One of my favourite games as a kid was the SNES version of Shadowrun, an isometric action-RPG all about that hacker life. Ever since I've longed for games to scratch a similar itch, and DataJack 2020 certainly fits the bill, a cyberpunk hacktivist action-adventure with light RPG elements. Tonight's PC Gaming Show saw the first gameplay footage and, by golly, Datajack 2020 and me are going to get along just fine.
You play a mercenary and hustler in a neon-punctuated but dark and moody dystopia, working for any megacorporation or crime syndicate that can pay. You're elbow-deep in their turf wars, playing each side off against the other, conducting sabotage, assassinations, infiltration and espionage. As you complete more contracts, more and more become available in a nonlinear branching structure that lets you take everyone for a ride, and get rich at the same time.
Everything in Datajack 2020 is built around emphasising player choice, with a range of interlocking systems simulating the world's life as you go about yours. Missions can be all about stealth, infiltrating a company HQ by picking locks, messing with their security systems and electronics, and sneaking out with the prize.
But when things go wrong, you've got an arsenal to hand: and an environment that responds to it. Datajack 2020's environments are fully destructible and another tactical layer: no clear entry point? Why not make one with a bomb. Need a distraction? Why not rig up some explosives in another part of the building, and send security running thataway.
A big part of Datajack's missions are how the NPC guards work together. They'll track you with their eyes and ears, radio each other, and notice any traces you leave behind. On top of this they can be in different moods: relaxed and distracted, or alert and twitchy. You can also, if they don't know who you are yet, talk your way out of fights, using inside information or a fake ID to convince them you're someone else.
Each mission starts with a planning phase, where you look at the schematics of your target and plan an entry and exit point, a possible route through the interior, and plan for the perfect stealth mission or an all guns blazing assault. Even here Datajack's range of options continues to surprise, with developer Epic Banana promising you'll be able to do things like infiltrate from the sewers: or land on the roof via helicopter.
Over the course of the game you'll grow from a jacked-up street punk to a wealthy and sought-after fixer-for-hire, with the world's factions desperate to secure your services: or stop you. As you get richer, boy does this world have things for you to spend it on: cybernetic limbs, implants, improved software, a vast array of weapons, and a range of hacker tools and gadgets that would have Batman jealous.
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Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."