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The Big Steam Amnesty: Uplink

With this year's big Steam summer sale a few weeks away, we're challenging you and our writers to pick up and play the many games you may have picked up on a whim, and never got around to playing. Next up in our big Steam amnesty, then, is Joe, who's finally been playing Uplink...

Uplink

The Big Steam Amnesty: Uplink Steam Amnesty: Uplink


I'm almost ashamed to admit that I've never played Uplink until recently, but that shame is nothing compared to the truth - I've never played any of Introversion's other classics either. Darwinia, Defcon; they both passed me by too, but Uplink was the one I've always regretted missing out on and that's why I picked it up in a Steam sale years ago. According to people whose judgement I trust, it's a classic...and I never played it.

Rectifying that hasn't been easy, as Uplink's tutorial and initial missions feel more like being lectured to than playing an actual game. You're a hacker mercenary who, by operating through the safety net of the mysterious Unlink Corporation, can complete all manner of heists and espionage...or, at least, that's the premise. In reality the opening hour of the game feels like a high school IT lesson as your automated guide shows you how to log in, send emails, copy files.

Persevering through this monotony is worth it however, if only to soak up the pervasive cyberpunk tone that runs through Uplink like a seam of precious metal. There are no graphics or cutscenes in Uplink, merely email descriptions and pulsing neon lines as tracer programs close in on your IP and crack your defences. Playing Uplink you can believe that these threats are purely digital and that you're actually quite safe - or you could if it weren't for the shadowy corporations and global powers lurking around you.

It's amazing to find that, after all this time, Uplink's greatest success isn't how it works as a game but as a mood piece. The game itself isn't difficult and mainly just involves buying and applying new cracking software or navigating windows very quickly, but it still draws you in because of how intensely stylised and unique it is. Playing it, it's so easy to believe that you really are a super-talented hacker because the presentation of the game is supported by the situation you're playing it in - you really are a geek, sat in front of a computer.

If I carried on playing Uplink for too long then I could see myself getting carried away by all this; turning into a bit of a conspiracy nut - and the fact that it exercises such power with such limited tools is utterly amazing.

Was it worth it?
Yes, but that's just what they want me to think.

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