The hacking mini-game in Deus Ex Human Revolution is quite entertaining and is a great way of getting into places that offer more experience and loot as a reward. Here are a few tips and tricks that can be used to greatly improve your chances of breaking into a system and getting the goods.
If you enjoy hacking, it should be a rule of thumb that you hack everything, even for workstations and pinpads where you already know the password. Each successful hack grants you experience, and you have the possibility of obtaining additional goodies such as credits and virus programs to use in future hacks.
Every hackable object in this game has a minimum security rating required before hacking is allowed. Higher security ratings will typically mean a more difficult hack by having a larger and more complicated network, a faster AI to trace your IO port (the amount of red stacks, higher means faster), and fewer total attempts allowed.
Thus, a lot of preparation should be done ahead of time to maximize your chances.
Tip #1: You can hack more than 1 node at a time
The basic hacking tutorial in Deus Ex can be very misleading to some people. It often gives new players the impression that you can only attempt to hack a single node at a time. This is simply not true. At any given second, you can perform as many hacks, fortifies, and programs as you can manage to click on. On some maps, multi-tasking is the only way you can get the bonus and complete the hack.
Tip #2: Fortify those nodes
Fortifying your nodes is a great way to slow down the network trace subroutine designed to kick you back out of the system. Some networks are designed in such a way that the AI has a short and direct path to your base. In those situations, its often helpful to simultaneously hack in the direction of the AI in order to fortify those nodes as a way to slow it down.
Tip #3: Pay attention to the API nodes
Spam nodes lower the enemy trace level, making it slower. Clearance nodes lower the capture cost of certain nodes, and transfer will move points between nodes. Good use of the API nodes will make hacking even easier.
Tip #4: Take your time evaluating the network
The clock doesn’t start ticking until your hack is detected. This may not happen at all during a hack attempt if you are lucky or have high hacking augmentations.
Tip #5: Counter attack!
On some hacks, you can capture the red node (or nodes). If you can do this, you will gain the bonus of every data node on the network and complete the hack.
Once the trace starts, a red line will appear out of every red node on the network and will attempt to traverse to your blue node. Once it hacks your node, then you are kicked back out of the system.
As the trace passes over each node, the defense level of that node is increased by one. This is especially important to keep track of as it can slow down your hack attempt and may delay you long enough to make you fail your hack. The STOP worm virus, which you can obtain by attacking data nodes or finding on disks scattered through the game, can temporarily freeze a trace.
Here is an example hack of a fairly large network (security rating 2) with several API nodes, several data nodes, and a lot of one-way paths.
The first thing to notice is that your path to the sphere will take you pretty close to the AI, and that there are several ways of approaching the data node in the middle. As I start hacking may way to the right, I finally triggered the trace on the third hack. At this point I immediately start hacking the SPAM API at the bottom to slow down the trace while simultaneously hacking the transfer and clearance APIs and fortifying a key node that sits on the path of the trace.
The SPAM API slows down the trace enough for the transfer API to do its magic and drastically improve the rating of the key folder in the path of the trace. After this, it is a simple path through another SPAM API to the sphere to complete the hack.
I complete the hack with full rewards with 23 seconds to spare.
With these tips I hope that you too can enjoy the hacking minigame and gives yourself the opportunity to fully explore every nook and cranny of this wonderful game.