Hacknet Review

Do you think you’re good with a computer? Good enough to hack others, maybe? Most of us aren’t that good in real life. However, in the game Hacknet, you are an elite hacker trying to find the actual reason behind the death of another famous hacker, whose death was supposedly an accident. You hack into others’ systems, attempt to retrieve data, and try to do it all without getting detected or caught.

An automated email sent by Bit, the dead hacker.

Hacking in Hacknet

For me, this game was pretty easy to pick up since I’ve participated in plenty of hackathons involving Linux, and the game is mostly based on Linux. However, the average gamer probably doesn’t know too much about coding or hacking with a semi-esoteric operating system. Thankfully, the game provides a tutorial that is roughly 10-20 minutes long, in which players are taught the basics. It seemed simple to me, but it might not be as simple to you. The left side of the screen contains a “RAM” meter. This is where things got kind of tricky for me, since when I’m coding or hacking, I usually don’t have RAM constraints. You’ll need to keep an eye on this meter as each program takes a certain amount of RAM to run. If you don’t have enough, then that program won’t run, which detracted from the gaming experience for me, as it seemed like too much to manage. Still, for average players, this might feel like a good mechanic because it puts them in control.

The first email from elite but deceased hacker “Bit

The terminal world

At first glance, the game’s storyline and gameplay seemed pretty shallow to me. After all, it seemed like it was just a game of “hack this, get paid, hack that, get paid again,” which, to be honest, Hacknet is. However, after replaying the game a few times, I began to notice the nuance the developer put into world-building, namely, the subtle hints in every system that I hacked about Hacknet’s world and also the factions and companies in the game. These hints I picked up on pretty quickly, such as the one about a “code review needed” on the “new OS,” which turned out to be Hacknet, but some of them may be too complex for ordinary players on their first playthrough.

At the end of the day, although the game is complicated, it puts together a fun and challenging experience in which players hack, get hacked, and earn money for doing so, all while letting them feel like elite hackers, which is pretty sweet. Some mechanics and story elements detract from the game in my eyes as a person with previous experience in the coding and computing field. One of these is the fact that players are limited to only a few hundred megabytes of RAM, and another one is that notes are unrealistically big for their size.

Of course, my expectations are obviously too high for these games. Regular players without much computing knowledge, on the other hand, are sure to find the game to be pretty realistic with its console and file explorer windows reminiscent of older Linux builds. And hey, they might be a little annoyed at the small amount of RAM, which, when you think about it, really isn’t that much of a big deal. Hacknet may be a fictional depiction of hacking, but it’s still an immersive experience for those interested in emulating what they see in movies.

Check out Hacknet on Steam and Humble Bundle.

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