Eurogamer Retro: Uplink

By John Walker on October 4th, 2010 at 12:54 pm.

Hackity hackity hackity hack.

Sometimes, with enough time travel and science, it’s possible to play games from the past. For instance, last week I played Uplink. Then, having done this, I wrote about it. Eurogamer kindly agreed to publish this article on their website, and now I link to it. It’s the circle of life.

I think it taps into a nightmarish fear that we all must have experienced at one time. That thing we did, or may have done without knowing it, that catches up with us. Like that time I paid for a packet of Fruit Pastilles in pennies, knowingly one coin short, and the man in the petrol station said to me: “I won’t count it. I’ll trust you.” Mobil closed down a few years later, which surely has to be at least partly my fault, and I know that one day the policeman will knock on my front door. I’ll look up from the jigsaw puzzle I’m completing with my wife and our two children, and he’ll say, “Are you John Walker? I’m going to have to ask you to come with me.”

Read more here.

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38 Comments »

  1. pakoito says:

    I always lose at this game no matter how well I try to cover my tracks -.-

  2. Palodin says:

    Make sure the first link of your connection is InterNIC. Easy to hack, never change their password and they’ll never trace you. Just buy a half decent log deleter with your early money and wipe any rerouting logs from it after every mission.

    Works for most of the situations I’ve encountered at least.

  3. Fomorian says:

    A surprising coincidence – I have just recently started playing this one for the first, having finished playing (with great satisfaction) Digital: A Love Story and finished reading “Cryptonomicon”. The universe works in odd ways sometimes.

  4. MadMatty says:

    “Uplink’s endings are as sudden. You were on a hack, things got backed up, and you overestimated how long it would take you to clear the logs. Some of them survived, and even though you closed the connection ..”
    Wouldn´t that be underestimated?

    anyway cheers for the retro, its one of the few games that´ll run on my laptop, so i tried booting it up last week but was unable to get jiggy with it…. maybe i should give it another try.

  5. Rich says:

    It’d be good if the interface could be modded. Tiny text is not good for these old eyes.

    • Antsy says:

      This. When I get nostalgic and reinstall Uplink, my first reaction is “Ugh” followed by some feeble attempts to make it look reasonable on my 24″ monitor. Then, inevitably, uninstall.

    • Unaco says:

      I definitely did pick up a mod for Uplink that changed the interface… but I’m not sure if it did what you are wanting (it definitely changed the interface, but may not have made the text bigger). So, I think it is possible, and there might be one out there that does what you want.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      What’s the problem? Just change the resolution. Or zoom in.

  6. Setroc says:

    This was one of those rare games that was able to surprise and delight in almost every area. After getting to grips with the tense and exciting gameplay mechanics, the story that was delivered was utterly involving, and incredibly effective considering its simplicity and the medium in which it took place.

  7. Artist says:

    Im still astonished how much hype is still made around Uplink. Granted, its the (grand)father of the cineastic hacking games (=! console-based hacking games), but the downside of the hype is that some gems of this game-niche are mostly uncovered and lots of “new” games are rather remakes of the same old puzzle-gameplay that Uplink is/was.
    Who knows the fantastic “Street Hacker”? “Decker” by Shawn Overcash, anyone? Or shouldnt Slavehack get a review..? Does not seem that unpopular..
    Well, I still hope that somebody comes up with a decent design to step out of the shadow of Uplink and toss the old king from the throne (and less gauge-watching next time, hehe).
    Anyway, when somebody is interested Ive assembled a list of hacking games a while ago:
    Enjoy!

    • Bassism says:

      To me, Uplink is worlds better than any other hacking game I’ve ever played. The level of immersion, fascinating story, and overall level of polish propel it farther than Street Hacker, Decker, and the like.

      Somehow, Uplink really manages to capture the feeling of being a guy sitting in a bedroom hacking into stuff, while every other example of the genre I’ve played feels like playing a game about hacking.

      Which isn’t to say that there aren’t other great examples in the genre, but Uplink is quite singular in my mind.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      The thing is: That activity is pretty boring in itself. I did it, about 10 years ago. And apart from being able to say “Interactive television… the technology of the future!”, after shutting down a server used on/for live television, there’s just lots and lots of loneliness and risk, for little real reward.
      I wish there were a game about mind hacking. Minds are just way more useful systems to be under your control…

  8. Lewie Procter says:

    I wonder if I can hack into the RPS mainframe.

    • Rich says:

      If you hack into the RPS mainframe and get caught, the screen doesn’t go black. The Hivemine just visits your house at night wielding socks stuffed with ginger nuts and beats you to death.

    • Bret says:

      That was the Gillen administration.

      The new Quinns era, admittedly, does the same thing, but the music is different, and it once happened in the afternoon.

  9. Ush says:

    The first time I played Uplink, I sat down at the laptop around 8pm-ish, thinking “OK, a quick look at this, then off to bed”. A seemingly short time later I started wondering why I was finding it so hard to concentrate. Looked at my phone. It was 4am. It’s the first game I have ever played in a little less than ten years of gaming that stole away eight hours of my life without me ever noticing.

  10. Ginger Yellow says:

    Uplink also makes a fantastic netbook game.

  11. Ushao says:

    When I found out about the networked mode in Uplink I managed to convince my decrepit laptop to run it just so I could have a permanent world map sitting on my desk next to my full sized monitor. The amount of time I blew on this game is phenomenal.

  12. Tacroy says:

    One thing I always thought was funny about Uplink: in a game about hacking into computers, stealing information, doing all sorts of illegal things – you still had to buy all the hacking and cracking programs. Maybe there were other places where you could find them that I never saw, but I think it’s kind of great that a “hacker elite” can only get the tools of his trade by purchasing them.

    • Unaco says:

      You should maybe look at Dark Signs, or Dark Signs Online, if you’re looking for a ‘hacking’ game with something a little different. It’s a game, but it takes place in a simulated network environment, and you only have a command line for interaction… But, it comes with it’s own scripting language, which allows you to code all of the tools you use for ‘hacking’. In fact, you really need to code some tools… pinging 4 or so Billion IP addresses by hand, or checking for all the open ports at an address one by one can get quite tiresome.

    • Tacroy says:

      From the DarkSigns Online 2 website:

      Active development has basically stopped due to lack of interest. If there is any new interest, please let us know and we will rethink continuing this project.

      Yeah probably not worthwhile.

    • Unaco says:

      I think that’s for Dark Signs 2… The original Dark Signs was complete, as was Dark Signs Online… though without the Online community, it probably only serves as a slightly streamlined/updated Dark Signs. They are still worth a try, just for what they were trying to do.

    • MD says:

      Dark Signs looks really interesting, and I’d never heard of it before. Thanks for the link!

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Actually having been a cracker about 10 years ago, I can tell you, that people that actually used tools from others, were looked down upon and called “script kiddies”. I usually wrote the code myself. And I hadn’t much choice. Since for any way in, that would even remotely be useful, you only had documentation and hopefully someone writing about what he found out. Sometimes something that only worked on special cases. And rarely actually useful software. The tons of script kiddy stuff didn’t work on anything above your dumb home user’s computer.

      And you are right: An actual cracker would never ever had bought software. It was risky enough, getting software from some Russian freak for free, without it making you part of his botnet, the content of a jail cell, or worse. I would not even have trusted 200 lines of code, after reading every line of it twice.

  13. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    I know a gentleman should never mention a typo, but where did ‘basked’ come from? You using some dodgy hands-free voice recognition device there John? Whilst doing what with your hands? Boggling, that’s what my mind’s doing.

  14. Pemptus says:

    Replayed it about a month ago. What a fantastic game, this. Once I learned how it works I found myself playing until absurd hours in the night. Granted, playing any other way than connecting to interNIC first and deleting the logs after every “job” was most of the time a slippery slope to the game over screen, and missions get a bit schematic, but it was awesomely engaging nonetheless. Just don’t touch it if you can’t accept anything other than “realistic” hacking games.

    There are some mods (FBI, Simple Uplink, the possibly scrapped ongoing Onlink) , many, many skins (I like Tainted 2, more clear to look at), and an unofficial (and not quite sure fully legal) patch, look those up.

    Also, the soundtrack is pure bliss. Fits absolutely perfectly.

  15. Pemptus says:

    I’ll just leave this here:
    http://modlink.net/

  16. Al3xand3r says:

    I would really love a new Uplink that is actually integrated to your normal OS for extra immersion. The fake OS view was cool at the time but how much better would it be if instead of having that, each of the “programs” appeared as if it run on your OS of choice with a separate alt tab-able window for each one, yet with the game’s logic having all of them connected as one as usual? As long as they didn’t look super cheesy and flashy but still had the function-over-aesthetics feel to them. Anyway, great little game.

  17. paddytehpyro says:

    Uplink is, and always be, on my list of games never to uninstal. I still go back to it on a near monthly basis since I first picked it up with defcon a good 4 years ago I guess now. I thought “Ooo DEFCON adn some other random game I. That’ll help for when I get bored of the main game”. I never even tried defcon for months as I happened to launch uplink first. I almost forgot I even owned it.

    Still the best £5 I have ever spent.

  18. JP says:

    Re: tiny text: you can license Uplink’s source code and try improving the text rendering:

    http://store.introversion.co.uk/product_info.php?products_id=51

    My guess is the text is a simple bitmap font atlas that’s drawn using OpenGL calls, so it would be a non-trivial amount of work to size up the text and surrounding UI without it looking terrible.

  19. dragon_hunter21 says:

    Uplink is a game that I’ll get into twice a year for a week. I’ll play almost nothing but Uplink for that time. Then Uplink becomes boring again, and I take another sabbatical.

    Speaking of, I think I’m overdue for my next playthrough…

  20. Stephen says:

    Ridiciulous, ridiculous amounts of bounces are also a good idea for the later stages.

    • Bret says:

      Only the endgame?

      I’ve only played a bit, and they’re already a blessing.

    • Sigma Draconis says:

      @ Bret
      Last i played, I had 30+ servers to bounce my connection through by default. Perhaps that amount could excessive for the early stages, but I always played it safe with any high-risk missions.

  21. Nick R says:

    I’ve never played Uplink, but I really enjoyed reading this. Made a nice companion piece to the Making Of article on the game in Edge a few months ago.

  22. ascagnel says:

    I still remember freaking out and jamming the power button on my parent’s crusty HP when I first got this game in the early oughts. That dialing sequence was scary when you consider that most of the world was still on dial-up at the time. Even worse, it was some weird game without much of a description that came on the cover CD for an issue of MaximumPC, so I was totally in the dark about what it was.

    However, once I got it running on my PC that didn’t have a modem, I could dig into the demo and it quickly became one of my favorite games. It hits that balance that every Hollywood movie involving computers misses — it makes hacking visually interesting without making it too simplistic or too flashy. The fake OS struck the right balance between fictional world and usable system, and the soundtrack punctuated by the beeps of the trace monitor gave some real tension to the world. After the first time I got one of the “game over” screens, there was always a sense of dread to each operation possibly being your last.

    Unfortunately, beyond the first playthrough, there isn’t really all that much game there. Its good for nostalgia’s sake, and some of the later patches were kinda neat (like adding in a “dungeon” LAN ability), but were too little to keep me going back to the game in a serious way.

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