Game Review - by James Allen
By this point in time, there has pretty much been a computer game that's simulated every aspect of human life. However, I have no heard of a computer hacking simulation until I came across Uplink, a game written primarily by one guy in England. Uplink covers the illegal areas of computers, hacking into remote systems to steal file, corrupt research, and do no good. It's a lot safer to do it this way, rather than in real life, so this game could serve as an outlet for all those tendencies that those of us may have. Will Uplink break into the most secured server in the world, or head off to jail for a long, long time?
Uplink follows your blooming career as a computer hacker, breaking into computers and doing the wishes of those who compensate you with virtual cash. Other than the single player scenario, there isn't anything else to do in Uplink. Of course, I'm not sure what else we could do in a game like this. So I suppose that's quite OK.
The sound is very basic in Uplink, because it is trying to simulate a slightly futuristic program interface with little flash (see more discussion of this in the graphics section). Most of the sound results from clicking on objects, the beep of your trace tracking software, or other beeps and bleeps. The background soundtrack is actually good; an electronic track while melds into the game well. However, the sounds don't go past the very basic: no voices or cool effects from the program interface. Too bad, so sad.
Uplink suffers from repetition, and this is its Achilles' heel. As I've stated before, you take missions that normally fall into three categories: copying files, deleting files, or altering records. These missions are taken from the Uplink internal server, where you accept missions and upgrade your software and hardware. The missions you can accept are based upon your ranking within Uplink, which increases as you successfully complete easier missions. You earn cash for completing missions, which you can use to upgrade your system so that you can complete higher-level missions. Typical software offerings include a decrypter, firewall bypass, log deleter, password breaker, trace track, and proxy disable. More advanced software use voice analysis and complex algorithms to break into secure systems. You can also upgrade your hardware, including processors, modems, memory, and security. Or, you can replace your entire gateway computer. You use these programs and components to complete all of the missions.
The missions, especially the beginning ones, are all the same, and get boring quite quickly, especially when you have a computer than can easily complete the easy missions, but you don't have enough cash to purchase the software to complete the harder jobs. However, they are filled with tension, as the trace tracker ticks down to zero seconds as you try to copy a file over and delete your log entries. There is a storyline to follow, involving a large corporation and their doings, but this is just supplementary to your work as a hacker and just serves as a diversion. Another problem with Uplink is past the beginning tutorial, the game doesn't explain how to actually run the programs. This is left up to the user, and if you guess wrong with high-level servers, you can get your membership revoked, and you must start from the beginning again. This is really, really frustrating, especially if you don't know where you messed up. This makes the repetition even worse, as you must complete the same missions you already previously did. I accepted a mission in which the employer stated that firewalls and proxies would be in place, so I purchased the appropriate software. Once I connected to the computer, I found out that there was voice analysis and elliptical curve software I needed to crack; the employer said NOTHING about this, and I was unprepared. Of course, the corporation I was trying to hack into found me in their logs, I had my membership in Uplink revoked, and I had to start over again at square one. What's even worse, you can't open a saved game as your progress is saved continuously. I cannot tell you how mad this made me, especially since I had been playing the game for many hours. In an otherwise good program, some of the foibles negate the joy of playing Uplink.
The program interface is very bland and boring, with little past text and some pictures. I would have liked an interface that was integrated into Windows or Linux, along the lines of Majestic. Sometimes, by design, the interface slows your progress down while you attempt to complete your missions. For instance, everything is done by the mouse, and all of your cracking and hacking programs are multiple clicks away. Even more surprising is the lack of a cut and paste command. If you need to enter a name or code that was e-mailed to you, you must type this in manually. So, in the future, they have sophisticated hacking equipment but no cut and paste command? Now, I realize that this is a deliberate omission, as it increases the tension and difficulty of the missions. But, come on. The graphics in Uplink won't surprise anyone, except with how basic they may be.
Uplink is an original idea, and this is worth some points. But, the graphics and sound are very basic, and the gameplay has some quirks that offset the better aspects of the game. If a saved game option was included along with better documentation of advanced features, Uplink would be a much better game. But as it stands, Uplink does have tension the first time you play, but once you discover the repetition of the missions and play the beginning quests over and over again, the novelty unfortunately wares off.