In my humble opinion the best futuristic hacking game ever made since Neuromancer
, Uplink is an incredibly addictive game of high tech computer crime and industrial espionage on the Internet of 2010. As the official description goes, "...you play an Uplink Agent who makes a living by performing jobs for major corporations. Your tasks involve hacking into rival computer systems, stealing research data, sabotaging other companies, laundering money, erasing evidence, or framing innocent people. You use the money you earn to upgrade your computer systems, and to buy new software and tools. As your experience level increases you find more dangerous and profitable missions become available. You can speculate on a fully working stock market (and even influence its outcome). You can modify peoples academic or criminal records. You can divert money from bank transfers into your own accounts. You can even take part in the construction of the most deadly computer virus ever designed." Fans of Interplay's classic Neuromancer will be familiar with many gameplay elements of Uplink. Basically, you perform various missions, earning cash to upgrade to more powerful hardware and software in the process. The game is reasonably realistic as far as hacking goes -- if you don't know what "IP number," "gateway," or "tracer" mean, you will know them very well long before you complete the game. Similar to Neuromancer, you can explore the gameworld largely at will, taking whatever missions strike your fancy. After the first few missions, you can choose to get involved in the game's storyline, which has you team up with either the Andromeda Research Corporation or Arumor to participate in hacks that can save or destroy the Internet itself. The problem with most modern hacking games is that the more they try to be realistic, the more they become repetitive and boring. Because, let's face it -- real hacking is a boredom-inducing affair to laymen like us, because hackers spend hours on end staring at incomprehensible (to us) textual data scrolling in their console screen. Uplink, on the other hand, cleverly strikes a fine balance between playability and realism: the game features attractive SVGA graphics and a fully mouse-driven interface that takes most of the grunge work out of real hacking. There is plenty of other cool features that make Uplink a real blast to play. In addition to being promoted to new ranks as you advance in the game, you are also given a "Neuromancer rating" that, similar to alignments in RPGs, keeps track of your approach in the game. Hacking the authority's criminal database to put fellow hackers in jail, for example, will earn you the "indiscriminate" label, while destroying systems will make you "aggressive." To keep up with the game's open-ended approach, you can even continue to complete missions, ruin peoples lives, rob banks, and find the various hidden special missions long after you complete the main storyline. With dozens of missions to complete, excellent gameplay, and a near-perfect balance between realism and accessibility Uplink is a must-have for every fan of cyberpunk intrigue -- and for only $24.99 (they ship worldwide), it's money better spent than hordes of today's bloated pretty-but-no-gameplay titles. Two thumbs up, way up!