Super basic ranking of hacks split by Utility, Melee, Range and weapons by the same Utility, Melee, Range. Just my opinion and what I’ve found easy and fast to use, and the the hacks/weapons I prioritise when I play. Includes spoilers. Let me know if you play different.
Hack and Weapon Rankings
Rank 1 Charge
The charge hack allows you to instantly teleport to a nearby enemy, allowing you to kill them with a fist or melee weapon. The drawbacks are that you cannot be holding a gun, and is only mid-ranged. It does allow you to teleport “through” bullets and can get you out of a pinch. The Dog uses the same skill.
Rank 2 Hotswitch
Hotswitch allows you to swap bodies with an enemy. This ability instant kills the enemy and has a greater range than charge, but is inferior because you immediately throw your weapon when entering the body of the enemy leaving you with no weapon. You can charge whilst holding a katana, which allows you to immediately kill your target and all surrounding enemies. The lethality of charge is greater. The Addict uses the same skill.
Rank 3 Empty
Kills people around you – lower because you only get this at the end of the game, and actually doesn’t make it more “fun”. The ability also doesn’t get you out of tight situations when surrounded by bullets.
Rank 4 Recall
Allows you to “force pull” a katana to you. Fairly limited use. The Ninja uses the same skill.
Rank 5 More
Gives you an extra heart, which on the surface is good, but actually becomes a bit of a newbie crutch to allow that extra hit. With Charge or Hotswitch this isn’t really needed as they can be used as emergency escape buttons instead.
Rank 6 Pure
Sets you one heart and removes ability to pick up hacks. Hard mode and for and achievement.
Hacks – General Utility
Rank 1 lightreflx.hack
Bullets travel extra slow near you; this is the most useful hack for being “safe”, though it does leave bullets near you which you can accidentally walk into.
Rank 2 fstmove.hack
Move faster – fairly self explanatory; you move faster (ie when you move the enemies move slower)
Rank 3 dthstomp.hack
Mario stomp the enemy; this is a bit of a mixed bag – whilst being able to instant kill an enemy by jumping on them, the scenarios where this is possible is quite low, especially you also have the option to just punch an enemy that gets close enough. Jumping also lets time flow normally as you’re descending, which is always risky.
Rank 4 killheal.hack
Gives you an extra heart every few kills (the first time is 5 kills, then 19 after that). Naturally, this just gives you a buffer, of hearts beyond your current list. The game tracks your kills between levels, so you can in theory immediately get an extra heart after your first kill on a level. Stacks with Core – More and 3HP below.
Rank 5 heal.hack
Refills your hearts. Fairly useless hack unless there’s no other choice available.
Rank 6 3HP.hack
Gives you an extra heart; fairly useless unless you really need more health.
Rank 7 explode.hack
Fires off shurikens when you get hit; unless you’re running killheal and some HP+ hacks, there’s no real reason you want to be hit to allow this hack to trigger.
Hacks – Melee
Rank 1 defall.hack
When you deflect a bullet, all bullets around are deflected. This gives you melee weapons extremely high utility; together with suppunch.hack and strtkatana.hack you will be pretty much invincible against bullets if you play carefully. Bullets return to their point of origin, so moving enemies will not necessarily die from a deflected bullet.
Rank 2 suppunch.hack
Makes your punches stronger, killing in 2 hits instead of 3 – in of itself fairly useless, but you can now punch to deflect bullets. This actually makes you much more deadly barehanded.
Rank 3 strtkatana.hack
Starting with a weapon is always preferable to being empty handed (unless you have suppunch.hack). A katana is much more deadly than most ranged weapons and is the best weapon in the game; its durability, range and speed make it a great weapon choice to start. Most levels also spawn with a number of enemies near you in katana range.
Rank 4 supthrow.hack
Makes throwing stronger including all weapons and objects that can be thrown. Darts and shurikens will return and knives will pierce through enemies (not actually a good utility of a knife as you can’t immediate retrieve it).
Rank 5 wpnmstr.hack
The weapon master makes you attack faster with all melee weapons – but more importantly increases the range (including katanas).
Rank 6 berserk.hack
Make you temporarily invincible after hitting an enemy with melee weapon. Looks good on paper, but there are no visual indicators, so relying on that window of invincibility is actually detrimental to learning the key play style of avoiding death.
Rank 7 grenade.hack
Throwable objects explode into bullets when they make contact – it can be deadly but the bullets it creates can hurt you as well. Most levels have a lot of throwable objects, but is dangerous throwing objects at point blank.
Hacks – Ranged
Rank 1 shotflow.hack
Bullets that headshot, will bounce towards an enemy. Similar to ricochet, but only on headshots. I’ve ranked this above ricochet because it will ricochet multiple times. If there are 3-4 enemies bunched together, one fast fishgun bullet will headshot all enemies in the cluster. Both Ricochet and Shotflow work with deflected bullets from the melee hacks.
Rank 2 ricochet.hack
Bullets that hit a wall, will bounce towards an enemy. Makes missing still deadly, especially on firing at the enemies’ feet is a good way to kill katana wielding enemies. Both Ricochet and Shotflow work with deflected bullets from the melee hacks.
Rank 3 rndgun.hack
Start each level with a random gun; this is useful so you’re not stuck with just your barefists. Not useful in conjunction with the strtkatana.hack or any hacks that boost melee abilities/weapons.
Rank 4 killreload.hack
Instantly reload if you make a kill, which is quite useful in quickly killing a lot of enemies. Bullet limit still applies, therefore pairs well with +bullets.hack.
Rank 5 quickshot.hack
Reload faster; overall on average quicker than killreload.hack; if you tend to miss then quickshot.hack out performs killreload.hack
Rank 6 +bullets.hack
Have more bullets before you’re empty. It can be useful to get extra shots in with a rifle or fishgun, but overall when your gun is empty throw it at your enemy to take their gun – extra bullets doesn’t really add much to the tool kit.
Rank 7 piercshot.hack
Bullets continue travelling through enemies. This is dependant on very specific situations and the level you’re on when the enemies are perfectly lined up for a multi-kill.
Weapons – Utility/Melee
Rank 1 Katana
One-hit kill, unlimited durability, very fast throw and even a hack to “force pull” it back to you, the katana is one of the best weapons in the game. Can deflect bullets, but will shatter against bullets when thrown.
Rank 2 Sharp Objects: Knife/Shuriken
One-hit kill, very fast throw, can be retrieved and reused. Will shatter against bullets when thrown.
Rank 3 Blunt Bats: Bat/Crowbar/Wrench/Pipe etc
Has a durability of 5 hits, fairly short distance and therefore inferior to the katana or sharp objects.
Rank 4 Darts: Screwdrivers/Pens/Cards/Nails etc
Does the same damage as fists, though can headshot and make enemies drop their weapons.
Rank 5 Random Objects
Does no damage other than making an enemy drop their weapon, more useful with the grenade.hack
Weapons – Ranged
Rank 1 Railgun/Nailgun/Fishgun
Fires a single super fast round “nail/stake”, has 3 shots before being empty. The shots will pierce enemies, ignore invulnerability, cannot be deflected by enemy katana wielders. The bullets will turn into darts that can be used as a throwing weapon. Despite the low number of rounds and slow reload speeds, the speed makes up for it and many of the hacks will boost the use of this weapon.
Rank 2 Rifle
First 4 round bursts and can shoot 3 rounds for a total of 12 bullets. The firing is delayed slightly, so helpful to try track an enemies path so you can “spray and pray”
Rank 3 Shotgun
Fires 8 pellets, the shotgun has a good spread, making it quite a low skill weapon for close and mid-range, but with only 2 shots before running out, it’s quite a low utility weapon.
Rank 4 Pistol
Fires a single shot, has 4-5 bullets. Fairly standard, you’ll often reach for the above weapons first.