A Red Herring Agent is a member of any Organization who exists somewhere in the current Theatre of Operations but does not Participate in the current Criminal Plot. Max can discover data about this agent as with any other, but this will eventually lead to a dead end, as this agent cannot be arrested, is not worth points, and does not influence the plot in any way.
Several Red Herring Agents may exist in each mission. More appear on higher Difficulty settings.
A Red Herring is a euphamism for a dead-end in an investigation: something that, if investigated, will yield no useful results. On occasion, it is said to mean a dead-end that has been deliberately placed by the true culprit in a crime in order to disorient, confuse and delay the investigator.
This definition applies to Covert Action. Red Herrings are agents that do not play a part in the Criminal Plot, and exist only to throw Max off the track of the true plot.
While collecting Clues and Evidence, Max will occasionaly run into names, locations, pictures or any other info about Red Herring Agents, just as he would acquire information about Plot Participants. Investigating these leads can cost Max valuable time, which would otherwise be better spent looking for the real criminals.
Red Herring DataEdit
Max collects large amounts of data during his mission, and it usually comes in very small pieces. Therefore, a piece of data pointing to a Red Herring (called "Red Herring Data") looks, for all intents and purposes, like a piece of data pointing to a Participant in the plot. It is only when enough data has been collected that the player (and/or Max himself) can deduce that this agent has nothing to do with the plot.
Investigating a Red Herring usually begins with the Mention of his name, found in a Container during a Break-In, or via Wiretap. If the player is paying attention to Mentions at all, he may become intrigued at this new name (or might even be short on evidence and investigating any name that comes up). Checking that name on a Terminal will sometimes yield a Suspect File, and may cause Max to spend some time trying to fill that file with more data.
If Max breaks into a Hideout containing a Red Herring Agent, he is very likely to come across data about that agent as well - almost always a Suspect File or Hard Evidence that goes straight into such a file. He may even just stumble into the room containing that Agent!
If Max creates a Suspect File for this agent, it will appear on the Suspect File list in Max's documents. Initially, it appears like any other suspect file, until such time that Max can identify this agent as not-participating.
Identifying a Red Herring AgentEdit
There are two major ways to tell whether an Agent is a Red Herring. One is through actually investigating that agent, the other is by deducing whether an agent is involved.
Once Max has an agent's name, it is possible to run that name through any Terminal with the hope of discovering more information about that agent. On easier Difficulty levels, this is possible through almost any Terminal you come across, but on most difficulty levels it's only possible in Terminals which are in Hideouts belonging to the organization this agent is affiliated with. The idea is to get the Terminal to tell you whether this agent is involved, by revealing his Role. For Red Herrings, the Role will be listed as "NOT INVOLVED" or "Red Herring", which basically marks this agent as a dead-end and can, at this point, be ignored for the rest of the mission.
This can be much more complicated on higher difficulty levels. Simply getting a rudimentary Suspect File from a Terminal requires feeding the agent's name to a terminal in a hideout belonging to the exact organization he's affiliated with - and no other! This means you would need to either guess or discover the agent's affiliation, locate a Hideout belonging to that organization, break in, discover the password to the Terminals, and extract the data. Even then, it is likely that only the agent's location and rank will be revealed on his Suspect File, which may not be enough to determine whether he is a Red Herring at all! If that is the case, it may be necessary to travel all the way to the agent's location and search a Terminal there. Such a Terminal will always, in any difficulty level, reveal that the agent is in fact a Red Herring.
Also note that Floor Safes at the Red Herring's location may yield a confirmation that he is a Red Herring by revealing his lack of involvement immediately. However, remember that not every Hideout even contains any Floor Safe, and that each safe yields random information and may not yield what you are looking for.
Experienced players may be able to determine that a name or Suspect File may not be worth investigating by elimination - reviewing Clues and Documents and determining whether this unknown agent fits in with any of them.
Clues can be of help here if any piece of the clue reveals the agent's specialty. This requires you to know which plot is being attempted by the enemy in this mission. For example, imagine that you have identified the current plot as a Theft. If you find a clue pointing to a certain agent who is identified as a "Known Terrorist" or "Kidnapper" and so forth, that agent cannot possibly be part of the main plot as it doesn't call for such specialists. The name appearing on this clue (if any) can therefore be safely assumed to belong to a Red Herring Agent.
Personnel Files can also be a huge help. Once such a file is discovered, belonging to any organization, you will automatically be given a Suspect File for each Participant belonging to that organization, and the file itself is permanently documented in Max's case data. Any agent belonging to the same organization who does not appear on the file is almost certainly a Red Herring Agent, otherwise he would've been on the file.
Master Plan documents work similarly, but require that you get the Red Herring's photograph rather than their name. If the face does not appear on the Master Plan file, the agent is not a Participant in the plot and can be safely ignored.
Masterminds are usually difficult to track down. They do not appear on Personnel Files or Master Plans, and on most Difficulty settings they do not generate Clues either. Telling a Red Herring from a Mastermind can be exceptionally difficult as a result - you cannot simply deduce that an agent is either a Red Herring or Mastermind simply by consulting your documents.
The manual for Covert Action listed photos and names of all Masterminds as a form of copy protection, so it's possible to search the names in a Terminal and hope you get lucky.
In this case, assuming no data about the Mastermind is known from previous missions, it may be necessary to investigate all Mentions of names on various Terminals in various Hideouts until you can eliminate the Red Herrings and/or locate a strong clue about which one of them is the Mastermind.
This can be very time consuming, which is the reason it is so difficult to arrest the Mastermind on your first mission in any Mission Set. However, if you can get the plot to go into a stable loop, by repeatedly confiscating one or more Items involved in the plot and forcing participants to reacquire them, that may give you enough time to investigate all the Mentions you've come across until you can find the Mastermind. This is quite tricky of course, and should not be attempted until you are experienced enough with the game.