Hacker II: The Doomsday Papers (Activision) Review | ZX Computing - Everygamegoing

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Hacker II: The Doomsday Papers
By Activision
Spectrum 48K

Published in ZX Computing #36

Activision's latest casts the hacker as hero

Hacker 2: The Doomsday Papers

A cassette labeled Actisource, an incomprehensible technical manual and no instructions would not seem the obvious beginnings for a great game. But, to my great surprise, these ingredients make Hacker 2 one of the most sophisticated releases I have played for ages. It's American, of course.

In this game's prequel, you hacked your way through numerous obstacles to prove yourself one of the world's finest hackers, but your endeavours did not go unnoticed. Loading the Actisource tape, you log on to what seems a normal enough Micronet-style service - until the menu is interrupted by a message from the CIA! As the leading expert on breaking security systems, they have a mission for you. The Russians have developed a simple but devastating plan to topple the US government (trust those scheming commies). The details are enclosed in a document - "The Doomsday Paper" (sort of thing the Ruskies would call such devious plans). Your task is to retrieve these papers from the military complex in Siberia (Where else? As you may have guessed, I do not entirely approve of the typically paranoid American scenario). How can you do this, if you're sitting in front of a screen back home? Via the miracles of modern technology, that's how. Hidden within the base are three Mobile Remote Units (MRUs, droids at your disposal), and the Multi-Function-Switching Matrix (MFSM), which controls the MRUs. The MFSM is linked by satellite to CIA's central computer, which is connected by modem to your computer. On your screen you see a mock-up of the MFSM.

Security at the base is not so slack that MRUs can wander around undetected. Guards patrol the corridors, and there are thirty-eight security cameras scattered around. Two electronic monitors flick through these successively, checking that no unidentified objects are in the picture. With the MFSM, you can view what any of the 38 cameras see, what either monitor is registering, or a plan of the immediate area surrounding the MRU. The clever bt is, the MFSM also includes 38 video channels. If you synchronise correctly, you can bypass a camera with a recording of what it should be seeing, and sneak your MRU in unnoticed. You have to check several thngs at once, so the MFSM has four screens.

Sounds complicated? I've simplified it considerably! Hacker 2 is an extremely complex piece of software; it's difficult too, and challenging, though not especially intellectual. Quick thinking and intelligent mapping are required. What makes it so unusual is the incredible attention to detail. For example, you have to set the vertical hold on each of the TV screens. The video simulation is so authentic you even get noise bars when you fast forward. And the CIA manual is convincingly confusing (not that I've even seen a CIA manual). Real efforts have been made with this game to create realism: something very rare with British software.

The few animated graphics are adequate rather than stunning (slightly chunky); otherwise Hacker 2 is perfectly executed. Patience is required, but it does pay off. Lastability is questionable, but I reckon this will provide value for money for most people. Activision's Spectrum conversions are usually lacklustre affairs (remember the lamentable Ghostbusters?), so congratulations are in order; at last they have created a winner!