Hacking can be performed during the Break-In Mini-Game. To hack a Terminal, Max must acquire letters to the current Password, input his guess of the Password into any Terminal, and then input a Query for the name of the subject. If successful, he'll be rewarded with information about the subject.
Hacking is a great way to get information about something specific, rather than just collecting anything that might pop up (from Containers and so on). However, it does require the player to know what he's looking for.
To start Hacking, Max first needs to collect letters to the current Password. This is done by locating Terminals around the Hideout, walking up to them and pressing the "ENTER" key. Each time this is done, a letter is added to the current password, displayed in a bright green box underneath Max's silhouette on the right side of the screen.
Once Max feels confident that he can guess the rest of the Password (or has acquired all the letters already), he can walk up to a Terminal and press the "F4" key to begin Hacking.
First, you are prompted for the Password. Failure to enter the correct password will deny access to the Terminal and immediately raise the alarm. Also, the password is immediately changed.
If a correct guess is made, Max can proceed to input a query to the Terminal. You have exactly three attempts to input a "correct" Query - one that the Terminal can provide information on.
Once information has been acquired (or the three attempts have been used up), the Hacking process is over. Depending on the current Difficulty setting, the Alarm may or may not go off immediately. Also, the password will change to a new one.
Acquiring a PasswordEditAny attempt at hacking requires knowing, or guessing, the current Password. A Password is a valid English word of between 5 and 12 letters, selected randomly from a vocabulary stored in the game data files.
At first, the password is completely unknown to Max. In order to have any chance of guessing the Password, he must first collect at least one letter of the Password from various Terminals.
To do this, walk up to a Terminal and press the "ENTER" key. This adds a letter to the known Password. Once a letter has been acquired, the known Password is displayed in a bright-green box below Max's silhouette on the right side of the screen. Unknown letters in the password are shown as dots, which allows Max to see the length of the entire Password. Collected letters will replace the dots as necessary.
Each Terminal will only provide one letter per Break-In. Until the Break-In ends, no Terminal will provide another letter, even if the password has been changed.
Since there is only a certain number of Terminals in each Hideout, there's a limit to how many times you can perform Hackings at any Hideout. In fact, there may be so few Terminals around that it would be extermely difficult to hack any of them, especially if the randomly-selected password is very long.
For instance, imagine a Hideout containing only two Terminals. On inspecting both of them for letters, the known Password is shown as ".c....e". This can be difficult to make sense of, even for experienced players. If no other terminals can be found, you can either guess the password (It's "Acquired", by the way), or give up on Hacking this time around.
Note that a new Password is selected each time you perform a Break-In, and that Terminals that have already been tapped for a letter in a previous Break-In can still provide letters in a later Break-In. Therefore, even in the above example, it's possible to leave the building and Break-In a second time in the hope that the new Password will be shorter. For instance, in the image shown above, two letters are enough to guess that the password is "Funds". Of course, this does still require some experience or knowledge of the possible passwords used in the game.
Remember that the Layout of Hideouts is determined randomly, and so it is always possible to come across a Hideout containing absolutely no Terminals.
Naturally this means that not only can you not collect a Password, you can't perform a Hacking anyway.
The Hacking ProcessEdit
Once Max has a good idea of what the password may be, or has acquired all the letters to the Password, he can begin the actual process of Hacking a Terminal.
To do this, approach a Terminal. Any Terminal will do - even ones already tapped for a Password Letter or ones already Hacked. Once in front of a Terminal, press the "F4" key to begin Hacking.
At first, you will be prompted to enter the Password into the Terminal. You only get one chance to input the correct password, so it's important to be sure.
Failure to enter the exact correct password results in an "Access Denied" message. This immediately ends the Hacking Process, raises the alarm, and changes the Password on all Terminals. You can still perform another Hacking, but you would need to acquire more letters for the new Password - and as explained above, they can only be acquired from Terminals that have not yet been tapped a letter so far since the start of this Break-In.
Entering the correct password allows you to continue on to the Query itself.
Once the correct password is entered, the Hacking box will prompt you for a query.
There are many possible things you can query, including anything from a suspect's Name to the name of a City, an Organization or even the subject of a Clue. The choice of query is important, and explained in more detail below.
You have exactly 3 attempts to make a successful Query - meaning one that the Terminal has any information about. Not all Terminals contain all queriable information, it depends greatly on the location and owners of the Hideout you broke into.If the query is about something that the Terminal has no information on, the box will show the words "NO DATA", and prompt you for another query. Again, you have only three attempts. If you get the "NO DATA" reply three times, the Hacking process is immediately concluded (see "Aftermath", below).
If the query is successful, the Terminal will immediately display the data you require. This will either be shown as a Mention box, the relevant Suspect File, or the relevant Clue document, based on the subject of the query. Once the display is dismissed, the Hacking process is immediately over. You can only retrieve one piece of information during a Hacking.
Once the Hacking process is completed, one way or another, the current Password is changed for all Terminals. You will need to collect more letters to the new Password if you wish to perform another Hacking.
Additionally, the alarm may or may not be raised as soon as the Hacking is over.
The alarm is always raised if the wrong Password is entered at the start of the process. You only get one chance to put in the correct password, so make sure you know what it is before trying.
If the hacking is completed successfully, or if three attempted queries have produced no data, the alarm may or may not be raised depending on the current Difficulty setting. On the Local Disturbance (lowest) difficulty, the alarm is not raised after a Hacking. On the Global Crisis (highest) difficulty, the alarm is always raised after a Hacking, even if it was successful. At National Threat and Regional Conflict, there is a certain chance for the alarm to be raised (lower chance on National Threat).
Regardless of whether or not you raised the alarm, this does not prevent you from Hacking another Terminal. However, again, you will need to acquire letters to the new password before attempting to do so, which means it's only possible if there are any remaining terminals that have not yet been tapped for a letter during this Break-In.
Terminal Hacking is a method of acquiring specific information about a person, place or thing. Unlike normal evidence collection, such as through Wiretaps or Photographing Containers, the subject of the information provided through a Hacking is decided by Max himself.
Therefore, to perform a successful Hacking, you need to know what it is you're looking for information about. It has to be pretty specific, because you're going to query a terminal about a specific thing. Even the proper spelling is important, but moreso knowing which piece of information you're after.
Queries can basically be broken down into four possibly categories:
- Querying the name of a suspect.
- Querying the location of a Hideout.
- Querying about the subject of a Clue.
- Querying the name of an Item.
Each query will, obviously, give a different kind of information if it is successful. Regardless, you will need to know what you're looking for specifically before you Hack the computer.
Name QueryEditOne of the best methods to collect information about a Suspect is to query their name on a Terminal. This can potentially reveal a lot of data about an agent.
The primary use for this is to search for names you've seen Mentioned in the past, but don't yet have a Suspect File for. This is a good way to start investigating a new suspect, like when you've already investigated everyone on your Suspect List but haven't yet found one or more of the Participants in the current Plot amongst them.
This is one of the reasons why it's a good idea to take note of every Mentioned name - so you can query them as soon as the option arises.
The same method can also be used to locate a Mastermind, assuming you don't already know their identity.
Note that the range of Terminals that hold information about specific suspects is limited. Generally, the only Terminals that will yield information on a Name Query are those located in a Hideout that's either A) in the same city as that agent's residence or B) belongs to the same Organization as the agent you're lookng for. On lower difficulty levels, the limitation is less strict, so it's sometimes possible to find information about an agent at Hideouts belonging to Organizations allied with his, or even associated with his.
There is one special case regarding this type of query, which makes it a very very valuable tool: If you query the name of a suspect on a Terminal inside his residence, the Terminal will reveal the agent's Role in the current Criminal Plot. This is exceptionally important on higher Difficulty levels, where that information is exceedingly rare. It is a very good alternative to looking inside Floor Safes for that info!
- Note that you do not have to enter a suspect's full name to get a result. It is usually sufficient to enter their first name followed by the initial letter of their surname. For example, instead of "Ismail Baader", you can simply query "Ismail B". This reduces the difficulty of correctly spelling the more complicated surnames.
- It is also possible to list the person's Last name instead of their first name.
- Do note however that on occasion two suspects will match that same short query, for example "Ismail Baader" and "Ismail Benazir" will both match "Ismail B". This is usually more common when just looking for a last name, like "Baader". That's why it's usually better to memorize (or just write down) a suspect's name and type it into the query window in full.
Terminals can be used to reveal the location of Hideouts. This is a good way to find a specific Hideout, as it allows Max to look directly for that Hideout instead of hope that it pops up in a Mention (such as when Wiretapping or Photographing Containers).
A Hideout Query will pop up a "Hideout Mention". From that moment on, the revealed Hideout will be accessible from the Location List at the city where it is located.
Hideout Queries are always successful.
- When typing in the name of a city, the Terminal will return the location of a Hideout in that city, belonging to the same Organization as the Hideout where Max is at the time.
- For example, lets say that Max is Hacking a Terminal in the Muslim Jihad Hideout in Riyadh. For his query, Max types in "London". The Terminal will then reveal the location of the Muslim Jihad Hideout in London.
- When typing the name of an organization, the Terminal will return the location of a Hideout belonging to that Organization, in the same city where Max is at the time.
- For example, lets say that Max is Hacking a Terminal in the Mercenaries Hideout in Tripoli. For his query, Max types in "Stassi". The Terminal will then reveal the location of the Stassi Hideout in Tripoli.
- Note that you can abbreviate an organization's name if you can't remember the full spelling. However do try to put in at least 5 letters to avoid ambiguity. For example, looking for the "Red Battalion" Hideout, you can search for "Red", but that may give you the "Red Army" hideout instead. It's better to search for "Red Bat" to avoid ambiguity.
Clue QueryEditOne of the more interesting things you can query on a Terminal is the Subject of a Clue. If successful, the query returns a piece of that clue, which is automatically recorded on the appropriate Clue file.
The Subject of a Clue is its name, as visible in the "Review Clues" screen. It is also mentioned in every piece of that Clue, so it should be pretty obvious.
Examples may include such things as "Beretta 9mm #51" or "Teltran #13" or "Honda Civic #96" and so on. It can also be the name of a place such as "Hochstrasse 30" or somesuch.
Not every Terminal will have information about each Clue (or any Clue at all). If the Organization that owns the Hideout where the Hacking is taking place has no connection to the suspect involved in the Clue, the Terminal will return "NO DATA". You are more likely to get the data at a Hideout belonging to the same Organization as the suspect in the Clue. This depends greatly on Difficulty level.
Querying for Clue Pieces is an excellent way to get information. Just make sure to select a Clue that doesn't already point to someone you can investigate in person (as that is usually more informative), or a Clue that is clearly pointing to a Red Herring Agent. That would just be wasteful.
Remember to input the full name of the Clue to avoid ambiguity - it's possible for the same game to have a Clue called "$1200" and one called "$12000", for example, or "Honda Civic #35" and "Honda Civic #58", so you should make sure you type in the right one if you can.
Item QueryEditIf you know that an Item involved in the Plot has already been acquired by one of the participants, but have lost track of its location (after being transferred between agents), it is possible to query the name of that item on a Terminal.
This will reveal the name of the City where the Item is located at the moment.
Knowing the "name" of an Item is the tricky part. The game gives items a generalized name, but it's not always exactly indicative of the item. For instance, an item may be called "Alarm Bypass", "Blueprints", "Weapons" or "Stolen Goods", and so forth.
For information about the names of items participating in the various plots, refer to the appropriate Plot page.
An Item Query is always successful, regardless of where the Hacking is performed.
A Note on Long Query TextEditSometimes the thing you want to query about has a very long name, longer than the space you've got in the query window.
In such cases, you can input a shortened query. However, make sure that the query that appears on screen matches the thing you're looking for.
For example, we want to look for a woman named "Carlotta Merrick". This is one letter longer than the space we've got to type in. We can simply do a search for "Carlotta M", but there might be another name matching that, so it's not always a good idea.
Instead, we'll want to type in as much as will fit - such as "Carlotta Merric" in the example above. Note however that if you accidentally type in the entire name, the last letter will be overwritten, so it'll say "Carlotta Merrik" instead (with K being the last letter you pressed). This will fail to match, so be careful!