It's now seven years since the initial release of "Uplink: Hacker Elite", time to have another look.
In 2001 British developer Introversion Software released Uplink. What started as a demo version has developed into a cult game with an active fan and developer/contributor community and numerous re-relases and versions. I've always been a fan of Cyberpunk games, best of all being Syndicate and the successor Syndicate Wars, there seems to be a certain scheme here as both games are from England. The island with the rainy foggy stereotype appears to be fertile ground for noir-style sci-fi epics. Read George Orwell's 1984 if you think I am wrong. Also, I am sure William Gibson and his Neuromancer is british at heat.
Back to the game: The Uplink Corporation is hiring new hacking talent, nerdy protagonists who are seeking a position as freelance hacker, breaking into systems and networks as hired guns. The corporation will supply the needed tools and the first jobs in order to get you started, after that your hacking-talent alone and your reputation will bring in new jobs.
The gameplay of Uplink is pretty straight forward. You are welcomed by a worldmap and various desktop-style tools. The inferface is styled like a typical Windows or Linux desktop - but the science-fiction version of it, with intuitive functions and an overall eerie feel. Your job is to break into various systems, appliing hacking techniques that tend to feel very real: you will deploy brute force password crackers, log file cleaners and while doing so you will have an eye on securing your position through multi-hop connections and spoofed IP addresses. The usual cycle while playing the game is browsing the job openings, accepting jobs and, based on the mission, the configuration of your system and the selection of the appropriate tools, all via point-and-click.
Although there are a number of pseudo-hacking games out there, Uplink surely stands out. The 80s style blue-in-blue graphics, the tranquillizing music, the aura of electronic crime - the developers have managed to blend it all in and give you that Lain feeling of glowing screens, hacking and early epsiodes of the X-Files where conspiracy theories permeate everything.
Uplink is not the average game. It's not a real strategy game, and not a simulation either. No shooter and like nothing you have ever played before. The game is a cross-brew between multiple genres. The "hacking" seems real, although simplified through the advanced tools the game interface offers. In fact it feels so real, you will catch yourself thinking you might actually help someone doing this in the real world by playing the game - a concept you might know from The Last Starfighter.
Under all circumstances: try this game. Be sure to download or buy a recent version and look around the various forums and fan sites. Here is an exhaustive game guide. Also, try to make yourself familiar with the various modded versions floating around. There is even a developer CD available if you feel to contribute to the further development of the game.
If you liked the game, you might also like to grab some popcorn and watch a related film. Suggestions are:
The game Uplink is known under various titles: "Uplink: Hacker Elite", but also the European title "Uplink: Trust is a Weakness" and the title "Uplink: Hakerzy, Pieniądze i Władza" in Poland.