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Obscurity: Look mommy, I'm a Hacker!

by ShadeOfLight   //   9:18 AM on 09.30.2011



There are lots of games out there that make you feel like the star of an action movie. In fact, let's not beat around the bush, most games nowadays attempt to make you feel like that. From Uncharted to Modern Warfare to Gears of War, the list is practically endless. All of these games have one thing in common: you are cast as the hero of this actionmovie-like plot.
But what about the action movie underdogs, the guys on the sidelines who make all the heroics possible? Don't they deserve some love too?
Who, you may ask? I am referring, off course, to the hackers. The lovable geeky guys sitting at their computers, disabling security systems, stealing money and just all-round being wizards of technology. What would an action star be without his trusty 'wizzkid' sidekick? Still awesome, yes, but probably much less effective.
I hope that you're asking yourself right now why there isn't a game that puts you in role of one of these amazing people. Because I can answer that right away: there is.

It is called Hacker Evolution, but it seems to be a very niche little game; I've never seen it mentioned on Destructoid, and that's saying something. It's quite good though, if you open up to it.

Like I said, Hacker Evolution (and it's sequels, subtitled Untold and Duality) is a game in which you play an action movie hacker, and I do emphasize the 'action movie' part. This game probably doesn't have anything to do with real life hacking, but more with the hollywood type. Think Swordfish, not Geohotz.
You could also think Ed, but then you'd be way off.


Pictured: hacking

This is also an independent game, made by just a couple of people, so it can come across as a bit of a basic experience. But what it does, it does really well.
At its core, Hacker is a puzzle game, with a hint of strategy. When you start a level you're given several missions that you have to complete in order to progress. These missions range from "retrieve the stolen file", to "find the person who hacked into our system", and you'll even see things like "hack into the core server and disable the security". Before you can do all of this, however, you have to find the right servers. It would be kind of hard to retrieve a file if you don't know which server hosts it. To find out where the servers are that you need, you have to hack into the ones you can already see. Once you've done that, you can look through all the files hosted their to find clues towards your next location.

Let me give a short example. Let's say that someone stole the file 'jimsterling.ai' (because we all know that there is no way that that guy is a real person) from the dtoid.com server. You don't know who has it yet.
So first, you'll have to hack into dtoid.com, either through a password, an exploit program, or by good old-fashioned crack. Once in, you find a activity.log file, which shows who was given access on the day of theft. Sure enough, you find that an incoming connection request was granted just before the file was stolen, and you can see that it came from the dastardly people at the server kotaku.com. Now that you know who stole the file, there is only one thing left to do: you scan for the server in question and you hack the crap out of it!

I find that the basic gameplay in Hacker was original and well done. It's supposedly a bit slower-paced than the more well-known Uplink, but I think the 'detective' elements in this game really have their charm. Progression isn't always as logical as the above example (you'll find some files on servers that have no reason to have them at all), but all in all it was well done. There is a bit of a story, but that really doesn't play a large role and the ending comes absolutely out of nowhere and makes no sense at all. But things like that are quickly forgiven.


It's much more fun than it looks, trust me.

Because what Hacker really does incredibly well, is presentation and immersion. Everything is this game was tailor-made to give you that authentic hollywood hacker feeling. This is something that is really difficult to explain in text, you should really feel this for yourself. The game can be completely controlled by typing everything you need in the command console. "crack", "exec", "scan": these are all commands that you will use a bunch throughout the game. I find that this really helps to get you immersed in what you are doing. Never in any game have you been this close to the game. You're not controlling anyone, you're not clicking on stuff to cause it to move; you're hacking. You, personally, are doing everything throughout the entire game. I've never experienced anything quite like it, and Hacker deserves huge credit for this. You could even be forgiven for forgetting, if just for a moment, that you're playing a game in the first place.
If you can type quickly, it gets even better, because you will instantly feel like the guys you see in the movies.
Take it from me, sitting at your pc and typing "exec shade.exploit dtoid.com 199" feels surprisingly good and completely "legit". Again, if you want to feel what it's like to be the hacker sidekick in any action movie, give this game a spin.

Besides the basic controls, there are many other things that contribute to the great presentation.
- First of all, every time you try to hack something, people will try to trace you. You're given both a timer that shows you how long until your hack is finished, as well as a visual representation of the tracing. It can be very nervewracking as you're watching both of these counters race for the 0.00. Often, your hacks will be complete literally just a fraction of a second before you can be traced, and I've let out more than a few audible sighs because of that fact. It really makes a game which is usually quite slow paced incredibly intense for a little while.
- Secondly, you also have to manage your pc setup in the game. Transferring money from the servers you hack into can buy you some nice equipment. Pimping your setup with extra CPU or a better firewall can make things a lot easier, although money is scarce, so you'll have to make educated choices.
- Finally, the music is exactly like something you'd imagine a hacker to have on while conducting his business. The upbeat electronic music, performed by a guy named DJ Velocity, really sucks you in from the get go, and the fact that there is an in-game mediaplayer which cycles the OST songs just gives it that extra bit authenticity. Again, this is your pc, and you're doing everything in this game personally.


Long story short, Hacker is not at all like this crap.

Unfortunately, it's easy to see why Hacker never really took off. It's just an incredibly hard sell. This is not an actionpacked game and if you just look at screens and videos, it will look like the most boring stuff ever. It's only when you start playing for yourself that you start to see its charm. And charm it has.

I personally got immediately sucked in when I played the demo (oh, yes, there is a demo by the way). The incredibly direct interface, the hollywood hacker feel, playing detective by searching for clues in uncovered files, everything together made it a really memorable experience for me. Obviously, I bought it not long after (in fact, I bought the Hacker Evolution + Hacker Evolution Untold pack for double the hacking goodness). Both games feature extra content in the form of free DLC, and they include mod editors, so you can download levels made by other fans or make your own if you're so inclined.

However, the puzzle elements and the slow pace, i.e. thinking every step through, might turn some people off, while others might be put off by the concept from the very start. If you never wanted a hacking simulator, then this game is obviously not for you. You won't be shooting stuff, let that be clear. But if we take all of the above people out of the equation, how many are left? Not a lot, I fear.
It's clear that this game fills a niche, one that is admittedly not very large. But if you, like me, do belong in that niche, then you would be doing yourself a disservice by not checking this unique but under-appreciated game out.


In this level you hack street lights to turn red while you're speeding away. Other games feature the car chase, this one offers the other perspective.Photo Photo Photo view gallery
(5 photos)









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