Each clue is made up of around 5 pieces, with each piece revealing one bit of information about the Suspect involved.
Clues are primarily used to lead Max towards a Suspect's location, though they can also sometimes be used to figure out whether a Suspect might be a Participant in the current Criminal Plot. However, due to their indirect nature, they offer no conclusive evidence one way or another.
Each Clue is related to one object or place that is suspected to be illegal or involved in a crime. It is possible to search for more pieces of a specific Clue by Hacking Terminals and performing a query about the object of place involved.
What is a Clue?Edit
It can be a little tricky to explain the meaning of the term Clue without using the word itself. However, it does not take long to figure it out yourself once you're in the game. Still, an explanation will be attempted here.
Max is basically just a Detective who works in crime prevention. His job is to find out who is planning to commit a crime, find out which crime is being committed, and stop them before they get the chance to do so. But finding people who are only planning to do something is tricky - where do you start?
Fortunately for Max, most of the kinds of people who commit crimes in Covert Action are criminals, and as such they tend to do illegal things. By following the trails left behind after criminal activities, it's usually possible to find the criminal responsible.
A Clue can be thought of as evidence of past criminal activities. Max follows this evidence to reach the person who commited those criminal activities - and determine whether that person is involved in a Plot to commit a larger crime - the kind of crime Max's job is to prevent.
So to the question "where do you start?", the answer is "Follow the clues!"
To use a metaphor, a clue is a trail of bread-crumbs leading from some past criminal activity directly to the criminal. If Max can find all the bread crumbs, he'll find the person at the end. Of course, that person just might be just another petty criminal - or he could be the Mastermind of an entire Criminal Organization! To know for sure, you're just going to have to reach that person and find out for yourself.
The Starting PointEdit
Each clue begins somewhere, with a criminal or suspicious activity performed sometime in the past. For instance, someone might have robbed a bank, or bought a stolen car, or acquired a weapon the police were looking for. It draws suspicion from the authorities, and at that moment a Clue is born.
This starting point is called the "Subject" of the Clue. Also, in the game, the Clue is actually named after the Subject. For example, a clue named "Ford Escort #36" would be related to a suspicious or stolen car that has attracted someone's attention. That car is the "Subject" of the Clue, and any information you can acquire about that car - like who bought it or where it was bought - will help you determine the location or identity of the person involved in this suspicious activity.
The Subject itself is generally irrelevant. Whether it is an illegal item, or just some suspicious money or even related to a crime, it isn't important. The only thing that matters is the person who's related to this subject - he might be one of the people involved in the current Criminal Plot!
The Trail of CrumbsEdit
Each clue is made up of about 5 different separate pieces. Most commonly, each piece will be found independently of the others. Each piece then describes a little bit more about the connection between the Subject of the Clue and the Suspect to whom it points.
For example, one piece might say that "Agent Suchandsuch bought this Beretta 9mm Pistol". Another piece would say "A Beretta 9mm Pistol was stolen by the Haitian Junta". A third would report that "A Beretta 9mm Pistol was spotted in Los Angeles".
On its own, each piece is relatively meaningless. You might know where the subject was spotted or even the name of the person who's associated with it, but that's a far cry from being able to tell whether this is an actual Participant or just a Red Herring. For that you'll need to piece together a few more parts of the Clue.
When a Clue is complete, it will tell you all of the following information:
- The name of the Suspect who's associated with the Subject.
- The location of the Suspect (the City where he lives).
- The affiliation of the Suspect.
- The occupation of the Suspect (a description of the type of criminal activity they're known for).
- A Photograph of the Suspect.
In addition some clues have one piece that simply describes the Subject itself. This is a useless piece of clue, for all intents and purposes.
Once all pieces of a Clue are collected - and more often before that - you'll already be able to tell where the Suspect can be found, and can sometimes even deduce whether the suspect is involved in the current Criminal Plot.
At that point the Clue itself becomes irrelevant. It has helped you locate a possible Participant in the plot, and is now no longer important. The Clue has fulfilled its purpose.
Clue pieces are collected independently from one another. It is possible to collect about 5 or 6 pieces for each Clue, and there are a myriad of different sources where Clues can originate:
- The CIA collects some Clue pieces before the start of a Mission.
- During Wiretap installation at a Hideout.
- Photography during a Break-In.
- Rumors heard at the Hotel.
- Local and International Scans performed at any CIA Office
- Hacking Terminals during a Break-In.
Clues from IntelligenceEditBefore each Mission begins, the CIA spends the first day collecting Clues from various sources, such as local authorities and other intelligence agencies (including InterPol).
Whatever Clue pieces the CIA has found will be shown to you during your briefing with the CIA Chief, at the very start of the Mission.
The number of clues the CIA will collect for you is based directly on the current Difficulty level. On the highest level (Global Crisis), you will only be supplied with about 2 or 3 Clues. On the easiest level (Local Disturbance) there may be upwards of a dozen different clues supplied.
The game randomly chooses which piece of the clue is given. Therefore it's quite possible that the pieces CIA gives you at the start of the mission are utterly useless. For example, the piece of one clue reads "$1000 have been withdrawn from a suspicious account" or "Here's a photograph of a man seen driving a stolen Ford Escort". These are absolutely useless for starting an investigation, but since it's all chosen randomly, it's quite possible!
Such Pieces will be immediately recorded in the Clue document, and will remain even if the Wiretap concludes in failure (like running out of time or setting off the alarm).
Since the contents of a Container are randomly-generated when it is photographed, there's no guarantee that any container will produce a Clue rather than something else (or nothing). Also note that Clues tend to be rarer than other types of Evidence, especially Mentions which are far more common than all other information types.
Note that Floor Safes are the only Containers that never produce Clues when photographed.
It is possible for a person at the Hotel to provide a piece of Clue. Note that this is easily the worst way to collect any kind of information, as it is extremely unlikely to produce any information at all.
Local and International ScansEdit
By visiting the Intelligence Section of any CIA Office, you can order the section to perform a Scan for information. This has a chance to produce a piece of Clue (or more than one). Note that this is rather time-consuming (4 hours per scan, local or international), and is not terribly likely to produce a clue.
During a Break-In, it is possible to query the name of a Clue on a Terminal, assuming you can find one and can in fact acquire the password for it.
This is a very efficient way to get more pieces of a specific Clue. To do this you will need to know the name of the clue for whose pieces you are looking. For instance, you can feed "Mazda RX-5 #35" into a Terminal in the hope that it will produce an extra piece of that Clue, possibly revealing the information you needed to track down the involved Suspect or determine whether they are Participants in the Plot.
Experienced players tend to make a list of the names of incomplete Clues for this exact purpose - so that when Breaking Into a structure they can hack a Terminal and see if they can find more info about that specific Clue.
Note that not every Terminal holds information about all Clues. The query might fail especially if the owners of the Hideout you broke into have nothing to do with the Organization of the Suspect related to the Clue. Also, Difficulty level appears to determine how wide a range of Hideouts might contain pieces of which Clues.
Part of the trick about Clues is that while they may indeed reveal many details about a suspect, they are not considered "Hard" or "Direct" evidence against that suspect. In other words, the information found in a Clue is only useful for tracking down an individual (or deciding whether he is worth tracking down at all).
Part of the reason for this is that information recorded on a Clue - even a completed Clue - is not automatically recorded on any Suspect File.
- For example, lets assume Max has collected an entire Clue (5 or 6 pieces as required), which is pointing to a man called "Gerard Ballard" who lives in Athens, belongs to the PFO, and is a known Terrorist. This sounds like the sort of information that could be put together into a new Suspect File, and probably enough information to arrest Mr. Ballard himself.
- However, that does not occur. Even if Max has a Suspect File for Gerard Ballard, which is clearly marked by his Name but is missing his Location or Affiliation, that information is not automatically filled in on the Suspect File just because the Clue reveals it.
- In fact, even though the Clue points out that the man is a vicious Terrorist, this isn't enough information to actually arrest Mr. Ballard either!
A clue is more of a tool that the player can use for deduction - figuring out where a person lives so that Max can go there and collect some hard Evidence about that person. It's up to the player to deduce the connection between Clues and Known Suspects as well, by matching their name, photograph, and so on to figure out which Clue is pointing to which Suspect.
Other than finding a person's location, a Clue is also useful for determining whether an agent is Involved in the Plot. This is a little trickier, and requires knowing which Criminal Plot is the focus of the current Mission, and what kinds of Criminals are expected to be involved in it.
For example, imagine that Max is trying to bring down a Assassination plot. He already knows the identities of most of the Participants, but still has no idea who the Assassin is or where he is hiding. What he does have are a few unsolved Clues, each of them revealing some information about some unknown people.
A more efficient method would be to examine any Clues that do not already point to a known Participant. Specifically we'd be looking for any Clue related to a person described as a "Known Terrorist" or somesuch. Clues pointing to a "Building Inspector" or a "Notorious Thief" or other such things are not pointing to our Assassin, so we can ignore them.
The reason this method is usually easier is because Clues are much easier to find than Hard Evidence - it is more likely to find a Clue leading to our Assassin than to find solid data about him that would go directly into a Suspect File. This is true even if we are searching random Hideouts for information.
Even better - we can Hack into various Terminals in various Hideouts to look specifically for more clue pieces, by querying the name of a Clue (see above). This allows us to quickly eliminate our existing clues until we find the one pointing to the Assassin.
This method is not foolproof, and requires some experience to pull of properly. However, it is practically essential on the Regional Conflict and Global Crisis difficulties, where Hard Evidence about a suspect is extremely difficult to come across unless looking in very specific places.
It's especially true since on higher difficulties you tend to gather a lot of Mentions of names, not to mention Suspect Files, belonging to Red Herrings. Clues are easily the best method to weed them out, using the methods described above, to determine whether a criminal is likely to be part of the plot. If a clue is pointing to a "Kidnapper", but the current Plot is a DataCrime, the person is definitely not involved.
A Note on Address-Related CluesEditOccasionally a Clue's subject will be a specific address in some city. For example, "Main St. 37", as can be seen in the image on the right.
When you acquire at least one piece of such a Clue, the address will show up on the Locations Menu in the appropriate City. If you select this address from that menu, you'll be taken automatically to the Hideout belonging to the agent this clue is pointing to.
For example, in this image, the location "Main St. 37" will appear in the Location List in London. When you select it, you'll be taken to the Mafia Hideout. Mr. Leon Cahill can be found inside.
This makes Address Clues a little more useful than others - they save you time trying to discover the location of the Hideout. However, there is no guarantee that the agent inside is not a Red Herring!