Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
It's well over a year ago that PC previewed Hardwar, and a lot of games have come and gone since (most involving guns and women, curiously). You're on Titan, one of Saturn's many, many moons. An abandoned mining colony, established centuries past, that has since become a self-contained populace. Dominated by two large corporations-The Klamp-G Organisation and the Lazarus Family - Titan is home to traders, pilots, pirates and bounty hunters, all trapped on the moon with no way to escape.
Yours is the typical role in these affairs: an independent pilot with a simple ship and a few bucks, looking for more. Trade, fight, steal, hunt - whatever works for you. Fans of Elite will recognise the style; everyone else will probably use their own dreary, workaday lives as a reference. It's all the same, really.
Behind all of this free-wheelin' and dealin' is The Plot. 'The Plot' concerns the two corporations and their efforts to gain the upper hand, technologically and politically. There are also aliens in 'The Plot' (as there are in plots everywhere these days), but I won't elaborate as it'll spoil things for you. Suffice to say, it all ends with a race against time and large things blowing up (again, as in all plots these days). The main channel for The Plot' is the game's internal email system - text and video messages that offer you missions and keep you informed as to pertinent events, job opportunities and the day-to-day running of the world around you. Alarm bells probably started ringing when you read the word Cvideo'. True, most games that use video clips to further their plots tend to be awful. Well, rest easy. Hardwar uses a mix of amateur thespians and friends of the programmers and, surprisingly, they work extremely well. The clips are very stylishly shot and directed, and performed with enthusiasm, gusto and a real passion for the subject. Particularly noteworthy are the sequences with Old Man Lazarus and Psycho Bob. And the end sequence is particularly good -something else which is too often overlooked in games today.
There's Always A But
However, it's 'The Plot' and its implementation into the game that raises my only real concern. The idea is that The Plot' isn't forced upon you. If you want to just run around trading goods, making money and improving your resources, all well and good. If you want to jump into The Plot' feet first, go for it - be a man, my son. This method was employed by the recent flawed Elite games (Elite 2 and First Encounters), and despite all the problems those games had, the one thing they didn't suffer from was lack of scope. Not so Hardwar. its plot is over within a matter of days and once it's over, the game's essentially over. Elite stretched its plot strands out over several months at the very minimum, and this is a model that Hardwar really should have paid attention to.
The problem then becomes one of holding the fickle attentions of the player. Elite managed this by making the nonplot elements of the game large and varied enough to keep you interested, with the potential for bettering yourself through ships, weapons and equipment. This is where Hardwais lack of ambition shows. The missions available, for instance, are almost exclusively limited to trading goods for profit or hunting pirates. There are a lot of buildings, from monasteries to pubs to factories, and the potential for variety in jobs - delivering packages, taxiing passengers, running specific errands, etc - is immense. But annoyingly, none of these are part of the gameplay.
We Want More
Thankfully though, this is the only major problem. On more or less every other level it really is one of the most engrossing and playable games of late. Hardwar impresses in many aspects - technical, atmospheric, playability. What lets it down - although I should add Conly slightly' to that statement - is a lack of faith in its own ability; a lack of ambition. You play the game and while you enjoy immensely what's there, you can't help thinking that there could have been a whole lot more.
In many ways, Hardwar es half a game. Or to be precise, half of another, much larger game. If this were the engine driving the ground-based sections of something like, for want of a more recent example, Elite, then we'd probably be looking at the ultimate game here. You can't fault it from a technical standpoint. Just about everything works' - the ships, the graphics, the controls, the mechanics of trading and earning a crust. The atmosphere created is quite something, being trippy, moody, serene and tense all at the same time. It's like Blade Runner viewed through Timothy Leary's herbal-stoked eyes, with the budget and enthusiasm of a British science-fiction film used for the effects. For several nights in a row I found myself playing it till five in the morning simply because I had become so absorbed I didn't notice the time.
You just wish that, like Curly Wuriys and sex, it could last a little bit longer.
A Complete Strategy Guide
The main plot of Hardwar remains constant and you should find that there's a definite linear route through to completion. Of course, it's up to you whether you want to physically see the game right through till the end. You can drift through most of it, but we're sure you'd prefer to kick ass and save the planet instead. And that goes something like this...
Wait for the email message entitled 'Cover up?'. Click on Target Subject and fly to the area specified. As you approach the scene, you will lose all control of your craft - you have been caught in an alien vessel's tractor beam. Don't worry, the alien ship soon explodes, returning control to you. Beware: if you pick up the debris of this alien ship you will be shot.
Seek And Destroy
Wait for the email message entitled 'Decoy required'. Click on Target Subject to fly to the mass driver in the Port area. As you approach (probably through a hail of laser fire), you will spot a white arrow on your radar display; this is the mass driver part. Target it using the 'Y' key and destroy it (two shots). The atmosphere in the Port area will become lethal; get out of there ASAP or the severe climate will cripple your Moth. Once you've departed, a Klamp-G transport ship will nip in and steal the wrecked driver part. When the ship returns to HQ you'll receive a reward. Note: The first in a series of peculiar 'garbled' transmissions will arrive at around this point. Hang onto this message and all subsequent garbled mail you receive. They will prove useful later.
Events 3,4,5 &6
Pay close attention to your email and get on with your miserable life, citizen!
Collecting The Cloaking Device
An anonymous email entitled CImportant mission' will arrive. Fly to the mines crater and target the lightwell from the Local Services. As you approach it, you should be able to see a white arrow on your radar display - this is the mystery package. Target the package using the ' Y' key, and then use the salvage drone to collect it. As soon as you have the package, you'll receive an email from Psycho Bob telling you to report to his weapons mart. Fly to Psycho Bob's 1.
Find The Secret Bases
On arrival at Psycho Bob's, watch the video sequence detailing the mission that Bob wants you to undertake. The mission is a simple case of locating the secret bases.
The Lazarus base is basically a red door in a rock with an CL' logo painted on it. Target the door and press T. The location is now logged. The Klamp-G base is a rough dome-shaped structure. Again, point straight at your target and press T to lock the co-ordinates. Do this correctly and you will receive an email asking you to return to Psycho Bob's 1.
Klamp-G and Lazarus are still going at it hammer and tongs and are busy trying to annihilate each other. They've even started to use crude nuclear bombs that the aliens have been providing in exchange for human DNA. Oh yes. The plot thickens... But this isn't a cue to just hang around doing nothing - while all this is happening you should be trying to earn yourself some money, fly boy...
Procuring Triggers And Matter
Back at Bob's, he wants you to help make a nuke. Go to the rocks that have blocked access to the Port from the Downtown area and wait until transports carrying triggers and matter appear. Kill 'em, grab the stuff you need and head straight back to Psycho Bob's 1. He'll need time to put together a prototype nuclear bomb for you.
Events 11,12 & 13
Bomb The Base
After a while Bob will send you an email to let you know that the bomb is ready to collect - go and get it. He'll tell you that he needs more radioactive material: you can find this at either secret base, but it's easier to pilfer it from Lazarus. Just fire your nuke at their front door, nip in, grab a bit of radioactive flashing stuff and get your arse back to Psycho Bob's 1 quick smart. Easy. Bob will then analyse the stuff...
Events 14 & 15
An email will arrive from either a Skinners or Scrubbers gang member. He wants you to help him escape to the opposing faction's HQ - dirty traitor! Go to the defector's hangar and wait until they emerge. Follow them along, making sure that both you and your subject stay alive; use your cloaking device if necessary. When you arrive at the relevant HQ, dock afterthe gang member and get ready for your generous reward...
More Triggers And Matter
Not long after the above mission, Bob will ask you to return. He has the results from the testing of the radioactive cargo you delivered to him, and wants you to get a couple more triggers and some more matter. Fly to the same tunnel as before and destroy the transport ships carrying what you need. You will receive an email from Bob when you have enough. Return to Bob's to find him dead (sob). His weird apprentice takes over from this point.
Once the bomb is fitted, the apprentice will ask you to go to the tunnel leading from the Mines to the Port and blow up the blockage, thereby opening the whole area back up to the public. The bomb isn't powerful enough for the job - look out for a mail from Psycho Bob's asking you to return for a refit.
Psycho Bob's Biccer Better Bom
Go back and pick up the bigger bomb. Return to the blockage and this time you will be successful. The blockage will be destroyed, opening the area back up to the public. Having done this, you will receive a mail from Bob's apprentice asking you to investigate Port.
Events 20 &. 21
As soon as you enter Port, your Moth is immobilised and an alien ship swoops down, picks you up and transports you back to the relative safety of the mines. Do not attempt to go back into the mines yet. You will receive another email from Bob's apprentice. Head back immediately - she reckons she knows another way in...
Note: At this point you must have the powerful fusion cell. If for some reason you failed event 15 (Gang defector), go back to the research facility in the Downtown/Port tunnel and destroy one of the gang transport ships to receive the cell. Take it to the nearest Breaker Maker for a fitting. Go back to Psycho Bob's and watch the video sequence detailing your next mission, then make the short journey to Psycho Bob's 2. At this point the plot takes a bit of a turn. Ride it out, read the emails, and eventually you'll end up at Oubliette. Check out the map.
Events 23 & 24
After talking to the imprisoned technician, tty back to the Downtown crater and dock in the Lazarus Hightower. Watch the video of Xavier Lazarus; after you've watched it he will translate all the garbled email transmissions you should have received so tar (you did remember to keep them, didn't you?). When you've done that and they all make sense, fly to Syd's workshop. Dock in the hangar, get out of your Moth and board the Neo-Tiger Moth sitting in docking bay #1.
Steal The Shield Moth
Once aboard yourCnew' Moth, all you have to do is fly to the Port area and dock at the Unused Terminal in that crater. It shouldn't be too difficult to spot - there's a gigantic alien mothership parked right on top of it! Once you're in there, sit back and enjoy the end sequence.
Warrior, Merchant Or Scavvy Git?
You can choose your destiny by selecting whether you want to be an aggressor, trader or scavenger. Actually, it doesn't make a blind bit of difference which one you go for - they are simply three different ways of making money
As an aggressor you'll need to visit police stations regularly to check the wanted list Scroll through the list of fugitives to check out their bounty price. You might think that the higher the price on their heads, the harder they'd be to kill. Well, that's not strictly true, so the best thing to do is just go for the money. As long as you fight sensibly - in other words go in with full shields, full power, a couple of Sprat or Swarm missiles and preferably a laser turret - you should be okay. One other Up: try to comer your foe in a tunnel, as It gives them less chance to escape.
Wily aggressors will always target the pilots which are sought by many factions. If you manage to knock off a pirate who is wanted by the police, Lazarus, Klamp-G, Skinners and Scrubbers, you could be In line for a cool 5000 credit payday. Not bad for one kill...
Be on the look-out for messages asking for assistance in destroying Moths/buildings. You can earn good money doing this, but these kind of missions have a habit of deteriorating into a bit of a free-for-all with Moths, missiles, and laser shots pinging all over the place. Unless you're ultra careful you usually end up blasting some innocent trader out of the sky, which not only incurs the wrath of the police, but lands you with an annoying 4000 credit fine. Dammit.
Trading can be a tough vocation as it's not always easy to work out profitable trade routes. The best thing to do is to watch out for messages, as it's always the best way of making your money. As soon as you receive a message of this kind click on Target Subject', head over there, get your merchandise, click on Target Sender' and make your way to the building asking for the goods, and then sell them.
The Cneeds' and Csales' lists at any trade centre are also extremely useful and -conveniently - always focus on buildings situated in the crater you're currently in.
Note how the requirements of certain factions and companies change throughout the game. Early on you'll notice how much food Is sought after. Later, as the arms race hots up, you'll see a considerable Increase In the demand for fusion parts, radioactive matter and triggers. The cunning trader will always keep a careful eye on what's hot and what's not.
This is the best job in the game. Scavenging combines trading and fighting and can eam you ridiculous amounts of money, very quickly indeed.
Initially you just need to cniise around listening out for sounds of battle When you do hear a bit of a ding-dong, use your radar to target the weaker Moth and keep tracking it until it's destroyed. Now swoop in, press the CY' key until the cargo or scrap metal is selected on your radar and press CD' twice to launch your salvage drone. You must be extremely quick because other Moths home in on any battle leftovers like flies around muck.
Eventually you'll want to bag some of your own Moths. The best thing to do Is check out the wanted list, find somebody with a pretty high bounty price on their head, close in on them and then stalk them until they get hold of some quality cargo, preferably narcotics or similar. Flogging ten tonnes of the good stuff will land you approximately 40,000 credits, and then of course there's the bounty reward on top of that...
Hardcore scavengers will hang out around lightwells. This is due to the fact that whenever a Moth gets into a bit of trouble they always head to the nearest lightwell to recharge their cell, it's easy: all you have to do is lie in wait until your prey limps into view and then you can blast the living daylights out of them. It's very cruel - and it will make you a lot of enemies - but it's ruthlessly effective and highly lucrative.