AI Wars: The Awakening is an innovative and very underrated FPS that requires a lot of effort to learn. But your patience will be well rewarded with a unique and captivating blend of action and strategy genres. Excerpts from this review at the now defunct Adrenaline Vault explain pretty well the basics of a hard-to-explain concept:
"Unlike today's Internet, the NET [in AI Wars] is one worldwide computer network incorporating all the information from previous networks. Expert applications, or agents, have been created to collect and interpret information for their outside human masters. Technology advances in virtual reality have gone even further than controlling these agents via a keyboard. Scientists at MIT invented a direct neural mechanism that allows you to connect directly with your agent giving you greater control and flexibility. The first explorers of this cyberspace world were, and are called, cybernauts. These days cybernauts have become known as avatars and it is this role you take upon yourself.
AI Wars: The Awakening gives you three goals or quests to undertake as an avatar -- become immortal, achieve sentience, or control the NET. The remarkable thing about these goals is that you can undertake one, two, or all three at the same time but I'll talk about them a little later. Once you decide which goal or objectives you are going to pursue jack in to the NET's cyberspace and begin your quest. Regardless of whether you are attempting to control the NET, have your agent become sentient, or achieve immortality the basic tasks needed to achieve this are the same.
While playing, the most important task is to collect data blocks. They are the lifeline of the NET and in reality its currency. Sometimes you can just pick them up, while other times you will have to use decryption software to access them or even hack into corporations. Even then there is no guarantee that you can access the blocks because in your decryption attempt the data may be destroyed. Once you've gathered data blocks you can either sell them to a market bot or use them yourself. These bots are an integral part of the game because if you don't have the right equipment you can never be successful. Purchasing a level 6 Data Manager when yours is level 1 is a great coup. Just as data collection is a continuous task so are the purchases or sales you make using it. As I stated before, finding data blocks is the number one priority to advance in your quest or quests, second to that is finding a market bot and selling them, and thirdly if you don't sell them they can used to research new technology that also furthers your quest or quests.
Controlling the NET is perhaps the most difficult of the three goals to accomplish. In order to succeed you must access each of the key systems of the NET, enter the system's core, and place a back door for its continued use. Entering the system is easy but gaining entry to its private nodes is another story entirely. All private nodes require passwords, with each entry point having a separate password. These nodes are guarded by warden ICE and if your hacking/cracking ability is not up to par, you don't have the password, or aren't using masquerading software the warden will detect you, label you as an intruder, and trigger an alarm. With this alarm comes reinforcements in the form of black ICE.
Immortality is achieved when you transfer your consciousness and memories into the NET. It isn't an easy task, you have to develop six different technologies and then use both an organic computer and a positronic computer to complete the transfer. The development of a technology requires that you research it thoroughly and make the required breakthroughs. Some of these breakthroughs can be purchased but the majority of them are found in secure research centers and again your hacking/cracking skills will be heavily used. The six technologies required to achieve immortality are Concept Analyzer, Personality Replicator, Deep Neural Interface, Memory Ingram, Mapping Device, and Emotion Regulator.
The third game type in AI Wars: The Awakening is for your agent to achieve sentience: thinking and reacting of its own free will, becoming more than just a computer program. For this to be achieved breakthroughs have to be made and technologies have to be developed. For sentience to occur your agent will need to collect lots of data to learn and evolve. Unlike immortality you only need to develop four technologies instead of six. What makes the game types and goals so interesting is that in working to achieve immortality you have nearly achieved sentience for your agent along the way, as they share many of the same technology goals.
AI Wars: The Awakening also incorporates multiplayer over a LAN or via today's Internet giving players three different gameplay options. These game types are standard deathmatch, NET control, and monetary control; can be played in teams or as single players. As in the single player, you have the opportunity to buy software upgrades and sell corporate secrets. One of the neat things about team multiplayer is that if one team member reaches the end of a level, all team members are automatically transported to the next level."
Despite some repetitive shoot-everything-in-sight sequences in the FPS portions and bland level designs, AI: Wars successfully combines elements from different genres to create a believable and interesting cyberpunk atmosphere. The strategy elements are crucial to gameplay, and give the game very high replayability value. If you are looking for a unique action/adventure/strategy blend, or a unique gaming approach to represent the future Internet, AI Wars is well worth your time. Be warned that you will need to invest a LOT of time and patience - especially because of repetitive levels - but after that the game will grow on you. Ignored by most "mainstream" press and given lackluster reviews, I think this one more than deserves our Top Dog tag. Two thumbs up!Reviewed by: Underdogs