Are you looking for a list of the greatest PC hacking games? The ability to take a game by the scruff of its code, pull it apart, and put the pieces back together in a new way has long been prized by game creators. Most players, after all, are just that: players. In a line of code, we see numbers and letters, not meaning.
However, there is a long history of games that have attempted to deliver the dream of having complete control over a computer’s functioning, and of utilizing that ability to either cause or prevent destruction. Some of these games simulate hacking by requiring the user to type in genuine lines of code.
Best Hacking Games
1. System Shock 2
Looking Glass is a hidden company if there ever was one. Looking Glass spends their time quietly taking the first-person shooter to areas it’s never gone before, while other firms come and go claiming to be this month’s master of the genre.
Perhaps even more astounding is how they manage to turn the industry on its head fact after time with startling consistency. The company took on the difficult task of merging the depth of an RPG into a first-person engine with Ultima Underworld and its sequel Ultima Underworld 2. The team produced an action game that made you feel like you were in a sci-fi movie with the original System Shock.
Years before Tribes, the devs attempted squad-based warfare from a first-person perspective with Terra Nova, and they succeeded spectacularly. Thief: The Dark Project, released more recently, was an incredibly deep game that introduced first-person aficionados to a world where each enemy posed a potentially lethal threat.
Each of these games took an entirely new approach to the typical first-person shooter feel of shooting everything in sight and instead built a world in which you felt like you were the protagonist. The company has done it again, quietly.
System Shock 2, their latest effort into the first-person shooter genre, is an incredibly well-crafted example of the genre, combining raw action with terror and tension to deliver a gameplay experience unlike anything else on the market.
It’s strange how, with a genuinely outstanding game, it takes a long time to articulate just what it is about the title that sets it so apart. System Shock 2’s atmosphere may be summed up in a one phrase. By providing stunning graphics, superb voice acting, interesting and dangerous adversaries, and a dramatic storyline that blends flawlessly with the play experience, this game provides an incredibly rich game world for you to explore and conquer.
All of these elements are important in and of itself, but they also contribute to the game’s dark, oppressive, and frequently horrifying feel. As a result, while it’s simple to summarize what makes System Shock 2 amazing, it’s also important to examine how each component of the game excels and fits into the larger picture.
To start, let us look at the storyline. The sequel to System Shock takes place in the same game universe as the first, in which the Earth has already colonized the solar system.
Since the out-of-control AI, SHODAN, was stopped (in the original System Shock, this thinking computer went insane and killed a large number of people on board the Citadel Space Station), the governments of Earth have banded together to form the UNN (United National Nominate) and have slammed the megacorporations (specifically the largest, the TriOptimum Corporation, which was responsible for SHODAN’s creation) that have held power for so long.
The power struggle has resulted in an uneasy ceasefire in which the UNN retains official power but companies maintain de facto control through their own armies and police forces. A new source of strain has entered this already hazardous fight.
A new ship, the Von Braun, is being built that will be capable of traveling faster than light thanks to a new engine designed by a Nobel Laureate. The new craft, which is being built by TriOptimum (despite the UNN’s best attempts to keep the company out of it), is set to make on a maiden voyage to a distant solar system.
The Von Braun will be accompanied by the Rickenbacker, a security ship meant to ‘piggyback’ on the larger ship to take advantage of its FTL engines.
The Von Braun, like other new technologies, does not work as well as it should. Hackers on board the ship have messed up a lot of minor things, but some of the ship’s important systems aren’t working since they haven’t been thoroughly tested. One of the most serious issues is that the ship’s core computer, XERXES, appears to be in a state of disarray.
Worst of all, the crew, which includes UNN and TriOptimum appointees, is splintering into two groups, each of which distrusts and despises the other. The ship receives pieces of a transmission that originates in the Tau Ceti system, far beyond the area of explored space, as the game begins. As the ship sets sail, you’re tasked to find out who’s sending the signal and, if possible, make contact with them.
Okay, there are a few more things I’d like to say about this game, but I believe you’ve gotten the gist of it by now. Hard-core action fans may be put off by the RPG features that make this game what it is, so I would issue one warning. In the conclusion, I’d recommend this game to anyone over the age of 16 (it’s quite scary) who enjoys deep, interesting play adventures.
Observation might easily be referred to as “2001: A Space Odyssey: The Game.” In fact, No Code, the developer, has put it that way. But, in actuality, Alien’s persistent sense of dread and labyrinth of cramped corridors; Solaris’ emotional core and eerie ethereality; and Interstellar’s sheer desperation and explosive moments all come together in this sci-fi thriller. All of this comes together to create an engrossing story that is woven around a number of deftly created puzzles to create a really unique gaming experience.
In Observation, you play as SAM (Systems Administration and Maintenance), the titular space station’s ubiquitous AI. Apart from its lone inhabitant, Dr. Emma Fisher, the station appears to be deserted at first glance. It’s clear that something otherworldly has been at work, and the first step is to figure out what’s going on.
It’s an engrossing premise as you try to find out why your mission has taken a turn for the worst. Almost every meaningful interaction is mediated by the user interface. Unlocking doors is done through system menus rather than by hand.
Extractor fans aren’t turned on using a switch; instead, they’re controlled by a system link from a nearby camera. This is somewhat unsurprising given that Observation’s director, Jon McKellan, was the game’s lead UI designer for Alien: Isolation, but same ideas have been developed upon here, with elegant text displays addressing several of the tasks.
Each puzzle’s solution is offered as a scanned document or as analyzed schematics discovered while investigating the region. It’s then up to you to work out the precise solution to the task, drawing on what you’ve learnt while gradually infusing new concepts into your memory, much like an AI does over time. It’s also a storytelling device: as new technological information is discovered throughout the space station, gaps in SAM’s memory core begin to fill.
While the plot is exciting and keeps Observation moving, there is plenty of tranquility in the midst of the commotion. You’re urged to explore each of the station’s past residents’ living quarters in order to find more about them and their life, which leads to quieter moments of smaller-scale drama.
Imagine being able to press the Nostromo’s pause button and leaf through Kane’s diary — that’s the kind of backstory information you can acquire from these documents and voice recordings. All of these intertwined personal tales and relationships overlay on top of one another to help create atmosphere, which Observation excels at.
Stories Untold, No Code’s last release, is rooted in atmosphere, and Observation is no different, upping up the things to enhance that sense. The gleaming metal and gleaming plastics adorn the winding corridors. The Observation was created using designs and plans from the ISS (International Space Station), which is now orbiting our planet, and it shows.
The attention to detail is incredible, balancing the vessel’s hard-edged, clinical character with lived-in human touches. The pearly white walls reflect the core conflict of man versus machine, as clothing and equipment float against them.
The sound design is outstanding. The distant clanging of metal and the constant hum of machinery are punctuated by searing moments of bruising electronic cacophony. A terrific pulsating composition composed by Nine Inch Nail’s Robin Finck serves as the soundtrack during the title credits.
The entire cast of characters is well-voiced, but the leaders are simply outstanding. Emma Fisher’s genuine and expressive performance by Kezia Burrows contrasts wonderfully with SAM’s voice – Anthony Howell’s portrayal is eerily (and purposely) evocative of H.A.L. from 2001, and I found myself triggering extra speech lines just to hear them interact.
Human character modeling is one area of presentation that doesn’t quite meet the bar of fidelity Observation sets elsewhere. Lip syncing isn’t perfect, and peering into Dr. Fisher’s eyes might feel like staring into a black hole at times. It’s a shame that the dread and desperation she expresses in her discourse is rarely, if ever, reflected in her expression.
Similarly, characters moving around the surroundings can appear rigid, which contrasts with the polished aspect of the station’s interior architecture. Thankfully, it’s not a problem that arises frequently; you interact with the station’s technology far more than the human life that fills the gaps. From dozens of CCTV-like cameras set around each of the station’s various modules to the more liberated drone spheres SAM can wield, you have a variety of observation tools at your disposal.
These allow you to explore the ship more freely, including outside of it, and float about its vast exterior. The space station is intimidating at first, especially after the tutorial, but it quickly becomes familiar, and I found that I wasn’t depending on the map as much as I thought I was as I continued through the six-hour campaign.
However, there were instances when I became a little bewildered, particularly when investigating about the outside of the vessel without a map. Trying to locate a damaged area of the station, I twisted myself in the incorrect direction and lost my bearings, which took significantly longer than it should have.
The new approach to puzzle design and astonishing attention to detail propel Observation, a smart, creative science fiction story. So frequently, a game like this struggles to find a balance between tough gameplay and a compelling story, but Observation never does, and the compelling plot is never slowed by frustratingly opaque puzzles. It just does not deal in ambiguity.
Instead, it’s elegantly signposted without being cumbersome, leading you through a labyrinth of corridors and a gripping story from beginning to start. All of these elements come together to create a scary high-concept story that lands on its feet and does what it sets out to do.
3. Telling Lies
Telling Lies is a masterclass in storytelling. Every grin, kiss, and lie reveals something important about the characters and how their lives are intertwined, and seemingly trivial remarks coalesce into key disclosures. Telling Lies has a database of video clips that you watch out of order, similar to developer Sam Barlow’s previous game, Her Story, but it’s bigger and better in every way.
Every scene is credible because to superb acting from a cast of four major characters, and each clip could lead to a new subplot. One shows David, who appears frequently, on the phone with a woman while lying in bed, their dialogue cloaked in subtext and secrets.
The following image could depict an environmental group planning a protest that you’re important of since you’ve heard about it before. When you pull on a thread, it progressively unravels, and I couldn’t let go until I’d thoroughly unraveled it and understood how it fit into the larger story.
You take perspective of a woman who is trawling through an NSA monitoring database for an unknown cause on her laptop in a swanky apartment. When you search for something generic like ‘love,’ you’ll receive 34 clips, but the system only lets you watch the first five clips. You learn to refine your searches to focus on specific themes as you watch more, finally getting to the juicy bits.
You follow Emma, a nurse played by Kerry Bishé (Argo), Ava, an environmental activist played by Alexandra Shipp (X-Men Apocalypse), Michelle, a webcam model played by Angela Sarafyan (Westworld), and the mysterious David himself played by Logan Marshall-Green (Spider-Man: Homecoming).
More would be a spoiler, because the finest part of Telling Lies is figuring out how their lives intertwine. It starts out basic but quickly gets dark and twisted, and each new storyline you come across is another rabbit hole to explore.
Scrubbing through clips using your mouse to speed up or slow down the footage made me feel like a cop in a police procedural, and I rewound through areas to pick up bits I’d missed the first time around. Some of the best acting I’ve ever seen in a video game.
What makes the performances so impressive is that nothing feels forced, despite the fact that every line in Telling Lies’ script is purposefully put so that you can search for it in the database. Whether theymake crying to a loved one or having phone sex, the cast makes me feel the weight of each line.
I was frequently lost in the raw intensity of a moment, losing sight of the task at hand. Ava is played by Shipp, who is lovable, tragic, and complex.
When David tells bedtime stories to his daughter, the writing equals the acting in terms of quality, and there’s always a deeper meaning to what a character says and doesn’t say. Conversations between two people are separated into separate clips so that only one side of the audio is heard at a time. They’re written in such a way that if you think hard enough, you can find the alternative perspective in the database, which is frequently a missing piece of the puzzle. It’s a clever idea.
I enjoy how the plot meanders before abruptly changing pace. Some of the clips are 5-minute monologues, while others are 30-second debates. Gunshots, protests, celebrations, and fights punctuate the chats, and you’ll start to organize the timeline around these major events. You’ll be taken into boats, bedrooms, tents, automobiles, and community halls, with clips ranging from simple front-on webcams to shaky handheld footage. Throughout the six hours of footage, the variety kept me on my toes.
The timeline is constantly flipped back and forth, giving the plot a flawed, very human feel. It’s chaotic in the way that few video game storylines are, and I had no idea where it was headed. I enjoy how it never rushes you, and unlike Her Story, you can’t keep track of what proportion of the total videos you’ve viewed and what you haven’t.
It allows you to mindlessly follow a side plot, only pausing to scribble down a relevant name or a prospective keyword for later. You can also skip ahead to the end if you can’t wait to find out what happened.
Because you were rummaging through an ancient police computer system, I could overlook Her Story’s awkwardness. However, when you’re seated on a modern laptop in a modern apartment, it seems odd and can disrupt the story’s flow.
But the story is compelling enough that I’m willing to put the UI flaws. I finished my initial playthrough in under four hours, but discovering that I’d left two hours of footage unwatched made me want to go back in and learn more. Now that I’ve practically exhausted the database, I’m constantly discovering fascinating details about the characters’ origins, motivations, and lies they’ve told.
Even after you’ve completed your initial playthrough, Telling Lies is a rich, deep story that keeps on delivering. Each of its brief video clips is rich with meaning, and figuring out where to go next is gratifying since each subplot is compelling: once I started following a thread, it was hard to quit, and the more you do, the more connections to the main plot you’ll find.
I felt like I was fighting the user interface at times, but it was well worth it to watch this great cast bring a complex story to life.
4. Quadrilateral Cowboy
Quadrilateral Cowboy’s delightful cyberpunk heart isn’t simply on its sleeve. The game’s world and characters have a fun, retrofuturistic aesthetic thanks to a brilliant hacking system that allows you to put your ingenuity and problem-solving skills to the test as you carry off progressively complex heists.
While its strongest ideas are never fully explored, it makes some satisfying puzzles out of its interesting, gadget-based cybercrimes, which Ifeel like I’ll be returning to for many more hours.
The clumsy, antiquated appeal of early 1980s technology is combined with a gritty, futuristic edge in this strange cyberpunk world. It’s your job as a hired hacker to plot virtual heists utilizing the hilarious contraptions of this fictitious age. This is primarily accomplished by typing scripts into the command prompt on your portable computer.
Manually hammering out these little bits of code, accompanied by its own soothing keyboard clack sounds and a handy list of functional keyboard shortcuts, was a gloriously liberated and tactile experience that made each action I successfully accomplished that much more rewarding.
As I snuck around top-secret government facilities, boarded flying trucks, and infiltrated satellites via space elevator, these actions could be as simple as typing “door1.open(3)” to open locked doors or “camera2.off(3)” to turn off surveillance cameras, or as complicated as writing scripts to execute remotely.
It was fun to observe as these wacky levels, from Bergamot Towers’ floating vaults to the Malta Stock Exchange’s giant zeppelin, bowed to the will of my newly learned coding tricks, especially when I came up with a particularly efficient solution to a particular barrier.
As I programmed my way through approximately five or six hours of missions, I appreciated the creative freedom, imagining new ways to accomplish future obstacles more cleanly and repeating old ones to beat my own best times. Completing a mission also shows you the worldwide average and your friends’ best times, which fueled my competitive streak as I devised new ways for shaving seconds off each level’s existing high score.
Most levels are broken down into three phases to gradually familiarize you with new obstacles and teach you new tricks as the heists progress. Each level’s first stage was always a nice opportunity to test the waters so that by the time I made to the final (typically third) stage, I was ready to take on whatever challenge had been building up to that point.
Unfortunately, some heists were far weaker than others, particularly when they abandoned good concepts introduced in prior ones instead of building them on as I improved. Surveillance cameras, for example, seem to vanish after a few levels; they were once-in-a-lifetime obstacles that never had to be dealt with again.
The campaign nearly literally made the tables on me at one point, forcing me to undergo a number of tedious platforming missions in which I alternated between two characters with distinct abilities.
These were poor and unwelcome sequences that merely sought to explain basic mechanics that didn’t require whole levels, such as breaking open particular doors with a timed hydraulic spreader or cutting through vents with a buzzsaw.
They also shattered the campaign’s so far satisfying pattern, and while it eventually returns to the code-heavy puzzles I enjoyed in previous missions, it never really recovers from the shift in focus. Quadrilateral Cowboy’s hacking shines brightest when it comes to interesting contraptions.
As I progressed, new gadgets such as a small, remotely controlled robot that can squeeze into small locations, a swiveling rifle stored in a briefcase, and a portable launcher for flying across large gaps were added with satisfying regularity. The subsequent heists brought new layers of complexity as a result of each of them.
One of my favorite missions involved setting up my autocase rifle on the deck outside the luxury two-story apartment I had to penetrate, launching aimbot.exe on my deck to deploy the rifle, and using my small CCTV to narrow the rifle’s sights on a switch beyond the home’s glass walls.
The switch would trigger off the security lasers that were blocking the front entrance and the stairwell to the second story, but if left on for more than three seconds, it would set out an alarm.
This was a common restraint, which was also found on cameras and locked doors, adding a welcome element of difficulty to heists. I’m pretending to be a clever hacker, but she isn’t a god. Having to work around impediments made the setup more enjoyable and the execution more frantic.
I popped open a window on the side of the home with a pleasant click from my data jacking device to welcome my autocase’s laser sight — this way, the shot from my rifle wouldn’t break the glass and set off yet another alarm.
That lesson had already been taught to me by previous heists. I felt like a pro at this point. Things became more complicated and, as a result, more fun at this point. The switch had two levels, with the top controlling the staircase lasers and the bottom controlling the entryway lasers.
I trained my sight on the bottom of my rifle and entered some short scripts: “blink 1 fire” to allocate one blink from my cybernetic blinking ability — which I can activate with the Q key — to my gun’s shot function. “Blink 2 pitch 0.7,” comes next. “Blink 3 pitch -0.7” to raise my rifle 0.7 degrees, then “blink 3 pitch -0.7” to lower it.
These are the most exciting setups of Quadrilateral Cowboy; stressful planning times where I might understand the ins and outs of a site, look for security holes, and devise a time to break in while the system is most vulnerable.
It was here, during these engrossing puzzle-solving moments, that I learnt the lingo of these virtual heists, adding to my expanding arsenal of hacky moves and methods that I could use to speed up my next robbery. However, as interesting, creative, and entertaining as the setups are, the most fulfilling and exciting part is watching my faultless system execute.
Back at the villa, I snuck into the upper bedroom unseen in a flurry of robotic blinks and flashing security lasers. I grabbed the target safe and dashed back down the stairs, just in time for the safe’s 10-second timer to activate a home-defense turret and take me out.
But by then, I’d disconnected from the virtual world I’d infiltrated, leaving only the great joy of yet another flawless theft planned, coded, and performed… And some cash for me and my hacker pals to go out and buy a fun new gadget for future adventures.
The puzzles created by Quadrilateral Cowboy are mostly enjoyable to solve. Its command line hacking is unexpectedly approachable and pleasingly tactile, and when combined with its numerous intriguing gadgets, it provides you a lot of creative problem-solving and freedom in dealing with all kinds of wacky crimes.
While not every level shines as brilliantly as the others, I’m immediately drawn back by the game’s replayability and appeal, eager to explore more of the futuristic, hacker-themed playground it so elegantly creates.
Almost everyone has a nefarious criminal side. It shows up in a variety of ways, such as in people who mug others, run oil corporations, and sell Castles & Catapults to an unwitting public. The fun time about crime is that it never goes out of style.
New gadgets are being unleashed to get around security, an understanding of electronics can keep high-tech criminals out of jail, and, most of all, crime is no longer confined to the substantial world of steel vaults and trigger-happy cops, as it once was.
No, a bright and educated guy or woman can make a nice living by hacking into the Internet, which is quickly becoming something that most world leaders rely on. Uplink: Hacker Elite delves into this burgeoning technological possibility in a game that is both original and intriguing, and will keep aspiring computer hackers engaged for hours. Hackers need not apply; your job is probably a lot more fun than this game.
While most people will point out that Uplink lacks state-of-the-art graphics and the grandest and most fantastic 3D engine, I would say that its simplicity is to its advantage. I’ve never seen interfaces so seamless on anyone’s actual computer screen, having seen hacker movies, movies with hackers in them, and just plain movies with computers in them.
As a result, entering this interface was a lesson in elegance and immersion. You get the impression that youfeel on the Internet hacking into someone’s computer because of the way it’s built. While the game is still too simple to make you feel like a true hacker, it’s as close as any of us regular people will ever get to the real thing.
There is no grandiose intro, no indication of a massive plot to destroy the world hidden in a cinematic, just a login screen, basic and simple and appealing, right from the start. You’ve been invited to join Uplink, a global hacking organization that grants new members 3,000 dollars in cash, a gateway computer, and access to their job board and equipment store.
To make money, you’ll have to take gigs hacking into other computer systems. You earn money so that you can buy new upgrades for your computer, so that you can take on bigger and more important jobs and earn more money, allowing you to upgrade your computer even more. You’ve seen it before in most RPGs, except instead of guns and armor, there are chips and wires.
You’ll fall into a story along the way, but the game takes a more freeform approach, enabling players to choose whatever missions they like, whether or not they are story-based. The player is in time of the timetable.
In any case, missions begin simply to familiarize you with the interface. You’ll soon be hacking into systems to steal and erase files, starting with no-risk introductory missions. Along the way, you’ll need various pieces of equipment to complete various tasks.
To gain access to each computer, you’ll need to employ various software packages such as trail trackers, password hackers, and so on. Depending on the security system on the other end, you’ll usually begin being tracked practically as immediately as you enter. To counter this, you’ll need to bounce your hack across multiple servers all around the world.
You’ll be discovered eventually, so move quickly. It’s exciting to get that one tiny warning telling you how much time you have left before you’re nabbed. In any case, missions begin simply to familiarize you with the interface. You’ll soon be hacking into systems to steal and erase files, starting with no-risk introductory missions. Along the way, you’ll need various pieces of equipment to complete various tasks.
To gain access to each computer, you’ll need to employ various software packages such as trail trackers, password hackers, and so on. Depending on the security system on the other end, you’ll usually begin being tracked practically as immediately as you enter.
To counter this, you’ll need to bounce your hack across multiple servers all around the world. You’ll be discovered eventually, so move quickly.
It’s exciting to get that one tiny warning telling you how much time you have left before you’re nabbed. As the clock ticks down and you barely disconnect in time, you’ll feel your heart move to beat a bit faster.
As the clock ticks down and you barely disconnect in time, you’ll feel your heart move to beat a bit faster. The tools you utilize and the assignments you complete are all different. You may be copying a file at times, but you may also be wiping criminal records, manipulating school records, or even tracking down other hackers. While the missions do become more intricate and tough as the game progresses, there’s no escaping the feeling that it’s all a bit repetitious.
I wasn’t having a bad time playing the game, but most missions followed the same basic pattern. The money you earn from accomplishing all of this allows you to upgrade the protection around your own system, add RAM upgrades (which allow for more complex programs and larger amounts of data to be stolen), and buy new hacking tools. It’s fun to try to be the best in this game, but the thrill will wear off eventually.
Uplink: Hacker Elite is a fun little game that may be played for brief periods of time as a pleasant diversion. It isn’t one of those games that will keep you engaged for hundreds of hours, but it is a welcome break from the majority of the clones now on the market.
If you prefer the flash and style of most strategy games, as well as the twitchy reflexes of an FPS, this game is certainly not for you. This game’s concept and implementation are truly unique. I’m not sure it’s worth $30, but if you see it in the bargain bin for even $20 and want a shot to sneak in and live out your criminal fantasies while still being the good guy, Uplink may easily find a home in your PC game collection.
Hacknet is a new twist on the hacker-sim genre that is refreshingly grounded. It tells the story of a recently deceased hacker named Bit, who calls out to you from beyond the grave, with a crude, Linux-inspired interface and a dark, driving soundtrack. What follows is a beehive of escalating tension and a satisfying deep dive into the rabbit hole of online security and its moral implications for society.
Hacknet, which was first published in August 2015, is now getting its first expansion: Labyrinths. This brand-new chapter takes place alongside the main story and begins shortly after you’ve completed the main game’s tutorials. It not only gives you new hacking tools and tactics, but it also gives you more difficult investigations that need a lot of attention to detail.
Both Hacknet and Labyrinths have missions ranging from simple break-ins and deletes to in-depth studies involving locating weaknesses in order to hack into secure networks with several, heavily-encrypted servers. Among other things, you’ll read files you shouldn’t be reading, steal confidential software, browse through memory dumps for vital information, and defend against incoming hacker attacks.
In this aspect, Labyrinths is significantly more difficult than the main campaign, as it doesn’t spend any time throwing you into the deep end and relies on past puzzle skill.
Because Hacknet relies on typing to browse, you’ll need a physical notepad or a smartphone camera to keep track of the commands available.
Almost all of the riddles need you to break through network security in order to find a certain piece of information, which necessitates first cracking that system’s ports by utilizing various command-line executables to gain administrator access. Once you’ve logged in, you can view, move, rename, delete, or copy files, as well as scan the network for other connected systems.
The problem is that, in addition to consuming crucial time, these executables also consume a significant amount of system memory while executing, thus determining the most efficient order to run them is critical to hacking efficiently. It doesn’t take long for hostile tracers to start obstructing your movement, and until you learn how to get in and out quickly, your life will be difficult.
You can even find up in a position where your user interface is deleted. While the act of hacking in Hacknet is thrilling in and of itself, the fundamental problems’ often recurring variables ensure that most of the process becomes mundane after a few hours of nefarious online activity.
At worst, it appears to be a squandered opportunity to undermine the rather processional character of the moment-to-moment nature of the primary story’s later hours. This isn’t an issue in the Labyrinths campaign, which grants each hack an extra layer of complexity.
In the primary storyline of Hacknet, you join a group called Entropy, which is involved with the recently deceased Bit, and you work together to solve the mystery behind his death.
Labyrinths deviates from this, luring you away from the group to focus on a separate, secret assignment with a different group of hackers before returning to finish the original job. Labyrinths can be begun at any point throughout the main campaign, but how much fun you have will be determined on how well you know how to hack in Hacknet.
The story of Hacknet examines and captures the dark aspect of the Internet while still understanding when to lighten things up. You vary across various IRC logs that range from usual troll banter to debates about society’s wickedness. You’ll keep digging into various corporate interests while trying to solve the mystery behind your colleague’s death.
The feeling that you’re doing things you shouldn’t be starts to reach home as the stakes rise and the storylines begin to converge, generating a beautiful sense of tension around your actions that lasts the entire game. Where Hacknet relies on personal emails to move the story, Labyrinths uses IRC to try to present the concept of collaborative hacking (Internet Relay Chat).
The faster back-and-forth communication smoothly flows from mission crucial information to laughs, replacing emails with a chat log that refreshes periodically with talk from your fellow hackers during missions. However, you won’t be able to respond to these characters, which is a bummer because you’ll want to feel more involved in the group and give back to their debates.
Labyrinths also falters a little near the end, when the stakes take a large and unexpected leap. Despite the fact that Hacknet’s primary campaign narrative is full of twists and turns—counter-hackers and tracing programs are everywhere—Labyrinths felt more unsettling than others.
The frantic energy that the campaign’s finale creates vanishes almost as quickly as it starts, leaving you feeling mostly unaffected by the campaign’s outcome.
The feeling of playing Hacknet in a dark room with headphones on, enthralled by its intriguing puzzles and soundtrack—full of hard beats and dirty synth sounds—is as close to the Hollywood hacker experience as you can get.
The puzzles are uniquely difficult without feeling inaccessible, and the Labyrinths extension expands on the technique by adding deeper investigations and increasing the diversity of riddles. Despite its stuttering climax and gradual learning curve, Hacknet – Labyrinths is a thrilling adventure that takes you down the rabbit hole and back.