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This is local copy of a review of Uplink, origionally posted on gamer.no

The original article can be found here.

Translated by Arne Martin Wik.

 

Genre: Strategy
Producer: Introversion
Distributor Introversion
Release Date: Available now

Computer tested on: Athlon XP 1600+, GF3, 512MB RAM, WinXP

Uplink is a unique game in many areas. The obvious fact that there is no other game like it on the marked today makes the game unique. The game is also special in that it can only be bought over the net, but the exterior hides many surprises.

The "slow" start
"Hacking game. You start off with a pathetic computer and some hand written software. Aim of game is to hack into big places and make money. Start off by hacking small places and gaining money, which you use to buy more advanced hardware. You lose if you are caught, so you have to pick targets according to risk." -- Mark Morris, Introversion [1996]

This section was written over five years ago, and is the concept behind what has now become Uplink. The game was developed by Introversion, a small UK based company, with no help from large distribution systems or gigantic developer teams. In May 1999 the development of Uplink began, and the project was meant as a counterweight to the large corporations ruthless production of games meant for nothing else than reaching high sales numbers. In a business dominated by large developer[houses?] Uplink became the ultimate contrast. Today the game has become a success, and Introversion is making good money on their bedroom project.

Uplink is in the beginning described as a hacker game. The happenings are not real, or in any way based on the truth. Uplink follows in the spirit of the "romantic" part of the hacker myth that we all know. You log on, steal some stuff, and everything is done in an OK GUI with programs explaining everything on the screen. It's no surprise that you don't have to read through text documents for hours, while blindly going at the target system fumbling at the keys. The game tries to create excitement without being circumstantial and meticulous. The Uplink universe is so thorough and stylish in all ways that you forget the fact that it is in fact only a game you've logged onto.

Log In
Yes, you read right, log in. The first time you start the game you create an account with your firm, Uplink. They give you access to a Gateway, which you connect to from your home. By doing this, Uplink guarantees that you yourself can never be caught, but if you're traced back to your gateway, it will be destroyed an you will have to start over. As a recent agent at Uplink, your rank is of course low. To become more recognized, you will have to take on increasingly difficult missions. This is also the way you make money. Money is important to get new software, a better computer and an upgraded gateway. You'll soon notice that the hardware you begin with won't suffice.

The game relies solely on the creation of an illusion that you actually are hacking fancy systems around the globe. A good looking interface, that is able to maintain the thin red line between user friendliness and the necessary console-"look" is by all accounts very successful. Now would be the time to mention that the graphic isn't very groundbreaking, in fact, it's not even 3D. But with this game, it actually doesn't matter, since the simple look is conductive in pulling you into the Uplink universe.

To enjoy Uplink you have to accept the facts. You'll have to accept the games premises, or rather the laws of the world. These are not the same as other places, like the ones you have seen in "Antitrust" or "Hackers". If you find the simplified, but intensely cool way of being a hacker represented in movies like the above, you're going to like Uplink. If you find the above concept lame, log out immediately. Uplink is nothing for you. The thrill you get from logging onto a computer you are not allowed to, though, is also given to you in Uplink, when you're bouncing through servers, hunting for the decisive seconds of being traced and to doomsday. Or while you watch your progress bar creeping closer to completion while the frantic beeping of your trace-tracker grows ever faster.

Beep, beep, beep... Disconnected
The scenario described above is the way most of the game is undertaken[or happens]. You occasionally drop by the main computer of the Uplink Corporation, and on their BBS find missions of varying difficulty. After negotiating payment and such, you buy what you need of software to complete the job. Then you set up a route where you bounce your signal around the world so that the targets trace will be more difficult. The higher security of the bounced computers, the longer it will take to get traced. Admin rights or not also affects the time it takes to trace you.

After the this you connect to the target. Starting the program Trace Tracker, you get an indicator of how close you are to being busted. When you're almost out of time, the beeping grows faster and louder until it becomes totally silent, in which case your days as a hacker is over. As you can see it's important to log out as fast as possible after the job is done, and as the missions get tougher, the margin for error gets smaller and smaller. After successful completion of the mission it's important to break the chain of logs left behind by your actions. If you can do this you're home safe, and ready to take on another mission.

The problem with this game is that the mission you get are very repetitive. After solving quite a few missions where you break in at firm A and stolen file B, you feel finished with this kind of activity. Then you go on to break into the International Academic Database to change the grades of some guy. After a few times this too becomes routine. To last until you reach the highest rank in the game you need extraordinary patience, something I believe few of the gamers out there possess. Still, the missions are there, and if you feel like logging in and taking a few missions every now and then this is a game that'll last for months.

Under the surface
What appeals most with Uplink is not the possibility to hack inside the game, but to actually hack the game. Introversion has namely put in a whole lot of snacks and secrets in the game. A quick hint: check the cover thoroughly. Even the cover is more than what it seems. For example is a game bible included on the CD. This contains handwritten notes from the development process. But, the file is a zip-file. And it's password protected. To read the file, you'll have to crack the password. If you are really good, you can even find Introversions IP-address. Some of these secrets are an important aspect of the game, and contributes to making it more than just a game. Uplink is a very interesting concept.

Since Introversion has put so much effort into not limiting the game world, the whish of a MMORPG-version has arisen. The developers are on this account shrouded in secrecy, but they have admitted that the game universe is made for just this sort of version. With a relatively large fan base, we should not discount the possibility of such a game being released in the future.

Creepy-crawlies [ed. Bugs]
A few small but very irritating bugs ruins an otherwise excellent game. For example: You'll miss the storyline if you don't have enough memory on your virtual machine at a given time (I can't say more without revealing the storyline). If you route through nodes in a slightly erroneous way, the game crashes. Things like this is annoying. The fact that you can't save when you want to contributes to the previous errors being extremely irritating. Uplink is designed so that it saves automatically after you do something, and you log in like the game was after you left it the last time. By itself this is a trick that contributes to the feeling of being a real hacker, and that the world never stands still. The problem is that you can't save before a dangerous hack, you have only one shot. This, of course, becomes a question of balance, but you'll bite your hair (it's possible if you have long hair ;) ) after getting busted for a crack you were two seconds from completing. It's all or nothing. After several weeks playing one user, this can ruin some of the gaming experience. Really ruin it.

I addition to there being no other such game available today, Uplink is unique in only being available online. The game can only be bought on Introversions homepages. The developers packs and ships the games themselves, and you can count on about a week's delivery time to Norway. Buying it online might seem a like a hard way to do it, but it also has a very nice advantage: the game is cheap. Bought and shipped the price was a mere 27.99€, about NKr 215,-

Conclusion
Uplink is a different type of game. Actually, different than anything else. You can also get it for Linux. Without a huge budget, and without a large distributor behind them, one would think that Introversion didn't stand a chance. Against all odds Uplink has become a very good game, that puts you on the line with all the high budget games. If you manage to not play the game like a fanatic, the game will last long. On the other hand, if you just can't stay away from it, you can simply put the game away for some time, and just do a few missions every now and then. If you can't take any of it, you can explore the secrets of the game. Everything considered, Uplink offers more than any other game from "the big guys", at half the cost, even. I recommend the game at the warmest if you want to play a quality game. Especially if you're tired of a lot of fancy graphics and no contents. So what are you really waiting for? Go to www.introversion.co.uk, buy the game, thereby supporting "the last of the bedroom programmer", and enjoy the next months.

System minimums:

Windows/Linux
Pentium prosessor (or equivalent)
32 MB RAM
OpenGL compatible graphics card
CD-ROM

Final evaluation:

Playability: 5
Graphics: 5
Sound: 3
Multiplayer: N/A
Length: 4

Total evaluation: 4.5

 

Uplink is a trademark of Introversion Software