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: