In today's gaming world, Uplink is a bit of an anomaly. The emphasis these days is towards stunning 3D graphics and eye candy, with the derivative gameplay far too often an afterthought. Uplink bucks this trend with its basic, but functional, graphics and a hacker inspired premise which more than likely makes it quite different than any other game that you've played recently.
Uplink takes place in the near future - 2010, to be precise. The player signs-up with Uplink, a shadowy company that brings hackers together with those who need, shall we say, 'help' with somebody else's computer. Players pick an assignment from a list, which at first tend to focus on either copying or deleting a file stored on a server somewhere. As the player successfully completes assignments, his/her reputation will grow, making increasingly more complex and risky assignments available. If caught in the act, the player will be booted off of the target system. If the computer belongs to the government or contains particularly sensitive information, the police will track the player down and throw him/her in jail, at which point the game ends. Successfully completing a mission allows the player to collect a financial reward. Money can be spent on computer and software upgrades that help the player more quickly break into systems or defeat various encryptions or security systems.
Players break into a computer by setting up a connection through several intermediate servers to make the hack harder to trace. Once a computer is accessed, the player can run various password breaking or spoofing routines in an attempt to gain access to the computer. After access is gained, files can be copied or deleted, or database records changed depending on the current assignment. Accessing a secured server's files invariably initiates a trace to attempt to find the intruder. This acts as a time limit for the player to complete his/her work, lest the connection be terminated or worse, the player fined or jailed.
Since it is a somewhat unique game, Uplink really suffers from the a lack of a manual and in-game documentation. The benefit of various upgrades is not always clear, and even after some of these are purchased it takes a certain amount of trial and error to determine how they are used. The game does provide a tutorial that covers the basics, but it needs to provide some documentation for the more advanced hacking techniques. The tutorial script is not very robust, either. An errant mouse click can accidentally delete a key computer address or cause the wrong software to be purchased, while the tutorial waits for the player to make the intended selection. Unfortunately, if the player is now out of money or has no way to connect to the target computer, the tutorial must be exited and a new game begun. Once in the game, some of the mission objectives can also be a bit confusing and require a bit of trail and error to determine exactly what must be done. A manual or some sort of in-game instructions would go a long way towards helping players get into the game.
Uplink does a good job of generating some tension as the trace gets closer to finding the player. There is always a sense of urgency as programs are run and files accessed. The game effectively generates some of the thrills of poking around places that you are not supposed to be in, without in any way being a primer for budding hackers. However, after playing for some time, the missions can become a little repetitive since there are only so many different types of assignments. This is especially true of the early missions, which are exclusively of the copy a file or delete a file variety. Since there is no way to save a game manually, if a player is thrown in jail and the game ends, a new game must be started from scratch. This relegates the player to work his/her way up again through missions that will seem repetitive as he/she tries to reach the same point again in the new game.
These shortcomings aside, Uplink can be quite enjoyable at times and will eat up game time as the player moves from one tense moment to the next in an ongoing attempt to complete just one more hack before quitting. It is definitely a change of pace from anything on the market today, and is a good choice for players looking for a breath of fresh air in their gaming life.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 70%. A unique game that is definitely worth a look by anyone looking for a gaming change of pace. Its long term appeal is questionable, though.