Hacking it – six modern games that did it best

If you’re teh pr0 H4xx0r then you’ll likely know that hacking is pretty much exactly as it’s portrayed in the “hit” “film” Swordfish. It requires multiple monitors, typing quickly, talking to yourself and being incredibly attractive. It’s no surprise then, that some squares in the video game industry have even tried to replicate the experience in a number of games, to varying degrees of success.

Presented here are six of the better hacking mini games within modern releases. This means there’s no room for Uplink or Hacker: Evolution because they’re actual hack ’em ups, and no room for the peerless System Shock 2 because of its age. Them’s the (totally arbitrary) rules. Oh, and no lock-picking mechanics either.

6. Alien Swarm

You remember this game right? I think it was played it for about a week after it was released for free on Steam before being forgotten about. In between blasting away larger versions of those germs from the Domestos commercials, team members are required to hack computers for information about what could possibly have gone wrong at a remote facility.

Why not watch the first minute of this tutorial where “Buh-ryan” demonstrates how to hack terminals, lining up selected numbers in separate columns, whilst heavily sighing at those who are “clueless” on how to do it.

Alien Swarm managed a pretty easy mix of logic and reflex that didn’t slow down the tempo of the game, just a shame the rest was pretty forgettable.

5. Mass Effect 2

Dropping the original’s takes on Frogger (for PC players) and Simon (for Xbox 360ers), Mass Effect 2 brought in two different mini-games. Lock-picking saw Pairs given the Bioware treatment, but hacking computer terminals saw an intelligent attempt to combine logic with reflex problems.

This time around the player is tasked with matching a box of code to another box hidden amon similar strands and broken boxes that set off alarms. Complete this three times and presto, the prize is yours! It might be an idea to get those eyes pressed right up against the screen though, some of those boxes are mighty similar.

4. Fallout 3

Whilst roaming the desolate wasteland that is Washington DC (after the apocalypse) our hero is faced with all manner of enemies from leather jacketed goons to giant, club-bearing super mutants. Yet perhaps the most frustrating enemy of all was the simple hackable terminal. Bethesda went for a take on a text-based system that required, above all, patience.

Attempting to locate the correct word amongst dozens of characters and incorrect entries required the player to take a step back and think about what the correct coding was, or finding special sets that could remove dud passwords. Or, when it inevitably got too much, clicking on three random words before backing out and trying again. Still, felt good when you nailed it.

3. Alpha Protocol

The poor man’s Deus Ex managed to sum up pretty much everything about developers Obsidian: some decent ideas, some bad execution. It was a surprise, then, that their hacking mini game demonstrated what Alpha Protocol could have been.

Much like Fallout 3, there’s a bunch of random characters, and you’ve got to locate the right sequence, only this time the incorrect characters move before your very eyes and you’ve got to place two strands of code on the non-moving ones. Faster than Fallout‘s method, it provided a great accompaniment to a not-so-great game.

2. Bioshock

Let’s get this out of the way: Bioshock‘s hacking mechanic is probably the least realistic on this list, and that’s saying something.

We embraced the steampunk aesthetic of Rapture wholeheartedly, but it’s no wonder the city fell into disrepair when their terminals ran on a system of pipes and rapidly encroaching liquid. Much like Pipe Dream, you flip the pipes to get the liquid from A to B. Simple. What made it even better was the fact you could freeze or shock whatever was being hacked to either slow the liquid or stun the inbuilt defences, adding an element to hacking that shouldn’t be recommended in real life.

Bioshock 2 did as sequels so often do and made the whole thing faster; now you had to stop a needle on certain areas. It was quick and painless, sure, but where was the love?

1. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Adam Jensen is perhaps the most accurate physical representation of Hugh Jackman’s turn in Swordfish that he would obtain the no.1 spot regardless of how Human Revolution‘s hacking system operated. It just so happens that finding a way to get into the computers of foes or colleagues, depending on whether you wanted to get to the bottom of a global conspiracy or just check in with the office gossip.

Fortifying nodes, capturing diagnostic subroutines, and using Stop! Worm Software all sounds like it might just be real hacking. Now we just need to reroute the neutron polarity thrusters and we’ve got ourselves some proper cool guy-ery. Plus you could auto hack, obtain software to make it easier, or just find the real password written in an email. #realism.

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