Watch Dogs, one of the most anticipated games of 2014, arrives this week. In the game, you play a hacker who has wired into the city's operating system and can (apparently) control cameras, stoplights, phone systems, and security systems all over the city. Will the game transcend the quotidian run-and-gun gameplay we've seen so many times before (like a Grand Theft Auto with hacking mini-games) or will it deliver something truly unique? We'll find out tomorrow, but in the meantime, here's a brief list of some of our favorite hackers in video games.
Jake Armitage - SHADOWRUN series
Jake was our first exposure to the idea of hacking via cyberspace (we hadn't yet read Neuromancer). In the game, your character can hack in to cyberspace at various points to unlock doors, find information or raise funds. In the game, you can also hire other hackers to do infiltrate computer systems for you too. Part Neuromancer, part Blade Runner, and part D&D, the game was our first exposure to futuristic fantasy. Jake reappeared in the recent Shadowrun Returns but, to us, the world of Shadowrun needs to evolve into Fallout-style gameplay.
JC Denton (Deus Ex)
Deus Ex was the first game that we played in which hacking was an optional gameplay style. You could play the game as a stealthy ninja or as a double-barreled samurai if you liked, but you could also hack into the enemies robots and turn them against their owners. There is something extremely satisfying about seizing control of your enemies' enormous robot and turning it against them. Deus Ex II and Deus Ex: Human Revolution built on this gameplay style, allowing the player to become a hacker if they wanted to (but you weren't forced to). Human Revolution was a great sequel a couple of years ago and we look forward to the next installment of this evolving series.
The Wanderer (Fallout 3)
Deus Ex let you hack and control robots; Fallout let you hack turrets and leave them hacked. You could then let them run on their own and obliterate monsters or troops for you in your absence. Like Deus Ex, hacking was entirely optional and - also like Deus Ex - it was a lot of fun. Hacking in Fallout 3 involved reading through code and attempting to identify keywords, which struck us as a novel approach (as well as an interesting one). We have seen hacking done badly but this game did it well and - though you didn't need it - it added a great extra dimension to the game.
Batman (Arkham Asylum/Arkham City/Arkham Origins)
One of the millions of things that Arkham Asylum did surprisingly well (I mean, seriously, did that game do anything wrong....oh, right) was the hacking. When you need to open a lock, hack a console, or answer on The Riddler's secrets, Batman opens his mini-hacking device (okay his cryptographic sequencer) and completes a quick word scramble. It is quick and easy and surprisingly addictive. The Arkham series did everything well, and hacking was no exception.
What hacking games did we miss that you liked? Let us know in the comments below! In the meantime, we look forward to cracking open Watch Dogs tomorrow with the rest of the world. Worst case scenario, there's always Mario Kart for the Wii U.