The Let's Play Archive

Sid Meier's Covert Action

by CirclMastr

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Original Thread: Sid Meier HATES it! Let's play Sid Meier's Covert Action

If you liked this LP, you might also like Alpha Protocol by CirclMastr, Decker by CirclMastr and Just Cause 2 by CirclMastr

Introduction



Covert Action is a 1990 action-adventure game for MS-DOS and Amiga where you play as Max (or Maxine) Remington, secret agent. It's similar to Sid Meier's Pirates!, where the game is actually a collection of mini-games tied to the theme. The goal of Covert Action is to prevent diabolical organizations from executing their equally diabolical plots, while also tracking down and arresting the masterminds behind said organizations. If you are really good at your job, you can have a foursome in a hotel casino.

Sid Meier disliked Covert Action so much that he developed the "Covert Action Rule," which informed his design of later games:

Sid Meier posted:

The mistake I think I made in Covert Action is actually having two games in there kind of competing with each other. There was kind of an action game where you break into a building and do all sorts of picking up clues and things like that, and then there was the story which involved a plot where you had to figure out who the mastermind was and the different roles and what cities they were in, and it was a kind of an involved mystery-type plot.

I think, individually, those each could have been good games. Together, they fought with each other. You would have this mystery that you were trying to solve, then you would be facing this action sequence, and you'd do this cool action thing, and you'd get on the building, and you'd say, "What was the mystery I was trying to solve?" Covert Action integrated a story and action poorly, because the action was actually too intense. In Pirates!, you would do a sword fight or a ship battle, and a minute or two later, you were kind of back on your way. In Covert Action, you'd spend ten minutes or so of real time in a mission, and by the time you got out of [the mission], you had no idea of what was going on in the world.

So I call it the "Covert Action Rule". Don't try to do too many games in one package. And that's actually done me a lot of good. You can look at the games I've done since Civilization, and there's always opportunities to throw in more stuff. When two units get together in Civilization and have a battle, why don't we drop out to a war game and spend ten minutes or so in duking out this battle? Well, the Covert Action Rule. Focus on what the game is.

Now personally, I like the juxtaposition of short, intense action with the thoughtful investigation of the rest of the game. And I enjoy Covert Action; I'd love to see it get a modern remake the same way Pirates! did. But in the meantime, let's check out what passed for above-average graphics and sound in 1990 with the classic. I'll be providing live commentary, so you can hear my thought processes (and keyboard, sorry) in real time as I try to solve the cases. The mission: arrest all 26 masterminds.

Videos

The Case of the President's Codebook
The Case of the Train Blueprints
The Case of the Travel Itinerary featuring Danaru
The Case of the Uplink Station featuring Danaru
The Case of the Prison Visitor Pass
The Case of the Prison Warden
The Other Case of the Travel Itinerary
The Other Case of the Train Blueprints
The Case of the Summit IDs
The Case of the Helicopter Pilot
The Case of the Election Commission HQ
The Other, Other Case of the Travel Itinerary
The Other, Other Case of the Train Blueprints
The Case of the Herp Challenge featuring HerpicleOmnicron5
The Other, Other, Other Case of the Travel Itinerary
The Case of the Metal Foundry
The Case of the Chemical Plant
The Other Case of the Metal Foundry
The Case of the Industrial Warehouse featuring Derek Barona
The Case of the Noted Chemist featuring Derek Barona
The Other Case of the Industrial Warehouse featuring Derek Barona
The Other Case of the Noted Chemist featuring Derek Barona
The Case of the Fighter Pilot
The Case of the Airbase Plans
The Case of the Medical College
The Case of the Noted Bacteriologist
The Other Case of the Chemical Plant
The Other, Other Case of the Metal Foundry
The Case of the Physicist
The Case of the Breeder Reactor
The Case of Geraldo Corazon
The Other Case of the Election Commission HQ
The Other Case of Geraldo Corazon
The Other, Other Case of the Election Commission HQ
The Case of the Airbase Plans
The Other Case of the Fighter Pilot featuring Orv
The Other Case of the Airbase Plans featuring Orv
The Case of the Veteran's Day Parade
The Case of the Train Station
The Other Case of the Veteran's Day Parade
The Other Case of the Train Station
The Other, Other Case of the Fighter Pilot featuring Coolguye
The Other, Other Case of the Airbase Plans featuring Coolguye
The Other Case of the Physicist
The Other Case of the Breeder Reactor
The Other, Other Case of the Physicist
The Other, Other Case of the Veteran's Day Parade featuring TheLastRoboKy
The Other, Other Case of the Train Station featuring TheLastRoboKy
The Other Case of the Prison Visitor Pass featuring TheLastRoboKy
The Other Case of the Prison Warden
The Other, Other Case of the Prison Visitor Pass
The Other Case of the Helicopter Pilot featuring nine-gear crow
The Other Case of the Summit IDs
The Other, Other Case of the Helicopter Pilot
The Case of the Treasury Building featuring bunnyofdoom
The Case of Willie the Pen featuring bunnyofdoom
The Other Case of the Treasury Building
The Other Case of Willie the Pen
The Case of the Chief Drug Investigator
The Case of the InterPol Headquarters featuring Blastinus
The Case of the Airbase Passwords
The Case of the Airbase ID Cards
The Other Case of the Airbase Passwords
The Other Case of the Airbase ID Cards
The Case of Edgar Coli
The Other Case of the Medical College
The Other, Other Case of the Prison Warden
The Other, Other, Other Case of the Prison Visitor Pass
The Other, Other Case of the Medical College featuring JamieTheD
The Other Case of Edgar Coli
The Other, Other, Other Case of the Medical College
The Other, Other, Other Case of the Prison Warden

Wiretapping 101


Whenever you want to place a wiretap or trace a car, you need to go through the wiretapping minigame. It is not 100% intuitive (except to me, because I am the best spy). So let's break down how it works, exactly.


Welcome to the main wiretapping screen. We have electricity, paths, circuits, phones, and alarms. The paths are either light green or the dotted yellow (animated in video form); light green means no electricity is flowing through it, dotted yellow means yes electricity is flowing through it. The flow always starts on the left and goes to the right. If you look to the right, you'll notice that all the phone panels have electricity flowing into them, while none of the alarm panels have electricity flowing into them. The goal is to cut off electricity to all the phones, without sending any electricity to any alarm. To do that, we mess with circuits in the middle.

Before we look at those circuits, you'll notice in the bottom center is a lone circuit in the grey area. That is the circuit 'in hand'. If we select a circuit on the board, it will be replaced with the circuit in hand, and the selected circuit will become the new circuit in hand. The light blue circuit in the center of the board is the one currently being selected; you move that selection around with the arrow keys.


This is the most basic type of circuit, and the only type you encounter on Local Disturbance difficulty. It simply directs electricity through the circuit as shown; this particular example takes electricity in from the top left and directs it out to the bottom right.


This type of circuit is a... something. I think in some videos I call it a "terminator" but you could also call it a relay, switch, or something else like that. Or fictional. Anyway, it is identified by the broken pathway on the circuit itself, unlike the above example where the pathways are continuous. If there is NO electricity being fed into the path on the left (such as on the top path of the circuit), it will generate electricity and send it out to the right. But, if there IS electricity being fed into the path on the left (such as on the bottom path of the circuit), it will cut off that electricity and send nothing out to the right. These circuits start showing up on National and harder (barring Electronics skill), and make wiretapping non-trivial.


Lastly, all circuits immediately to the left of the phone and alarm panels, as well as sporadically throughout the board, have a grey border around them. These circuits are fixed in place and cannot be moved or swapped. You just have to work around them.
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