Hardwar was released in 1998 and was developed by a British game studio called Software Refinery which was based in Leeds, Yorkshire, published by Gremlin Interactive. Some of the graphics in the game were developed by The Designers Republic who also worked on another of my favourite games, Wipeout. The soundtrack in Hardwar is one of my favourite with artists under the Warp Records recording label based in Sheffield; I think it’s fair to say that Hardwar is basically a game from Yorkshire. Hardwar was actually a huge success but unfortunately in 2002 Software Refinery went into liquidation, to make matters worse is there is no chance at an official sequel to Hardwar and the no one knows who owns the source code so nobody can buy it, to add the icing to the cake, the original team have gone their separate ways, the only member was one Ian Martin who has somehow vanished off of the face of the earth, but at least he managed to squeeze out a couple of unofficial updates before he left, these updates have changed up the game, giving it new graphics, improved textures and allot of new stuff making the game a whole lot better while also taking it from its old look and making it seem more fresh.
In Hardwar you play as a freelance pilot based within the city of Misplaced Optimism on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Misplaced Optimism is a small colony filled with gangs like Klamp-G and Lazarus, the local law enforcement, MOPD or like it is in-game just a straight forward, Police. From the gangs to the cops Misplaced Optimism is full of just about anybody trying to make easy money, no matter how corrupt they will still do what it takes, one step out of line leads to you being bullied and buggered by one of these gangs many enforcers, fully armed and not willing to make a friend.
Hardwar has every right to also be named a Role Playing Game (RPG) alongside its actual genre of a science fiction flight simulator, this is because from the start of the game you are free to do whatever you want, may that be working for the police to take down any vigilantes that appear on the wanted list, becoming a trader and shipping goods from one area to another or simply buying a hangar and starting your own business in repairs or selling good you either collect of buy from other places, anything you do it is up to you and with very little events related to the main story you can forget about it. The main quest is to free the aliens that are trapped on Titan, problem is that the rivalling factions in Misplaced Optimism would much prefer to keep them there; the main faction behind this is Lazarus. At the end of the main quest you can choose to either stay on Titan or leave with the aliens, this gives the users the best of both worlds, if they like an open end in which you can carry on your endeavors or you can leave and feel fulfilled while reading Game Over and watching the credits.
The economy is probably the best I have ever seen in a video game of it’s time, there aren’t too many or too few AI pilots taking flight around the game, what makes it even better is how if you buy allot of something and sell it cheaper all of the traders will come to you, if you make it more expensive they will avoid you unless they can’t find a better deal elsewhere. Another thing that makes the AI so well made is that their actions can change their outcome too, if they’re fighting with an enemy and accidentally fire at a neutral AI or one of the gangs AI they will then become wanted. If you land at a trade hangar and read the wanted goods lists you will notice that they are always changing, this is because companies actually need it to build weapons, ships, perform repairs and all sorts, this is where becoming a trader can be worth it and to me another way the AI are so brilliant, the only problem with the AI though is how crap they pilot, well unless you shoot at one for shits and giggles, then they go mental and out manoeuvre you every chance they get. but if you own a joystick and know how to use it, they couldn’t out manoeuvre a pack of crisps.
The world map is rather straight forward and simple, each district resides in a crater and to get through each of them you fly through little tunnels in the crater walls, you can’t just simply fly over the crater walls or your ship will stall which can lead to bad results, especially if your ship is heavily damaged. Each district is different and there is a different faction looking over each one of them so if you’re wanted be sure you know where you’re going, or else things could get ugly, like the scene in robo-cop where he gets nearly killed at the beginning. If you’re looking to get a hangar always try to get one next what’s known as a lightwell. Lightwells are basically fuel stations which also recharge you shields while you wait. The reason for buying a hangar next to a lightwell is simple, if people are being attacked they flee to lightwells, if they need repairs they will make a hasty retreat to your hangar if it is public and actually pay for the repairs on their ship, this is probably the easiest way to earn money in Hardwar and everybody does it, it is also handy if you are using your hangar as a shop because the AI are smart enough to check your stock and buy whatever catches their eye while getting the repairs they need.
You should be careful of your actions because if the police seize your ship you won’t get it back, the only way to get around them is to wait until you have the money to buy a new ship, if you do have the money already you can hail a taxi and they will take you where ever you need to go. There is only four different ships you can buy but with the latest Unofficial update there is a new ship, to be able to get this ship however, you must first bring the required parts in order to build it as it is only built to order, this ship is so rare in fact that you will only ever see one flying around which you get the pleasure to shoot down because it’s a pirate.
There is a wide range of weapons in which you can fit into your ship but you are limited to a number of weapons to actually install and with each ship the amount of weapon slots differs, however, with the right selection of weapons and the proper know how, it doesn’t matter how many you have.
Hardwar really was something to me growing up and I still even play it now, it’s just something different and I’m still yet to find a game that can stand up to its triumphant place at number one on my all time favourite games list. Getting a hold of an actual copy of Hardwar is near impossible but fortunately the game has become abandonware and it is not illegal to download an ISO of it which is easy to get a hold of at Captain Zedo’s Hardwar Community, if you are lucky you may find a copy on eBay or Amazon.