Posted: February 21, 2013
For me, Hacker Evolution turned out to be a rather frustrating experience. There is a trace meter that tracks your trace level and when it gets to 100, you lose. The biggest problem is that you get penalized for successful cracks and decryptions which means the trace level increases even when you are doing things the right way. And the only way to decrease your trace level is through money, but they are pretty stingy on making that readily available. Not to mention they dangle a bunch of system upgrades that aren't cheap which gives a false impression that there is a lot of cash to be obtained in the game. So if you spend money on these upgrades, you end up with no money left to decrease your trace level and ultimately get stuck because you can't reduce your trace level. The manual even states, "Important: Don't rush to upgrade your hardware as soon as you have money. Having the best hardware is not the main objective of the game. Carefully make your decision, and only upgrade your hardware when necessary. Money is not abundant in the game, and its main purpose is to reduce your trace time." That key piece of information is not found anywhere in the game; you have to read it from the manual. Now why they decided to design a game that revolves around money, yet not make it abundant is not clear to me.
They don't even grant you rewards for completing missions (a little money would be nice). Instead they give you a score (why?). But the real kicker is your trace level carries over from the previous mission, so if it was high and you don't have any money, you're ♥♥♥♥ed on the next mission. What this ultimately means is you must follow a very specific path on the early missions to be able to survive the later missions. So after I figured this out, the game quickly lost any open world feel of being able to solve missions in different ways. Plus you never really know if you didn't do something right until you are stuck on a later mission with no money.
I did like the graphical interface, although the actual command execution was a bit oversimplified. It was fun for a few hours, but ultimately it was the lack of a proper reward system that really turned me away from progressing further with this game. If the simulated world of Hacker Evolution sounds interesting to you, go buy Uplink. It offers a much better gaming experience.