Jack Into Cyberspace With Hacking FPS-RPG Black Ice

Readying up for a run at the Gibson

A hacker needs only five things to change the world: a cool haircut (check), mirror shades (got), a rad jacket (wearing), a sweet handle (like I’d tell you!), and a tricked-out cyberdeck (oh bum). That last one is central to Black Ice, a procedurally-generated action-RPG FPS about jacking into cyberspace and powering up for a run at the mainframe by raiding smaller servers. Yes, of course the hacking process involves blasting cyberdefenders with your cool cyberguns.

An alpha version’s been on sale for a while, and I’ve had a fair lark hacking the Gibson in the demo.

Black Ice drops hackers (single-player or online co-op) into a neon cyberspace cityscape dotted with buildings representing servers. At the centre is the towering mainframe which you’re too weak tackle without powering up your avatar. It plays out as a series of arena battles, with each hack attempt spawning Black ICE defences like cyberspiders and cyberjellyfish while you need to stay close to the server or the hack breaks.

Each server has a difficulty rating determining how long it’ll take to hack, how many enemies spawn, and how tough they are. A level 5 hack may only spawn a few little spiders, while at 50 you could be facing mine-laying giant cyberarachnids and cyberjellies which set you on fire. Survive the hack and you’ll score experience and items to customise your avatar and rad cyberdeck.

Your deck has nine software slots, four of which are filled at the start by a basic machinegun, the ICEbreaker you need to hack, and modules that let you jump and sprint. As my spare slots filled with rocket launchers and sniper rifles and shotguns (weapons are fired with hotkeys, so having loads is easily possible), stat-boosting passive modules, teleporters, and so on, the decisions began.

Could I squeeze in that enemy-slowing machinegun? I didn’t jump very often, so I could always replace it with a passive module–or a jetpack. That rifle program doesn’t extend the safe hacking range like my other one, but it does give damage reduction. Customising my deck was pretty great, though levelling my avatar was a little less exciting, with stat points going on things like health, energy, damage, and movement speed.

It’s pretty neat in all! You can download the demo or play it in your browser, though it does have a level cap of 4 so you won’t get to crack the tough servers with weird enemies. If it tickles your cyberfancy, the in-dev release of Black Ice is only £2.99 to buy on Desura, itch.io, and a few other indie stores. It’s still trying to crack the social firewall of Steam Greenlight.

Here’s Black Ice creator Super Duper Garrett Cooper playing a little:


  1. JamesTheNumberless says:

    All very well and good but, once you get into cyberspace, can you jam with the console cowboys?

  2. Dave Money says:

    I’m just happy hanging out in The Gentleman Loser these days

  3. Wowbagger says:

    But do you get killed in real life by WINTERMUTE if you fail?

  4. Kyber says:

    So many Gibson references, so little time. Makes me happy

  5. MrUnimport says:

    Looks more Tron than Neuromancer.

    Also, lasguns do lots of damage? That’s a new one.

  6. RedViv says:

    Game is wiiiiz.

  7. Dave Tosser says:

    Game looks like a pretty cool mix of classic cyberpunk things. Just makes you wonder why we haven’t had more of this sort of thing.

    Only it doesn’t. We know full well why we haven’t had more of this thing. It’s because none of you bastards bought Tron 2.0 and probably also because consoles. Sneer sneer whinge whinge

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      I’m going to offer the unpopular opinion that it’s because the activity of hacking itself (as opposed to the cyberpunk setting) is actually pretty tough to make interesting, and pretty boring if presented realistically. Also, I think we’re probably still in the post-Matrix valley of popularity for cyberpunk, maybe on the way back up again but not quite there yet. This game has some potential though, reminds me a bit of System Shock. I wish the hacking gameplay of Ingress was more like this – but in Google-glass assisted AR of course :)

      • Ansob says:

        Counterpoint: it’s cyberpunk Hollywood hacking anyway, and can easily be modelled as shooting things with missiles retextured to look like glowy balls of numbers. It worked for both Tron 2.0 and Dystopia!

        Speaking of which, those floor textures certainly look familiar…

        • Everyone says:

          Ah, Hollywood hacking! I don’t think we’ll exit the valley of post-Hackers any time soon.

          00:48:05 – It’s too much machine for you. – Yeah?

          00:48:18 I hope you don’t screw like you type.

          00:48:27 It has a killer refresh rate.

          00:48:30 P6 chip. Triple the speed of the Pentium.

          00:48:34 It’s not just the chip. It has a PCI bus.

        • Ansob says:

          Watching the walkthrough vid, it’s a shame the actual hacking part is just “push one button, wait.” I’d kill for someone to take Dystopia’s cyberspace and make a full, procedurally-generated FPS-RPG out of it.

  8. Cinek says:

    Funny how this game got uber-basic texturing, and still fails at it – you can see how edges of colored lines are blurred on the larger objects and how some of them are stretched in one axis more than another.


    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      It’s suffering from the fact that the creator has used Unity to do stuff that Unity isn’t very good at, namely lines. Something like this is better suited to an engine where you have proper control over the rendering pipeline and you can just render primitives without all the (design time and runtime) overheads of meshes and game objects.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        And yes, I know you (sort of) can in Unity, but the drawbacks and limitations of the simulated lower level graphics API make it unsuitable for production.

        • Cinek says:

          Well, people blindly use Unity for everything these days, so I wasn’t surprised.

      • Geebs says:

        If you’re going to cull back-faces, texturing a line on the edge of an opaque object is probably the easiest way to go about it, apart from getting caught out by mipmapping artefacts

    • SillyWizard says:

      Is it really necessary for you to be such a dick?

      • Dave Tosser says:

        Manners are for the corporeal realm. Here, in the spirit matrix, we may spew as much vile bullshit about video games as we want.

  9. ColCol says:

    I like the visual and item system, but the gamplay is not too engaging. I am also interested if there will be more enemies types, I went to a higher level and it was the same spiders and flying jellyfish.

  10. Wedge says:

    I think I’d rather just go back and play Tron 2.0. That game is mind blowing to this day, still Monolith’s greatest work in my opinion.

  11. iamgenestarwind says:

    how do i insstall this i have winzip but when i click on the exe file it say the should be a data floder next to the exe file, which there is how do i install it please i just bought it

  12. iamgenestarwind says:

    nevermind i got it