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Uplink is a game that could best be described as a Hollywood Hacking simulation. The whole premise is that you, an unnamed agent of the Uplink Corporation (an underground hacker-for-hire service), have just joined up in the ranks. Using your PC, you move up the ranks of Uplink agents by hacking different companies' computers and servers.

It's arguably one of the most realistic games out there, because you never see your character - in fact, the character is made out to simply be you, operating under an alias. You never see your character because he's sitting in the same chair you are, typing in commands on your keyboard with your hands.

Compare with Net Runner. A fan sequel, called Codelink, is on the works.

Tropes used in Uplink include:
  • AFGNCAAP: You have no photo in your school records, Social Security, or bank account.
    • And during the secret mission to steal the agent roster from the Uplink Internal Services machine, there's always one of the ten files missing - the one containing your own record.
      • As a hint to a cheat code (which is, unfortunately, patched away), it is actually possible for the game to disclose your alias. It's TooManySecrets
  • All Crimes Are Equal: An unintentional example, but someone will go to jail just as readily for rape, murder, and arson as for jaywalking, spitting, and littering.
  • Apocalypse How : Between Type 0 and Type 1 if Revelation succeeds.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Also unintentional, but as a result of All Crimes Are Equal above, you can indeed send someone to prison for, say, genocide, conspiracy to overthrow the government, and parking on a double yellow line. They also have to be violating parole, as you cannot authorize arrest without that particular crime. So you can turn someone into a genocidal, mass murdering jaywalker...who was successfully paroled and subsequently violated their parole.
  • Beeping Computers The Trace Tracker program.
  • Beyond the Impossible: Hacking into the ARC mainframe servers before you get a certain plot-important email (which automatically hits you after about an in-game week) nets you some very interesting information and an equally interesting email from ARC themselves. It can done with a perfectly legitimate Disc One Nuke, or you'll need a monster rig and top of the line software to do it.
  • The Big Board: The Game Within a Game on Protovision's machine.
  • Computer Virus: Version 1.0 doesn't spread across systems, but the speed run takes out the global network by running it on enough computers.
  • Copy Protection: Actually meant as a bit of nostalgia, as they posted the shiny grid that comes with the game as a free PDF on their website.
  • Cosmetic Award: There are 12 "Special Awards" to achieve, mostly tied to the completion of the storyline missions. However, since one can only take one branch of the storyline, it's impossible to earn all of them in a single playthrough.
  • The Cracker: You. And you love it.
    • You can destroy a company's servers completely - at least datawise - and doing so will net you a nice little news article about how a mysterious hacker has cost the company millions. They don't seem to ever actually go bankrupt, although their stock will tank. You can hack into a bank and funnel money into your account - possibly even bouncing it around several times and keeping it in accounts on other bank websites, rather than storing it all on the Uplink Corporation Bank.
    • See Playful Hacker below for some For the Evulz type things.
  • Critical Annoyance: The Trace Tracker. The lack of any other significant sound in the game except a quiet music soundtrack can make the slow but subtle beep rate increase into Nightmare Fuel, particularly if you've only got about five seconds left.
    • It does a lot to build tension on a time-critical hack though. Also, if it's really aggravating, it's possible to turn its beeping off.
      • A bit of trivia: The beeping of the Trace Tracker was basically a last-week addition to the game and it really adds to the tension of the game.
    • The motion detector will flash red regardless of who is near the computer, as long as there is more than one person (one person only makes it flash yellow; any computer upgrades you order are carried out by one person per upgrade). This could either be the FBI coming with your game over, or those 5 new processors you just ordered.
  • Disc One Nuke: If you know how, it's fairly easy to rob a bank and funnel a couple million dollars into your bank account, thereby allowing you to buy all the best hardware and software early on.
  • Dummied Out: The International Medical Database, to prevent you from killing someone by messing with their medication. It was restored in a mod.
    • The cheat code is likewise removed after patching. Modified computers that have near-infinite capacity and a negative cost does make the code irrelevant.
  • Easter Egg: There are supposedly encrypted easter eggs hidden in the game's code. No, the game doesn't find and decrypt them for you when you do something, it's up to you to find and decrypt the right pieces of code.
    • At the beginning of the game, you're asked for a two-character code as part of the game's copy protection. The code sheet is written in hexadecimal coding, and it does say something.
  • Everything Is Online: Almost everything.
  • Exact Progress Bar: Almost every program.
    • The v3 and below Trace Tracker somewhat subverts this in that it will sometimes jump around a little, but still stays fairly consistent. V4 shows your Exact Time to Failure. The MapTrace HUD upgrade, despite costing more than the best Trace Tracker, does not show how much time you have until the trace is complete, only many bounces your hack has been traced through.
  • Extreme Graphical Representation: Justified, because it is a representation of Hollywood Hacking.
  • Feelies: Although even these are virtual:
    • The passworded "Game Bible"
    • The shiny bonus disc, with old builds of the game and their ideas for Uplink 2.
  • Fan Sequel: Codelink, currently in open beta. Here's their dev blog.
  • Final Death: Get caught during a hack or passive traced, and your account will be suspended. To all intents and purposes, that game file is dead (justified in that Uplink disavows all knowledge of your actions, prevents you from ever reconnecting your gateway computer, and generally pulls the plug on your actions, while also implying that your gateway contains the only information that can lead directly back to you).
    • Unless you go a bit meta with the hacking concept, and backup your save games regularly.
  • 555: The computers you hack into use nonsense IP addresses.
    • And the phonelines you ring for voice print IDs use nonsense phone numbers.
    • As mentioned on the article, your gateway is always No place like home...
  • Game Mod: Lots.
    • Sometimes, the simplest are the best. The Log Nuke program wipes every log in a server, no questions asked.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: If you're working for Arunmor, this can happen in the final mission - you can destroy ARC's central mainframe with their own virus.
    • The exact sequence of events: Be sure to hang on to the Revelation 1.0 virus file - you have two opportunities to get your hands on it. When the final mission starts, immediately infiltrate the ARC mainframe. Copy Revelation to their fileserver, use the console to delete the contents of /sys, then run Revelation. Don't forget to clear the transfer logs after that, and then you can start fighting the virus everywhere else. Since the version you've unleashed is 1.0, it won't spread.
  • Hollywood Hacking: The entire game can basically be described as a simulation based off Hollywood's portrayal of hacking.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Not per se, but by the end of the game you'll probably have a rather respectable collection of hacking tools at your disposal - from a simple password cracker, to software designed to help you map out and then abuse the hell out of a LAN.
  • Karma Meter: Of a sort. The game keeps track of whether you're a hacker or a cracker. If you willfully destroy systems, ruin lives, and destroy data, then you'll earn a reputation for doing so. If you alter records, trace other hackers, and prefer to leave systems intact, you'll earn a reputation for being "mostly harmless". Mission givers will react to your reputation. And you sell the list of Uplink agents, your reputation will be locked into a completely amoral sociopath.
  • Let's Play Uplink: Hacker Elite!
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The main story starts when ARC decides that Uplink's most proficient agent, who was working for them in a secret project, needed to take a nap.
  • The Mole: You, if you manage to steal the whole list of agents of your very own company and sell it to a third party. Cue "suicide" spree among Uplink employees. To top it off, you'll receive a Special Award for doing so.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: The normal game over is the feds getting their hands on your gateway. There is basically only one non-standard game over and two ways to acquire it. You can run any version of Revelation on your own system which, unsurprisingly, completely breaks it. When you follow the ARC missions, getting Revelation on your system is impossible to avoid and the end of the game.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The blank screen when your account is suspended.
  • One-Gender Race / Gendercide?: Not acknowledged in story but you will only see adult men in the databases. Well, it was made in 2000, back when there were no girls on the internet.
  • One Hundred Percent Completion: Subverted - you can't get all 12 special badges in a single playthrough.
  • One World Order: There is only one government, which makes hacking their databases very convenient.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: Partially averted - admins will normally use random strings of letters and numbers, but give their co-workers passwords from a list of common words shared by every company. Presumably, God won a survey of easily remembered words, closely followed by admin and then password
    • This is a reference to the movie Hackers, as is the methodology for ruining someone's life.
    • The password to the practice machine is always rosebud .
    • Initially, even admins use highly insecure passwords, but as the game goes on and your notoriety rises, the cheap and cheerful Dictionary Cracker is about as much use as... well, a cream cracker. With the spate of hackings, massive amounts of data theft, data loss, server wipes, etc. etc., it's actually a nice touch that they do appear to wise up.
  • Password Slot Machine: The Password Breaker.
  • Piecemeal Funds Transfer: Averted; delete the logs stating a millionaire transfer and the disappearance of thousands of credits from dozens of angry customers will be forever shrouded in mystery.
  • Playful Hacker: You, if you so choose, anyway. Gain access to someone's academic record and give them a qualification as a Registered Sex Worker! Change someone's government records from reading 'Single' to 'Married' (or vice versa)! Plant a Bestiality charge on some poor random bastard's criminal record for the lulz! Give them a qualification in Mathsology, Archeomatics or Truthiness!
    • Given that this is a British game, the most appropriate crime to pin on people is probably buggery.
  • Post Modern: A borderline example, as rather than having a distinct character that the player acts as, the player is the character.
  • Real Time: Time moves in real time, even though people reply to messages instantly. You can speed up time though.
  • Save Scumming: Most clever players will back up their files. It's a bit meta, hacking a hacking game, isn't it?
    • That's not really hacking though, that's just common sense in backing up important files... which any smart hacker should do. It's cheating the system, yes, but not really hacking per se.
    • It's the only way to use a certain cheat code after the patch. TooManySecrets no longer works as a cheat
  • Scare Chord: While not a literal chord, any first time LAN hacker will jump at the shrill sound when the System Administrator logs on.
  • Schmuck Bait: ARC's email spells it out very, very clearly: "DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RUN REVELATION LOCALLY." And yet there are still reports of people who have destroyed their own gateways in that very manner...
  • Sequence Breaking: Instead of following ARC's instructions, you can destroy the whole Internet by yourself as soon as they send you the first version of Revelation. In fact is easier than sticking to the storyline since nobody else knows about the existence of the virus, therefore Faith hasn't even been conceived. The only difficulty added to this shortcut is that one must infect about twice the amount of computers that Revelation 3.0 would need, as well as amassing loads of money early to build a decent rig for the task (usually via bank hacking).This speedrun demonstrates it.
  • Self Destructing Security: One security measure you can purchase for your gateway is a Self-Destruct Mechanism, intended as a last resort if the Feds are closing in on you. You lose all the hardware, but at least you avoid getting Game Over'd; if you have extra bank accounts set up you can use them to rebuild.
  • Sensor Suspense: The Trace Tracker is an absolute necessity, since it shows you how close you are to being backhacked and identified. Much of the strategy in the game consists of finding ways to increase the amount of time you can spend on a system before they start getting too close.
  • Shout-Out: Protovision's machine is a homage to War Games (it's the only machine you can't crack with the Password Breaker - you need to recognise the shout out to get the password (JOSHUA, of course), and Introversion (the developers) have an in-game website which mentions Johnny Mnemonic and Mission Impossible. And then there's the Steve Jackson Games server, which has of course been pinched by the US Secret Service.
  • Spiritual Successor: Subversion, which was explicitly declared a successor to Uplink, and was supposed to be more physical, with a more Cyberpunk look and feel. Sadly, in late 2011 the game officially descended into Development Hell.
    • The Protovision machine's depiction of The Big Board is like a foreshadowing of the their following game DEFCON.
  • Take That: "Once again, the Global Criminal Database has been hacked. The system appears to have more security holes than the popular 'Micro Software' written in the late 20th Century". OUCH.
  • Tech Marches On: Inverted - the developers apparently assumed that technology would progress much, much, much faster than it did in real life. In the Uplink universe a 60 G Hz processor is considered slow.
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: It's set in 2010. Now officially recognised as being set in the past.
  • Unreadably Fast Text: Take a closer look at the output of the gateway installation program. You can read fast...
  • Unwinnable by Design: This can happen if you try playing both the ARC and Arunmor missions at the same time. If you forward for ARC, Revelation will never reproduce if Faith is even one version level higher. If aiding Arunmor, you may be overwhelmed with virus infections, but you can slow them down by crashing ARC's Central Mainframe.
    • You cannot start the storyline if you wait too long, as it will play out on its own.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: Standardised login screens, massive loading bars and tasty IP-dialling visualisations.
  • Virus and Cure Names: Revelation can only be stopped with Faith
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: ARC seem like straight-up villains at first, but it's eventually revealed that they're a group of radical hacktivists who are appalled at the overly commercialized, corrupt state of the Internet and the danger to privacy and insecurity posed by the global governmental databases and wish to destroy it so they can start again from scratch.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: There's nothing to stop you from ignoring the storyline entirely and focus on freelance hacking.
  • Zeerust: BBS software? Really?