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I finally finished Hacknet

22 Oct 2023

Quick disclaimer: the following text contains spoilers for Hacknet. If you have any interest in playing it I *highly* suggest you do so before reading on.

I don't finish games often, especially not in one sitting, but I am so glad I finally came back to finish Hacknet. It's not like I gave up on it before, it just kinda ended up in my backlog after I played halfway through it something like 6 years ago. 6 years... wow alright, that's longer than I thought. I'm surprised I've not heard many creatures talk about it in that 6 years. It's a shame really, the game absolutely deserves to be talked about. Maybe I just don't hang around groups where it would come up, idk. In any case, holy shit is this game good.

When I first played Hacknet 6 years ago I didn't make it much further than halfway through. Around the halfway point there's a mission where you euthanize someone by uploading bad firmware to their pacemaker and it kinda shook me when I was first playing through. Due to the nature of the game it felt a little too real and I just kinda sat there staring at the screen after I did it. I don't want to say it's weighed on my conscience but it's been in the back of my head for those six years. I was young, okay? Not that I need to defend myself here. I guess now that I'm thinking about it that feeling probably wouldn't have stood out so much to me if I were capable of feeling anything else at the time. I don't need to turn this into a discussion about my experiences with HRT though. Don't have the wrong hormones in your brain, it's not great.

I don't think that mission put me off of the game entirely but it was the catalyst. It was more than likely the reason I stepped away from the game for the day, which is fine, but I have ADHD and sometimes if I step away from something for the day I don't go back to it for six years. See: pile of half completed projects, game backlog, endless list of hobbies I've taken up and put down over the years, etc. I need to do something about this though because the second halves of games I put down and pick back up later usually turn out to be pretty great. Celeste is my easy to point to example of choice here. Played half of it, stopped for the day, ADHDed the shit out of it, didn't finish it until months later. Great game, go play it.

For that whole six years I've been suspending disbelief regarding the way Hacknet OS works. The system seems to be Unix/Linux derived but it can run EXEs just fine? There's just a magic "connect" command instead of using ssh or telnet or what have you and it just works for connecting to everything from servers to pacemakers in both graphical and text based ways, often simultaneously? There's a utility called "PortHack" that just does some hackerman shit to random open ports and blows systems wide open? These things seem really out of place next to things like the SQL exploit you use that has a full explanation of how it works, or how eOS devices all share the same default credentials. I'm the kind of creature who wants to understand everything up front and I don't tend to settle for handwavey magic with no explanation. I decided that I'd roll with it though and obviously it was worth it but what I didn't expect was all of my concerns have in-universe explanations that make sense. I'm not over here reading RFCs in game but there's casual technical explanations that make sense and satisfy my urge to know.

All in all the game is really solid, even 8 years after release. It's a bit short, only taking me 5 or 6 hours from start to finish. I didn't explore everything there was to explore but the things I did touch I scoured thoroughly so I could read everything. I'm definitely looking forward to running through it again sometime and doing the missions I skipped. Postgame there's a couple text files that point to a third faction in the game which is pretty neat, definitely want to dig into that. I also haven't touched the Labyrinths DLC yet so that'll be pretty fun too. At least a couple more playthroughs right there I reckon. I should probably finish Celeste's DLC before I forget though.