastest computer available. With the highest amount of the fastest processors in that computer, you would have a 3200 GHz (NOT MHz) computer. That’s 200 GHz for each CPU, which is just astounding. You also get small pictures of people when searching through several government databases, such as the ‘International Academic Database’ or the ‘Global Criminal Database’. But still, nothing astounding. the graphics are meant to be functional, not to blow you away.

Sound

This is another game that I’ve reviewed where the graphics and sound are terrible – but the rest of the game is excellent. The sound has futuristic beeps when you’re getting traced by the admin on a computer you’re hacking into. It does have music (although I find most of it repetitive and boring) but just like the graphics a game must have sound even if it is bad. The songs are very jumpy and futuristic; most definitely not to my liking. Sound is not the top priority in this game so it hasn’t been worked on much. The beeps in the game for the trace tracker are helpful however. It beeps faster the closer you are to being caught – so you don’t need to waste those few seconds looking at the trace tracker.

Gameplay

This is where the game really shines. You start out with no missions available – except for a test mission – and $3000. This isn’t much at all, as you’ll find out later on when you can get $30,000 for just one mission. All you can really buy with your $3000 is a Password Breaker (the standard hacking tool) and a trace tracker, which beeps to tell you how close people are to catching you.

Every tool has at least one level. The password breaker, for example, has just the one level for you to buy – whereas the trace tracker has 4 different levels, each of which are more advanced and more costly. This system is quite straightforward as it means you have to work to get the best items.

Once you’ve passed the test mission (to hack into a simple machine with low security), you get to accept any job of your choice as long as you are of a high enough level to attempt it. Abandon a mission and your rating will decrease, obviously not something you want. Your rating is what determines which missions you can do. Each mission counts as a certain number of ‘points’ towards the next level. To get from the second level (beginner) to the third (novice) you need to complete two standard ‘Copy files from a computer’ or ‘Delete files from a computer’ missions, or one of each. This helps you out as it means you can build up quite a large financial backing which helps with the later missions.

With the money you can buy better computers, faster processors, more memory, security systems or better software. Eventually you can pay for a ‘HUD Connection Analysis’, by far the most useful utility in the game. With it you can purchase ‘bypassers’ for proxy servers, firewalls and monitors. Disable all three and you are practically immune to being caught. Bypassing the Proxy Server and Firewall on a system will mean you can edit anything on the system (although not everywhere has one or both of them) and bypassing the monitor stops the admin seeing what you’re editing, effectively stopping a trace. With all of these, missions become astoundingly easy and it’s a lot easier to get better. With them it is also a LOT easier to rob a bank – but that’s something for the FAQ, not the review.

Uplink’s gameplay is very addictive and fluid; it keeps rolling onto something new however far you get. There is also an intriguing storyline, but it’s quite difficult to follow. It follows the line of either ARC (who make a virus called Revelation programmed to destroy the internet) or Arunmor (who make a counter virus called Faith to stop ARC after Revelation knocked out half their systems).

Lifespan

Uplink is an extremely difficult game, up to a point. Once you get all the bypassers, the difficulty level drops quite dramatically as you are no longer being traced – except for the occasional trace on the extremely high security systems. But anyway, the game is hard towards the beginning, trying to complete your jobs for money. There are also 12 different ‘special missions’ to do, 10 of which are the storyline missions, 5 for Arunmor, 5 for ARC. This means there are 2 left over. One is easy to find but one is a lot harder. Have fun searching for them, as it’s taken me long enough.

Overall

Uplink is also a game of many surprises. The storyline is quite interesting and made me want to carry on playing. I really felt like I was helping Arunmor while I was playing it as well. Many games in the past have failed to make me feel involved (and there have been a lot of them).

A highly enjoyable game and well worth checking out, especially if computers and/or hacking are in your main interests.

7.6/10

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Version tested: PC