There’s a sense of empowerment in the idea of being a hacker; of having the ability to control a huge network of powerful systems, bringing corporations and nations to their knees. Hacker Evolution Duality and it’s DLC Inception does a good job in enveloping you in the atmosphere of sitting in front of a computer screen dishing out data-justice to wrong-doers , but gives the player little reason to feel empowered, instead confusing and obfuscating their progress through their virtual world.
As a caveat, I must stress that I have no experience of this little sub-genre, and have very little experience when it comes the actual, real life inner workings of computer software and security programmes. That said, the game creates a good sense that you are actually using a computer programme to hack servers around the world.
The graphics have a functional quality at best, and give the sense of being sat at a computer terminal, with everything looking crisp and clear and the menu situated at the bottom of the screen is simple to use, and is made easier with the addition of hot keys. The music is fitting and creates a sense of urgency throughout the mission, mixing ambient techno with industrial beats to raise the tempo and motivate the player.
However, I found the game difficult and obtuse, and even the tutorial can be failed which forces it to be replayed again and again. This create a sense of confusion and demotivates the player to the point that only obstinate stubbornness, a stiff drink and several Google tabs open in a browser can alleviate.
Upon repeated play, and minutes of internet research, it soon becomes relatively clear that each server you are presented with has a firewall and in order to circumnavigate this you must have enough CPU power. This can be done in several ways, by hacking weaker servers and using them as way-points, or by ‘bouncing’ your connection. This adds to your CPU power, allowing you to access connections with higher firewalls. You can also initiate DOS and EMP attacks to damage and lower the firewall.
Once you are past a connection firewall, you are required to transfer funds, download and upload files and switch the operational status of security cameras, all in order to further your knowledge base in other areas around the world map. Some servers have a further layer of security such as voice recognition, which makes you adjust sliders to match the waves of a voice pattern, or retina scans which sees you trying to ascertain a number between 24 and zero before you are traced
It took me several hours to compile and synthesise this information, leading to repeated, failed playthroughs of the tutorial level – I will make no bones about it and say that this game is seriously hardcore and nigh on impenetrable. I understand the integrity that goes into trying to complete a game, or at least see a substantial part of it, in order to give a fair evaluation. But this is a review written for and from the perspective of a busy and time-conscious gamer.
I had to drop the game to easy just to have any chance of understanding what was going on. If the tutorials about your own actions are bad enough the way it conveys information about how your own stats can be chipped away at are even worse. In fact they are almost non-existent. I had no idea how to counter what the A.I. systems were doing to my own defences, other than one sentence asking me to observe A.I. behaviour.
Call me a noob, but this game is seriously hardcore, almost to it’s own detriment. I really wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt and tried several times, but it just kept on giving me excuses to concede defeat and play other titles. There is a game to like here, and it may appeal to you if you have experience of and enjoy difficult PC games. A player that has the time and the patience may find a fairly absorbing and challenging game here, a game that requires a serious test of their ability to timely implement actions and orders in a punishing race against the clock; unfortunately that player isn’t me.
MLG Rating: 6/10 Platform: PC Release Date: 20/10/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Hacker Evolution Duality for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of 10 days on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.