In "My Favorite Features" I examine features I encountered in different games and explain why I like them. This post is focused on the Hacking Feature in Blacklight Retribution.
How it works
The hacking in Blacklight Retribution requires the player to match numbers.
Once a player starts hacking they get presented with three numbers, one in the center and one to the left and the right side of it.
The picture was taken from the Blacklight Retribution Fandom Site
One of the numbers to the sides is the same as the number presented in the middle and the player now has to select the correct direction and so match the numbers.
To successfully hack, players have to match multiple numbers in a row within a given time frame.
When the player matches wrong or the time runs out, the hack failed and they have to start from the beginning again. The number and direction for hacking are randomly generated, so the challenge stays the same and remembering patterns or numbers doesn’t give any advantage.
While hacking, the player also has their weapon lowered and cannot shoot.
Why I like it
What I love about this feature is how it requires you to use a real-life mental skill and takes you into the action.
Often in games hacking is more of an abstract concept or happens automatically at the press of a button, here it is actually quite simple, but still provides a mental challenge to the player.
The time limit and vulnerability while hacking encourage the player to complete it as quickly as possible, making them more prone to make mistakes. The zero mistake rule puts the player under even more pressure and forces them to pay close attention.
This really nicely mirrors hacking scenes in movies or other media where it is crucial to finish something before the time runs out and a catastrophe happens.
The complexity of the hacking is also very appropriate for the type of game Blacklight: Retribution is. It is a Sci-fi Shooter, so nobody wants to spend much time on other things besides shooting or on things that require one to think too much, a simple matching game fits there perfectly.
I would love to see more games make use of players' real-life mental skills so that it doesn’t always come down to reaction times and hand-eye coordination.
In slower games, it might even be possible to use slightly more difficult tasks without taking the player too much outside of the main game loop. Maybe something like simple additions or multiplications is possible?