Uplink review
7 September, 2013

Computer hacking in movies is almost always either ridiculous or completely retarded. (Yes, The Matrix Reloaded is exempt from this; that was a real exploit.) Uplink is like the ridiculous computer hacking in movies: almost retarded, but not quite that bad; at least it's internally consistent. With that said, however, it is a really dull and tedious game.

There is almost zero challenge in this game. Once you figure out the way around a few really stupid traps — such as always doing sabotage missions after theft missions, so you don't sabotage files you need to steal — it's just a matter of clicking fast enough to get in and out and cover your tracks before your connection is traced and you get caught. In this regard, Uplink is like clicktastic action RPGs such as Torchlight. But at least RPGs have a tech tree; in Uplink, you have to buy the most expensive equipment at some point, and there is only one way to accomplish any given mission, so there's no choice. There are some completely useless programs, such as the faster-but-prone-to-failure password cracker which is cheaper than the password cracker (both of which you use by clicking on the password field you want to crack) and there are no upgrades for either; instead the speed of the cracking is determined by your hardware.

The game gets harder — or rather, it thinks it gets harder, but actually just gets more tedious without any increase in difficulty — later in the game, once you've done a bunch of simpler missions hacking single computers, you get to the LAN-hacking missions. Now the tedium has some variety! Instead of using the “password breaker” program to break into every system, you have to use the “elliptic curve decipher” program to break stronger locks, the “voice analyser” to record and impersonate the system administrator to get through the voice biometric locks, and an entire suite of LAN-hacking software. The “decipher” program is used in exactly the same way as the “password breaker,” so it's essentially a higher-tier version of that; the voice analyser is, again, is used just like the “password breaker,” but you have to call the administrator on his (yes, there are no women in this game) telephone to record a sample of his voice, which the program will then manipulate to generate the sound of his voice speaking the password. The LAN-hacking software lets you scan a LAN for hosts, traverse a LAN, twiddle the special switches and locks, etc.

Once you figure out how the convoluted mess works, it's like the earlier missions with more steps. Instead of breaking into one machine, you have to break into several; instead of a password, you have to bypass several locks with different programs, but they're mostly all functionally the same; and you can be booted off the LAN if the system administrator notices and finds you, without having to finish tracing your connection; and there's some trial and error with searching the computers on the LAN.

As dull as all of this is, what finally made me stop playing was the bank hacking. First, you have to know an account number, which you seem to get from bank-hacking mission instructions; then you connect to bank — because banks only ever have one server — disable the bank's intrusion detection, “hack” the account with the Password Breaker program, then transfer all the account's funds to your account. And then you have to cover your tracks, as usual, by erasing the logs from one of the proxies you used, but you also have to wipe the transaction records from both banks. This wouldn't be so bad on occasion, but most accounts have very little money, even after taking out a loan against them, so you have to do this for several accounts for it to be worth the trouble.

But here's the deal breaker: the game has no copy and paste. That's right, you have to transcribe EVERYTHING by hand. So I gave up when I had to hack several banks for money to continue. In conclusion, Uplink is more like a data-entry simulator than a hacking simulator.