Looking Back at Half-Life Uplink

Looking Back at Half-Life Uplink

Uplink Scientist

Half-Life Uplink is, for those of you who aren’t aware, the classic demo for the original Half-Life. It is also the first taste of Half-Life that I experienced some ten years ago or more when I came across the demo on an old demo CD that came with a long-gone PC magazine.

What makes Uplink so special, both in the world of Half-Life and in the great demo debate that rages nowadays is that it was its own self-contained story set in the Black Mesa Research Facility. It featured a decent selection of weapons and enemies that you comeacross in the full game, but because it isn’t simply the opening levels of Half-Life it doesn’t ruin the main story in any way.

Your goal in the half-hour or so of Uplink is to align a satellite for a scientist to send a warning message out about what is happening in Black Mesa. As you fight your way to the satellite tower you battle through the ever versatile headcrabs and zombies along with those dastardly marines. You also get to blow up some of those marines using their own explosives, quite an amusing moment.

Uplink Pit

Uplink also hints towards the wider story of the game, you find a burning pit filled withe Vortigaunt bodies left by the marines and towards the end of the demo you start to head towards the Lambda core, the demo ends in a dramatic sequence involving the ‘Big Blue Bastard’ with the G-man looking on.

It emerges at the end of the sequence that you, as Gordon Freeman, have been under evaluation during the events of Uplink, though it is revealed that more data is required regarding your performance in establishing the ‘Uplink’.

When I first played it I was blown away by what I was seeing, Uplink was my first real taste of first-person shooters and of Half-Life. It may simply be made up of various levels that were cut from the final game, but they were stitched together to create a very exciting little package.

Uplink Headcrabs

Uplink was a great way of showing off Half-Life without simply using the first sections of the full game and it shows how demos should be done, in an ideal world obviously. For technical and financial reasons it is understandable why developers don’t create demos in the same vein asUplink anymore, but maybe someone out there will look at Uplink and realise that this is how a game should be demo’d.

If you want to try out Uplink them just head here and give it a go, at just under 50 megs it is worth giving it a go.

11 thoughts on “Looking Back at Half-Life Uplink

  1. I remember this demo very well, it utterly blew me away when I first played it, expecially the part when you align the satellite. I went out and bought Half-Life the next day….

  2. I played this ages after HL and it’s great that it had that hook. New content is always good.

    You could argue that The Path tried to do the same thing, but without the main hooks of the game itself.

  3. I do miss demos like this. The Starcraft demo was a particular highlight for me years ago, and to this day I don’t think that one (or indeed, Uplink) has been topped.

  4. Haha that sounds great Ross that you went out to get the game the next day :D I remember having the demo disc lying on my computer desk for quite a while before I loaded it up, I was wary of the game because I thought it was an 18. Shocking!

    What was The Path demo like Jaz? I only played the full version of the game so haven’t seen it.

    Wasn’t the Starcraft demo just some early levels from the main game Greg? Honestly can’t say I remember it in too much detail really!

  5. Half-Life was released back in the days when my P133 was on its last legs and I was an avid reader of UK PC gaming magazine PCZone. I wasn’t a huge FPS fan at the time, but I took notice of the high review scores for the game amongst the now quaint debate of ‘Quake 2 or Unreal?’ and waited patiently for the demo to appear on the cover disk.

    Unfortunately, I can’t have been the only one interested in the damned thing. Getting the cover-disk issue back months later, I prised the jewel case off the front cover and found no CD inside! Bastards!

    Of course, my P133 was probably not up to the task anyway, and I got to play it when I got the shiny new Pentium III with a bunch of such demos. The friendly AI sealed the deal for me: FPS games just hadn’t interested me until they started putting non-antagonists in. I must have replayed the bit where you round the shipping crates and find the HECU about to execute scientists innumerable times before I’d saved as many as possible. It didn’t matter that they had zero function in the world after that. Saving them was reward enough!

  6. The Fallout demo was like this. It was a single self-contained town, with it’s own story-line about two rival gangs. It was great. I remember playing it over and over at the time.

  7. I remember playing Uplink actually, back in 1999 or so. I got it off of a NAG magazine coverdisk. It basically put all the best bits of the game into one demo. Pretty cool. I liked being able to get on with shooting those soldiers, unlike in the full version, where I had to wait a few levels.

  8. Good call, Thants.

    Another example is Fallout’s original demo, which I inexplicably received in the mail when I was nine years old, in a huge silver envelope containing a cardboard foldout display case with a disc mounted inside. It remains the most beautiful presentation I’ve ever seen a game come with, and to this day I do not know why I received it.

    I’ve never received anything else, and it has no return address or information on the sender.

    I didn’t know what post-apocalypse was until this point. I didn’t have a PC for a year after receiving the demo. I fell madly in love with it when I finally entered the town of Scrapheap and stole a chaingun.

    A year later, I had Fallout for christmas at far beyond the specified age rating.

    To this day, it is my favourite game x.x <3

    .. I did like Uplink though. It seemed entirely comprised of the 'good bits' of halflife – dark broken corridors lit by emergency lights, littered with dead scientists and with faint zombie-chitterings coming from around the corner.

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