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Hack Your Enemy

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"Everything can be hacked... and everyone."
Sombra, Overwatch

So, you are fighting robotic enemies. Maybe it's a Robot War or your enemy just uses computer controlled robots as soldiers. Why not hack some of them? You can turn them off without a fight or—even better—reprogram them to think you are their commander and their commanders and allies are their enemies, so you get free reinforcements and ideal infiltrators.

Usually involves some sort of Hacking Minigame.

For biological alternatives, see Puppeteer Parasite, Brainwashing, and Mind Control. You may notice that they are much more "evil" things to do, presumably because even Ridiculously Human Robots lack a "soul" of some sort and therefore it is not a bad thing to completely alter their personalities. Can lead to a Face–Monster Turn or Apologetic Attacker.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ghost in the Shell:
    • In the original manga and the first movie, people are ghost-hacked, giving them False Memories amongst other things.
    • The original movie's Big Bad is called "the Puppetmaster". Guess what he does.
    • From Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex:
      • In the episode "Automated Capitalism", while the team is infiltrating a millionaire's estate, Batou is pursued by robot dogs. He neutralizes them by hacking into their computer brains.
      • In one episode, the Major directly controls Togusa to stop him allowing himself to be made a scapegoat because of his Lawful Stupid nature.
      • In another episode, after Batou challenges her to a fistfight, the Major hacks him and forces him to punch himself in the face, then states that she looks forward to his report about how he appropriately used all the muscles in his head.
      • In the first episode of Season 2, the Major remotely hacks a terrorist during a standoff in order to find out how many terrorists there actually are and where they are in the building relative to their hostages. When the local cops screw the situation up, she also uses him as a suicide attacker to take out several of the other terrorists and distract the remainder as Section Nine storms the place.

    Comic Books 
  • Magnus Robot Fighter: Magnus pulled this stunt at least once, by knocking the robot offline, opening up the back panel, disabling its wireless and setting it to local speech control.
  • Rai (Valiant Comics) has this as a superpower. With the cry of "MINDLOCK!" he can take control of any one machine within the range of his voice.
  • In Star Wars: Doctor Aphra issue #32, Aphra remotely hacks a guard droid to make it turn on its fellows.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Little hacker girl Nikko deters ED-209's demands for compliance in RoboCop 3 by hacking it to be "as loyal as a puppy".
  • Star Wars: In Rogue One, K-2SO is a former Imperial security droid who was captured and reprogrammed by the Rebels.
  • Terminator:
    • Terminator 2: Judgment Day: The future John Connor reprogrammed a captured T-800 and sent it back in time to protect his younger self from a more advanced Skynet-programmed terminator.
    • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: In this timeline the future John Connor was actually killed by a T-850 model after Skynet's presumed defeat. John's widow Kathryn Brewster then reprogrammed it and sent it back in time to save a 20s-something John from another attack by an even more advanced Terminator model.
  • Tron
    Live-Action TV 
  • In Get Smart Hymie the Robot was an invention of KAOS to infiltrate CONTROL, which CONTROL then reprogrammed for niceness instead of rottenness.
  • In episode "Deliverance" of Stargate Universe, they hack enemy unmanned fighters to fight other fighters.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. John Connor reprograms yet another Terminator (named Cameron) and sends it back in time to protect his earlier self.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Fabula Ultima: A Tinkerer who specializes in magitech gadgets can use their Magitech Override ability to seize control of an enemy construct for the remainder of the current scene. They will lose control of this construct if they try to override another one, or if the Tinkerer or their allies attack it.
  • Infinity: Hackers can seriously cripple or co-opt enemy heavy infantry and robots, and defend their own heavy infantry and robots from the enemy. Hacking also features in the spin-off game Aristeia, altough there it mostly acts as a buff/debuff mechanic.
  • Shadowrun: Deckers/hackers can do subvert control of hostile drones (or even the smartlinks of enemy weapons) and take them out of the fight or switch their IFF readings to turn them into allies. They can only do this to autonomous or remote-controlled drones; if a rigger has jumped into a drone, it's immune to hacking. Instead of directly hacking control, they can spoof commands, making the drone think that its owner is giving it new instructions (like "reboot"), which requires knowing the rigger's access ID, but is considered easier than wresting control away by force.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Vanus Assassins can use their Brain/Computer Interface to intercept and alter enemy transmissions and directly attack computerized systems, allowing them to do things like direct enemies to fire upon each other or wreak havoc on enemy Titans and robots.

    Video Games 
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes:
    • The Rezbit enemy is very dangerous, partly because it can do this. If Samus is hit by its virus attack, her suit will shut down and it has to be rebooted, leaving Samus helpless for a moment.
    • In multiplayer, one of the powerups you can get allows you to hack your opponent using the scan visor. This results in them taking continuous damage and a fuzzy screen for a short time (pictured above).
  • In Fallout 2 you can hack the turret control system to use them against the final boss.
  • Fallout 4 lets you hack robots, and with high enough Robotics Expert perks, either turn them off, set them to help you, or self-destruct.
  • In Half-Life 2 Alyx hacks the security system in Nova Prospekt and programs the Combine's turrets to shoot the guards instead of Gordon, and during the Episodes she's able to hack rollermines and make them friendly as well. Gordon himself can reprogram hopper mines by simply grabbing them with his Gravity Gun.
  • Mass Effect
    • In Mass Effect, AI Hacking is an unlockable ability for an Engineer-class PC and Tali. In Mass Effect 2, it is also available for Legion, whose loyalty mission also involves taking control of enemy turrets and a virus that would have rewritten the "mainstream" geth into Reaper-worshipping "heretics".note 
    • In Mass Effect 3, such functionality gets wrapped into "Sabotage", which encompasses causing weapon malfunctions against organic foes as well. Becomes very useful in turning the tables on Cerberus combat engineers and their deployable turrets.
  • In BioShock you can hack Sentry Guns and Security Bots, which then follow you around and shoot the enemy. You can hack security cameras as well, but that's another trope.
  • All the Deus Ex games have protagonists who can hack, allowing them to take control of security turrets or robots.
  • In Project: Snowblind you can hack pretty much any robotic enemy.
  • In the original Alter A.I.L.A., Orange's special ability involves hacking.
  • In flash game I Am an Insane Rogue A.I. you play as an insane rogue AI. At the beginning, hacking maintenance robots is the only way to kill inhabitants of buildings you attack. Later you will gain access to various other methods, but hacked robots and turrets will remain primary cause of fatalities.
  • In GoldenEye (Wii) you can use your smart phone to hack the computer controlled guns, which will then kill any mook in their range.
  • System Shock 2 allows you to hack defense turrets if you can sneak up to them, turning them over to your side.
  • One of the Reality Shifts in Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], called "Code Break," allows you to hack enemies and cause them to attack their own or become walking time-bombs under your control.
  • In Crysis 3 you can hack turrets, mines and Scorcher drones if you're close enough and have clear line of sight.
  • In a video game based on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, obtaining unit ID's and hacking key data from defeated enemy commanders allows the player to hack other members of their unit. This can be used for scouting or taking out other enemies, but the hacked enemy drops dead once the connection is cut. Also, it can be done at almost any distance and through several walls.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: Early on, Aloy finds the hacking module of an ancient "Corruptor" machine and attaches it to her spear, which allows her to hack machines if she's got the correct override codes.
  • In Iji, one of Iji's stats is "Cracking", which determines what level of nanotechnology she can successfully hack into. She can crack enemy weapon systems, turrets, and even an Annihilator exoskeleton in order to use them against the alien invaders. This is also the only way to beat the otherwise Nigh-Invulnerable Iosa.
  • Shadowrun Returns has several missions which can be made easier by having a decker hack the enemy's automated defenses during the fight.
  • Rogue-archetype ships in Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages have a Gemini Array, a communication device that can be used for tricks such as shutting down an opponent's weapons or shields.
  • In Call of Duty: Black Ops, the Hacker Pro perk allows you to hack enemy equipment, from Sentry Guns to Claymore Mines. It doesn't help that they all glow red because of your perk and they can be jammed by Scramblers.
  • The advanced edition of FTL: Faster Than Light features a hacking system which allows sending a drone to an enemy ship to disrupt one of its systems. The enemies in vanilla edition may occasionally attempt to hack into one of the player's systems, resulting in its limited functionality.
  • In Syndicate (2012), you can Breach enemies' or their weapons' Chips and cause them to commit suicide, disable those weapons, or turn them against their allies.
  • X-COM
    • In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, with the proper Foundry research project the Arc Thrower can hack alien Drones. Hacked Drones will remain on XCOM's side until the end of the mission, can attack and use their Overload skill on demand, and repair mechanical units including other hacked Drones. Unfortunately you cannot take them back to base, they automatically self-destruct once the mission is a success.
    • In XCOM 2, enemy turrets and robots can be hacked by Specialists with the Haywire Protocol skill, allowing you to temporarily shut them down or take control if you pass the check.
  • In Overwatch the hero Sombra can hack the enemy heroes to disable their secondary abilities. For balance reasons, the in game version doesn't fully disable any of the robot heroes, but does affect abilities that aren't technological, such as Soldier:76's sprinting. It also works on health packs, speeding up their respawning and denying them to the enemy. Her Ultimate ability does this to any enemy in range.
  • In Metal Arms: Glitch in the System, this is Glitch's Signature Move. And since this is a world populated entirely by robots, the player gets plenty of opportunities to exercise this power on just about anything.
  • In NieR: Automata, 9S' unique ability as a playable character is to hack other enemy units, which will either cause them to explode or turns them to his side. He can also do this to temporarily control other units.
  • In Batman: Arkham Knight one of the secondary weapon attacks the Batmobile can deploy against the Militia drone tanks is to infect them and turn them against their allies. During the assault on GCPD Barbra does this, as well as hacking them to explode when shot, either destroying nearby tanks or releasing an EMP. The remote hacking device also allows Batman to temporarily blind any drones for a brief time, or it can be used to take control of a mini drone, allowing it to take out up to 3 militia soldiersnote .
  • In Goldeneye Rogue Agent, Goldeneye boasts EM Hack as one of his four abilities. He can use it to hack enemy weapons, activate machines from quite a long way away, and render enemy weapons inoperable for a while.
  • In Timesplitters Future Perfect, Cortez hacks a battle droid to fight for him. That same droid later hacks a Humongous Mecha and several command keypads.
  • Satellite Reign allows the Hacker, with sufficient skill points, to hack any robotic enemy. While this is usually limited to the small attack dog enemies and turrets, with a level 5 skill, it's possible to hack a giant bipedal war-machine robot. While it's not exactly subtle, if you're at the point that you're seeing the war-machines being deployed against you, subtlety is already out the window why not have fun?
  • In Spider-Man (PS4), you need to use Miles's hacking app to get past Sable drones while playing as him. Occasionally, like when you need to stop the Devil's Breath from being released at Grand Central, you need to use hacking to defeat robotic enemies while playing as Mary Jane as well.
  • In a cutscene in Injustice: Gods Among Us, the Cyborgs from the main and alternate realities wind up hacking each other. (It ends in a draw, leading to a physical fight.)
  • This is the specific power Perceptor and his counterpart Bombshell have in Transformers: Earth Wars, allowing them to seize control of a building or not for a determined length of time. Cosmos and Mindwipe have functionally similar powers, but those are specifically stated to be Mind Control.
  • Cyberpunk 2077: Breach Protocol allows you to hack the local network your enemies use for comms and synchronization, making direct hacks easier and installing debilitating viruses into enemy cybernetics, which will trigger the moment a fight breaks out. Quickhacks cause an enemy's cybernetic implants to severely malfunction, causing anything between zapping them with their own internal batteries to outright driving them insane.
  • Deep Rock Galactic: There's a small chance that depleting a Rival Corporation Patrol Bot's health will deactivate it instead of destroying it, giving players some time to hack and reactivate it for themselves.
  • Warframe: After defeating a Corpus Bursa or Ambulas Proxy, it will go into an idle state from which it can be hacked with a Hacking Minigame. This will cause the Bursa and basic Ambulas models to fight at your side. The boss Ambulas proxies, however, won't become allies, but instead be infected with a virus that can be triggered to make them self-destruct; the fight requires you to prevent the enemies from removing the virus before the dropships bring them back to the capital ship for repairs. This lets you use the infected Ambulas as a Trojan Horse, and once enough of them have been returned to the capital ship, they explode, destroying the factory that produces them.

    Western Animation 
  • An aversion in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers when it came to the Queen's Mooks. While they appeared to be standard 80's era Mecha-Mooks, the fact that Doc never used his tweakers to hack into them was a major hint that they weren't robots at all. The episode "Tower of Combat" did have him use this trick against the General's replicants, so we know he was at least capable of doing so.
  • Invader Zim:
    • A battle with Tak and her robot assistant, MiMi, causes the latter's memory disk to fall out of her head. In the final space battle between them and Zim, Gaz and Zim's computer hook the disk up to GIR, causing MiMi to act as insane as he does and throw Tak's ship out of control.
    • After Dib acquires Tak's ship, he uses it to interfere with Zim's plan to hack into the the Massive and bring it to Earth. In response, Zim hacks into Tak's ship to reestablish it's original programming—a copy of Tak's own personality, which causes the ship to attack Dib.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Season 3's Citadel arc has a squad of reprogrammed Separatist battle droids under the command of R2-D2 as part of the team infiltrating the titular prison.
  • In the Teen Titans series, Gadgeteer Genius Gizmo often uses this technique on Cyborg.

    Real Life 
  • Supposedly, one of the reasons that the United States Navy suffered no casualties during the 1986 "Line of Death" confrontation with Libya was that the American military successfully hacked and effectively disabled Libya's air defense systems.
  • Somewhat more plausibly, the Israelis are claimed to have done the same against Syria in 2007 to exactly the same effect, when destroying their potential nuclear reactor.
  • Probably averted in case of Iraq, as this article states: US News and World Report published a report that the US inserted a virus into a network of Iraqi air defense computers several weeks before the start of the Persian Gulf War. However, as Associated Press reported later, "Trouble is, a computer industry publication, InfoWorld, sketched out a strikingly similar scenario in a column that ran in its April 1, 1991, issue. That article was an April Fool's joke, pure fantasy [...]."


Video Example(s):


Watchtower Cannon

As part of his plan to get rid of Cadmus and frame the Justice League for it, Lex Luthor remotely takes control of the Watchtower's Binary Fusion Cannon and fires it at Cadmus Headquarters.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / KillSat

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