During a successful Wiretap, Max collects information about the residents in that Hideout (and possibly about other things or people). It also increases the Surveillance Quality at that Hideout. A failed Wiretap increases the Hideout Alert Level.
Wiretapping is done by playing the Electronics Mini-Game.
Installing a WiretapEditTo install a Wiretap, Max must visit a Hideout and select the "Place Wiretap" option from the menu choices.
This puts Max into the Electronics Mini-Game screen. This puzzle must be solved, at least partially, to gain any benefit from the Wiretap.
Note that you can install as many Wiretaps as you want at the same Hideout if you feel that you can gather more information or need a better Surveillance Quality there.
The information you get will mainly depend on the location where the wire-tap is performed. If the Hideout contains an agent (whether a Participant in the current Criminal Plot or a Red Herring, you are more likely to get Solid Evidence about that agent (assuming you do not already have all the data about that agent).
It is not required to successfully finish the Wiretap to keep any Clues, Solid Evidence or Hideout Locations gleaned during the mini-game. In fact, Solid Evidence collected from a Wiretap goes straight into the Suspect File for the appropriate agent, as normal.
This increases the chance of detecting Message Traffic coming or going from that Hideout, and possibly even decipher their contents automatically. It also increases the chance of detecting or even recording any meetings taking place in that Hideout.
Naturally, this is only useful if the hideout contains a Participant in the current Criminal Plot. Otherwise, no Message Traffic or Meetings are going to take place here at all, and so the surveillance is not helpful.
The amount of time you have to complete the Wiretap is based on the current Hideout Alert level at the hideout you are trying to tap.
If the Hideout is completely "relaxed" (Alert Level 0), you will have 10 minutes to complete the tap. A Hideout on high-alert (level 3) will give you only about 2 minutes.
Note that when running the game today, it is quite likely that you will actually have less than the stated amount - the seconds run considerably faster than real-time seconds.
If the time limit is reached, the Wiretap is over. This does not raise the alarm automatically, it simply ends the mini-game. This is important because each mini-game takes up 2 hours of game-time whether it was completed successfully or otherwise, and time is a very valuable commodity.
Hitting the AlarmEdit
If, during the Electronics Mini-Game, you accidentally trigger any of the Alarm chips, the mini-game is instantly over, and the Hideout Alert level is increased by a certain amount (usually by no more than 1 level).
Wiretap vs. Break-Ins and BugsEdit
Wiretapping is only one way to acquire both information and Surveillance Quality. Most importantly, you need to decide whether it is better to wire-tap a Hideout rather than Break-In to collect information and install Bugs in that Hideout.
One important difference is that some players find the Electronics Mini-Game to be easier than the Combat Mini-Game. It requires less reflexes, and is much easier for players with good logic and reasoning skills.
However, in many regards playing a Break-In is often much more beneficial:
For one, you can usually collect much more information with the 36 photographs you can take during a Break-In than you can from just 6 Target Chips in a Wiretap. On the whole, 6 successfully-disconnected Target Chips are about equivalent to 6 Photographs of Containers during a break-in, so a Break-In can potentially be 6 times more efficient, assuming you can locate 36 containers in the Hideout without being caught.
Additionally, you can also locate Floor Safes in a Hideout, and these may contain information that simply cannot be acquired during a Wiretap at all. This is also extremely useful information, including such things as Personnel Files, Master Plans, and of course Incriminating Evidence.
Of course, the risk of being captured or wounded during a Break-In is also an important factor. Wounds can take hours to heal, and if Max is captured he could spend up to 24 hours just trying to escape - a huge waste of time. Even the best players get captured once in a while, so this is an important consideration.
A successfully-completed wiretap (6 Target Chips disconnected) raises your Surveillance Quality at the hideout by +30%. Each Target Chip is "worth" +5%.
Since you carry 10 Bugs with you on any Break-In where they are taken along, it is potentially possible for a single break-in to raise the Surveillance Quality by anywhere from +20% to +100%, assuming you can install all 10 bugs. This is a little trickier than it sounds of course, and again the risk of being wounded or captured is a serious consideration to be taken here.
Still, if you can manage to install 10 bugs in a Hideout, you are likely to get about +60% Surveillance Quality on average, equal to two fully-successful Wiretaps. If you didn't get wounded or caught, both methods will have wasted the same amount of "game time", making the Bugging incursion twice as beneficial as the Wiretap.
Of course one needs to remember that each Target Chip you disconnect during a Wiretap may gain you information along with Surveillance Quality, so it has two benefits. Bugs only raise Surveillance Quality. Then again, it shouldn't be difficult to carry a Camera along on a Break-In as well, so this point is (usually) moot.