Which title has the worst hacking game mechanics?
There’s actually nothing at all wrong with the implementation of hacking in Watch_Dogs, from a technical standpoint. You need to gain access to the city’s control infrastructure, via their data centres, and install a backdoor virus. When installed, you can then control things pretty much at will – it’s all very sensible and realistic, just not especially interactive.
9. The LEGO Movie
At the complete opposite end of the spectrum to Watch_Dogs, the hacking in The LEGO Movie is very much an interactive mini-game, and it’s designed to be a fun diversion rather than a core gameplay mechanic. It’s stupid, throwaway, thirty-second fun, but it’s essentially a Pac-Man clone amd you can’t really go wrong with that.
8. Fallout 3
As a variation on the ‘guess the word’ hacking game mechanic, Fallout 3’s effort is a bit Hollywood. It’s disproportionately more difficult than its equivalent skill (lock-picking) and it can be frustrating – particularly if you haven’t learned that code fragments mean dud removal/attempt resets, which the game never actually teaches you – but it looks the part and there is some sound trial-and-error logic that elevates it above simple guesswork.
7. Splinter Cell: Double Agent
Splinter Cell: Double Agent’s hacking game mechanic reminds me of John Connor cracking into ATMs in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. You hook up a handheld device with a digital readout, it starts spooling through possible number combinations, and you have to stop it on the right ones within a time limit – like safe-cracking, but on an LCD display – it’s simple, it’s fair, and it works.
6. BioShock 2
BioShock 2’s hacking game mechanic might seem a little silly to our modern sensibilities – trying to stop a swaying needle on ever-shrinking ‘safe’ zones – but when you consider the turrets and drones in Rapture are closer to clockwork automatons than silicon chip-filled robots, the idea of finding a ‘perfect frequency’ to disrupt their control makes sense. Plus, it’s far better than any of it’s Shock stablemates… for hacking, at least.
5. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s hacking mechanic plays like a strategy mini-game. It’s like a cross between Risk, and one of those math problems where you need to plot the shortest route across a grid based on the value attributed to certain paths. It’s really rather long and tedious though, and if you’re not enjoying it you’ll probably want to skip it entirely; that can force you to play through scenarios in the macho, violent way, which kind of defeats the point of Deus Ex’s ‘any way you choose’ mantra.
You might not be familiar with Dex. It’s a cyber-punk themed, Blade Runner-esque action-platform-RPG with augmentations and cyber-space elements – think Deus Ex combined with Flashback or Prince of Persia, and you’d not be far off. Its hacking implementation is more like an augmented reality top-down twin-stick arcade shooter that actually plays quite nicely, but it’s pretty long and disruptive to the rest of the gameplay.
3. Enter the Matrix
The hacking game mechanics in Enter the Matrix look lovely. It feels every bit like you’re operating one of those funny floating green-and-black terminals from the Nebuchadnezzar in the movies, and it feels rather cool. The trouble is, it’s just a trial-and-error word guessing game, and there’s no logic to it. It looks great, but it’s just basic and silly to operate.
2. System Shock 2
System Shock 2’s hacking game mechanic is dreadful. What’s nice is that it takes place in the HUD without disrupting the flow of the game, but other than that? There’s not a good thing to say about it. You attempt to join the dots on a little keypad segment, but there seems to be no consistency of logic to it whatsoever – it’s like playing minesweeper but the board shuffles every time you click – it’s not fun, it’s not rewarding, and trying to do it will turn the air blue with expletives.
So if System Shock 2’s hacking game mechanic is basically the worst there is, why is the original BioShock at number one in this list? Because Ken Levine and the crew had eight years between the release of System Shock 2 and BioShock – eight freaking years – and they basically gave us the same awful connect-the-dots mini-game, in retro fifties packaging. This time around it’s with pipes and there is a bit more logic to it, but it’s also against the clock and fiddly as hell on a control pad. Did they not listen to how much everyone hated it the first time around…?