"Welcome to the Uplink Public Access Server.
Uplink corporation maintains the largest list of freelance agents in the world, and we have operated for the last decade with a flawless record of satisfied customers and successful agents. Our company acts as an anonymous job centre, bringing corporations together with agents who can work for them. Our company also provides rental of essential gateway computers to all agents, which allow unparalleled security in a high risk environment.
You are here because you want to join this company."
This is the text you are confronted with when you first start the game. You then go on to register yourself as an agent, pick your gateway location then log on. You are now officially an Uplink agent.
Uplink is a game of hacking. Not "real" hacking (which is time-consuming, and wouldn't make a good game) but "Hollywood hacking", where you go in, use a pre-made password breaker, authorise an arrest, cover your tracks and get out of there - which makes for a much better game. However, one major element of real-world hacking remains: you get caught, you are out. Of course, since Uplink Corporation don't give out your details, you are free to sign up again - and you can back up your user files pretty easily.
Before you can start any missions, you have to hack the Uplink Test Machine and copy some data from it, then send it to the Uplink Corporation. This is a typical example of the missions you get early on in the game. If you don't understand the basic interface, however, there is a tutorial included, but it takes up space in your memory like any other program, so if you have played before, you can delete it and get more space.
Once you have completed the test mission, you have relatively easy missions to complete - deleting or copying files. As your skill level goes up, you are presented with more and more difficult missions ("give this person a degree", "remove the criminal record of this person" up to "destroy this person's life") to make sure that the challenge is kept up.
As mentioned before, Uplink is nothing like "real" hacking (which involves using telnet/ssh/a tonne of other tools and staring at lines of text for hours). Instead you connect to the Uplink Internal Services Machine, buy the software for the job (whether it be a password cracker or voice analyser), stick on your trace tracker, bounce to the correct machine and "hack". As you can probably see this is nothing like real hacking, however it seems so real. At times you may even find yourself slipping into a state where you really believe you are getting a real person arrested (then again, this is only likely to happen at 2AM after having some kind of mind-altering substance in large quantities. Not that I've experienced such a state...).
The graphics in Uplink are nothing special - they look slightly better than a shell, but that's about it. You do, however, need a 3D card with OpenGL capabilities to play Uplink, since it uses it (which does seem a bit odd). The music does add to the tension at first, however as you advance you may find yourself turning it off so that you can hear the SFX better. The SFX aren't exactly the most advanced in the world, however they are better than what you get in "real hacking" and add to the atmosphere of the game, for example the "beep beep beep" of the trace tracker really gets you working quickly as it gets faster.
For people who like to discover things, there is a lot for you in Uplink. There is a hidden booklet somewhere, an Introversion Software Internal Services System with some ideas about Uplink 2, a password-protected zip file on the CD called gamebible.zip and much more I'm not going to tell you about. Nor am I going to tell you the "solutions" to any of the above. It just spoils it. And since you people who like finding secret things probably don't particularly like linear gameplay either, you can do what you want at any point in the game. Want to buy a new gateway? Go and hack a bank! Want to get into the news? Crash a mainframe! Want to get caught? Connect directly to the criminal records database and get caught hacking! (Perhaps not such a good idea...)
If you are a Linux user, you are probably worried about one thing: Will it work with WINE? In my experience: no. However, this is not a problem! Uplink comes with a Linux zip file on the CD (for some reason not a tarball - well, there is just one chmod +x uplink command required before you can play). And it works. However if you have a GeForce card and are using the built in nv module, you will need to download the latest Linux modules from the nVidia site (the nv module doesn't support OpenGL - it's probably the same for other cards but the only Linux machine with a 3D card in here has a GeForce).
There is only one flaw in Uplink (that is, if you ignore the bugs - then again both of these may be changed with the eagerly awaited patch): the lack of varying missions. Basically there are about ten different mission types in Uplink. Once you have done one "Elite hacker required to take down a major computer system" mission, you've done them all. Saying this, however, there is a form of plot once you get in to the game (as long as you take some certain steps), but I'm not going to tell you what it is. So there.
Uplink has many bugs. It is an unfortunate fact. Some are small (such as graphics "sticking") others are major (such as one I have where if I submit some files to Introversion Software the game crashes). Introversion Software is working on a patch, however, and I haven't had any bugs which have stopped me from playing the game completely - it's just an unavoidable annoyance (unavoidable because the company is made up of four people and there weren't many beta testers).
Review in Brief
Uplink is a unique game - the kind of thing that only small companies would dare to take risks on. And it worked. An extremely addictive game, let down slightly by the lack of varying missions. Put that aside, however, and at this price it's a bargain. Buy it. Now.
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