Hacking games fall into two main categories - fanciful Hollywood-style UI showcases like Uplink, or grittier, more code-based ones like Exapunks. NITE Team 4 left early access today and looks like it straddles that divide. Developed by Alice & Smith (nothing to do with our crew, but a studio that John is rather fond of) it's a game of military hacking and espionage with serious command-line stuff wrapped in some lovely-looking interfaces. Just going on looks alone, it's come a long way since its minimalist 2016 demo - see a trailer below.
NITE Team 4 is set in the same extended universe as Alice & Smith's The Black Watchmen and spin-off puzzler Ahnayro: The Dream World, which means there's a lot of world-building already done to support the game. On top of a 70-mission story campaign and regular side missions, there's some alternate reality gubbins happening here, too. There's monthly, optional missions that force players to trawl the real internet for in-universe sites and requires a little bit more leg-world to crack the case. It's intriguing just how many layers they've built up here. One of these days I'll free up a week or two to dive deep on this whole series.
Thankfully it doesn't look like NITE Team 4 drops players in at the deep end. There's a training boot camp (which teaches "real-life cybersecurity techniques") and what I've seen of the early missions looks accessible so long as you can keep a few command-line codes in your head. You might want to keep some paper and a pen around for scribbling down usernames and passwords, though. Still, what sells the whole thing is the look and sound of it. A brooding soundtrack, full voice acting on the main missions and countless swooshy future UI screens. Vaguely unrealistic? Maybe, but the Rule Of Cool takes precedent.
NITE Team 4 is out now on Steam and Humble for £27.79/€29.99/$34.99. There's also a single, pricey (£46.49/49.99/$59.99) piece of DLC - Network Administrator. A modding package, allowing users to add new scenarios to the game's greater internet. It also includes a support from the devs, plus a session with them to design artwork for user-made scenarios - intriguing stuff.