Thursday, February 7, 2008

Uplink Hacker Elite

I was trying to figure out what to play this morning, so hit up GameTap's massive library in search of something I'd never tried before. A 2003 game by Strategy First caught my eye: Uplink Hacker.

The beginning

The game opens with an old-school terminal looking screen where you're asked to create an account with Uplink, a company that seems to employ freelance computer hackers. I go through the sign-up process (with something like a quarter of the web sites I visit these days requiring a sign-up, what's one more? Even if it's not a real web site..) and I'm ready to start hacking.

The first one to be done is a tutorial mission...

Hacking tutorial

For some reason I get the feeling that if any real computer hacker played this, they'd probably laugh harder than they did at Swordfish but it's time to hack Uplink's test computer.

The first thing I'm told to do is download some software - a password cracker and and a trace tracker to see how close I am to getting caught. The tutorial mission is simple: get into the test computer, break the password and download a file before they complete a trace.

And so I'm off. Using a map screen, I route my connection through three other computers around the world I can access to slow down the trace and then load the password cracker.

The cracker uses the brute force method of just trying combinations of letters and numbers to get at the admin password. Never mind the fact that this wouldn't have even worked in the 80's since most online machines kick you out after three wrong passwords, but whatever, it's just a game.

Of course, the second I start cracking, they start a trace on my connection which sets off my trace tracker. It beeps to warn me that I'm being traced and the closer they get, the faster and louder it beeps adding a nice element of intensity to game with otherwise dull game play.

Get in and go for the file...of course, I got a little bit ahead of the tutorial that was giving me step-by-step instructions and could no longer go back but whatever, this was easy enough.

Hack the planet

Now it's time to start taking some assignments. The first ones are relatively straightforward corporate espionage. I've got to break into a competing company's computer and either steal or erase files. Made some quick in-game money like this and my rank increased. Now it's time for something a little juicier.

Ooh. An identity fraud assignment. Hack into social security records and change someone's status from "deceased" to "employed." This should be interesting.

...and kinda difficult.

Even with my connection routed through multiple proxy sites, I only get 45 seconds before the government has traced me. Will have to work fast on this one. Crack the admin password and search records for the name of the person I'm after. Find it, but I've got 10 seconds before the trace it done - crap! Disconnect before it's completed.

Now I have to log back in and crack the admin password again and...almost get caught before completing the assignment AGAIN!

After a few tries, I finally figure out that I can crack a non-administrator account and won't have to re-do when I go back in, yay!

Finally get the record changed and e-mail the person who hired me. Yay monies!


It's a fun little game if you're willing to go for the suspension of disbelief when it comes to the method of hacking. There's a good chance I will keep playing this one since I'm interesting in seeing where the assignments go and if perhaps any kind of plot works it's win (a story element seems to get hinted at on the hacker's message board.)

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