Malcolm Owen On June 19, 2002 at 12:58 pm

This game has given me a headache. It’s not the content that’s worrying me, but rather the review of it that I am writing now. Somehow, I have to pass on my feelings of the game being good (That’s spoilt the review for you…) while at the same time forcing myself into the persona of every overprotective parent who sees the game and knows about illegal activities online and such. I am forced to do this, as some sort of "Legal Disclaimer", but I don’t want to appear all Daily Mail to you lot. I will try anyway.

According to the Hacker’s Dictionary, a Hacker originally was someone who would make wooden furniture with an axe. Under the long line of definitions available, it comes across the mainstream perception of what a Hacker is: A malicious computer user. A "Hacker" is really a skilled computer user, but the media fail to pick up on this constantly. "Hackers" is also a badly made movie about Crackers, but the makers couldn’t be bothered with making a film about something parrots eat. And thus, I trawled through the Hacker’s Dictionary again for Cracker. And indeed, it came up with the malicious user meaning.

Uplink, as you probably have guessed by now, is a game about ha…sorry…crackers. Being a new "Agent" for the Uplink Corporation, you get a gateway that you can "Dial into" (Not REALLY, but it’s close enough to shock some people), and from there, you can take part in various missions involving cracking to earn money or to alter your Necromancer status. All the cracking that happens is done in a simple to understand way. You look, you choose, and you do it. It’s almost simpler to use than Windows! It’s completely safe to use and doesn’t affect anybody (Except if you are cooking and the chip pan sets alight or something like that).
The layout of the system that you get to use to abuse is good. Extremely clean to look at, very sensible, and allows everything that you will use to be within easy reach. Great.

The missions available at the start of the game are simple to begin with. Stealing files and other low risk conundrums start you off, but it soon escalates to altering data to increase someone’s status/bank balance, to sending someone into complete and utter hell (metaphorically speaking. I mean to make their lives hell, but Miketwo keeps on telling ME to go to hell, so…), oh, and the obligatory "Bring down complete networks" one (I like that one. Very satisfying for some reason)

If you have seen all the "Hacking" in Hollywood in films such as the aforementioned and dire Hackers and the great to watch with some nudity Swordfish, then you will see the style of cracking needed (aka running programs to do all the work for you). Running the trace tracker utility will tell you how long you have left before you will get caught, in which case you had better get out of what you are doing and cover your tracks before you are apprehended. I haven’t heard of this in real life though. Cracking passwords needs the use of password crackers, and you get the idea.

One beautiful thing available to you is the ability to do almost anything you want at any time you want, if you know what to do. Want cash quickly, but have a low paying mission? Do something about it. This may sound obvious, but it is! Changing your bank balance could be one of the best things you can do to get your gateway done up. Think about it, a game that can allow you to rob a bank! If only I could do this in real life.

That’s another good thing – Gateways. As it is the computer you connect to, you need for it to be tuned to your specific requirements (aka as fast and powerful as you can!) The machine specs listed throughout are stupidly high (It IS the future, after all), and they just get higher!
The only problem gateways have are their need to be protected at all costs. If you are tracked, then your gateway is destroyed. Getting caught either costs money or means you have to start from the beginning again, and the long struggle to greatness restarts. Avoiding this is as simple as copying the save-games to floppy before doing anything really hard/brave/stupid. If only there was some way to avoid having to restart from the beginning after a mistake…

Of course, this being a game about cracking, this game has its fair share of secrets. These start straight from the box, where, aside from the lacklustre attempt at copy protection, you can see the Hacker’s Manifesto printed on the inlay slip. A nice touch. Other nice things you can look at include passworded zip files on the disk, and mysterious servers within the game itself.

To sum up, this game will not make you a "L33T H4><0R D3vvD" or a superuser, and parents need not worry about their little kid playing the game, just in case they get a call from the FBI. It WILL, however, give you a feel of what it’s like to star in a "Hollywood Hacking Adventure", and make you think more about what you are doing.

Now, where are the tools to raise my bank balance again…


Thinking person’s game. Very involving


It’s 2d, but it does the job well


Gets you in the mood


It’s a great game, be it to scare your lacking-in-knowledge parents, or to keep yourself occupied for very long periods at a time. It will suck you in!
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