Author Topic: Air Base A/SA/PA Guide  (Read 350 times)


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Air Base A/SA/PA Guide
« on: August 07, 2018, 02:14:59 am »
Over the last couple days, I've revisited each difficulty, gave them a good grind, and got pretty decent times on all of them. With 8th place on the leaderboard and over an average of 90 points across, I think I'm quite qualified to help teach this level now. :v

Air Base is mostly an OCJ level, but with many technical twists, subtle knowledge, and tight movements. All three difficulties are enjoyable in their own way, and they progress really nicely when you're learning. In this guide, I'll cover the whole level as much of the knowledge overlaps, and go through everything section by section.

I highly recommend that you study this level thoroughly before speedrunning it. Air Base appears simple, but if you aren't aware of what you're doing, you'll bleed time all over, get stuck everywhere, and consistently struggle with things that should be easy. A lot of this guide will be excessive details on every little part, but they're all important. Watch videos and read over the information to help absorb and understand everything.

General Air Base Notes

The Stewardess can be in one of two locations along her path, and naturally, we want the one that's further through the cave. Watching additional cutscene, creating lag, and any other ideas you may have do not affect her speed or placement. She has a 50/50 chance of appearing in either spot, so while there is luck involved, it's very reasonable by usual GE/PD standards.

The Crossbow has some wonky physics to it and I'm pretty sure has some buggy hit detection. As you'll be using this weapon on each difficulty, you'll have to learn how to use it properly. Because you're firing an actual projectile, rather than a hitscan blast, you have to take into account your movement, turning speed, etc, whenever you fire. If you find yourself missing your target often, try firing earlier or later than what feels natural.

The Secretary cannot begin her speech "Good afternoon.", until you're directly in her line of sight. Make sure to move into her view and don't wiggle out of it in order to have her speak as early as possible. Once she says her line, she'll say "Okay, you know the way from here." about 1.5s after, however, the door opens very slightly before that. Practice getting used to when to open the door to avoid losing time, or doing so too early and needing to double tap the door. Some people like to use a movement pattern to time when to press B, while others just charge the door and open it on feeling. Learn what works best for you. Avoid grinding against the door as well because like all sliding doors in Perfect Dark, doors that slide from right to left will get blocked if you're running against them.

The Secretary will only call security and fail the mission if she or the two stationary guards in the room see you without your Disguise. Any other guards seeing you, and even firing at you while you're in her room is fine. If one of those two guards is lured by the Drugspy and they destroy it, that will also set off the alarm. This will once in awhile happen after leaving it in the lift on SA/PA starts, but you'll sometimes grab it on the way out anyway.

The two ending lifts used on A/SA and PA are completely inactive until you activate the computer, so you don't have to worry about cutscene timing, and you can also reliably predict when they'll close.

The 1-frame Spy trick is used on each difficulty. If you're unfamiliar with it, it's simply holding Start and buffering an input as you deploy it. For example, if you want to back up the Drugspy for just 1 frame, you select it in your menu, then press and hold both Start and C-down, and 1 frame after you'll be back in the pause menu.

The cave and the building have very unintuitive architecture to them with walls sticking out, lips of hallways extending by a couple pixels, and more. Throw on cheats and take time to practice all the lines for the difficulty you'll be playing. You can use the very distinct shadows and markings on the floors to help guide your path. If you don't do this, I guarantee you will lose a good run in a very stupid way.

Agent Start

Cut the opening cutscene and take a nice straight line into the cave. Make sure to shoot the guard and pick up his Dragon along the way as you'll need it later. If he's far out of the way of your line, you can go a bit out of your way for it, or simply reset if you can't afford to burn any tenths. Once you make the big turn in the cave, you'll see the Stewardess if she's fast, or otherwise just the guards and you'll want to reset. Try to shoot the Stewardess early because if she's surrendering and sedated, she may take a moment before actually dropping the Disguise and being KO'd. Fire at her in strafe, don't do a forward running shot.

Once you've grabbed the Disguise, run out of the cave as tightly as possible and aim for the right side of the door to open it as early as possible. You can use the pause here to judge your run so far. Generally something around 20.00 to 20.20 is good, around 20.50 is decent when you're learning, and anything sub 20 is great. On this pause, put on the Disguise, strafe into the crack of the door, then strafe right to see the Secretary, and then head to the door.

Example Agent Start 1
Example Agent Start 2

SA/PA Start

Cut the opening cutscene just as Joanna says "and I can just make out the cable car arrival point.", and then head for the door behind you. There are two ways you can get to the door: 1) start with backstrafing to the left into a left strafe, or 2) hold left and then begin left strafing. It's very similar to the start on Infiltration. Backstrafing is slightly faster and I'd argue more consistent, but simply just left strafing is less technical to perform. I suggest learning the backstrafe.

Once you open the door, sneak yourself into the lift just as it's closing and hopefully you go undetected. Try to adjust your angle so that your angle is almost parallel with the first door, then left strafe straight into there. If you hear a guard say "Get her!" or "Intruder alert!", your run is over. If you're playing on PA and hear a guard say "Who the?" or "What the hell?", that's the additional patrolling guard seeing you. While he won't kill your run, he'll be waiting for you at the bottom of the lift and also alert both guards in the cave. Even if you don't fail, the additional lag and potential damage is too much, and I suggest quitting out. If you keep your movement tight, you will get into the lift undetected basically every time as there is no luck involved. If you find it hard to get into the lift before it closes, try watching slightly less cutscene.

When you're in the lift, you can hear the time that passes between the sound of the door closing and the sound of the lift rising. When the doors get caught on you, you'll very clearly hear a longer delay between these two sounds. It costs about .4-.5s. When you're learning the level, just ignore this time loss, but when you're competent and beginning to progress for better times, I recommend that this is the first time saver you become fussy about.

Once the doors are closed and the lift begins to rise, deploy the Drugspy into the right corner and wedge it in there good to make sure the lift door stays open. If you want to save a few extra tenths, try to cut it early to allow yourself to charge full speed before the doors open. The Drugspy won't be in the correct spot until the lift is about half-way up, so make sure to wait long enough before exiting out of it. Likewise when the doors open, you can save about a tenth if you try to sneak between the crack of the doors, but you risk accidentally picking up the Drugspy. I personally use a methodology where I deploy the Drugspy from the holding-A menu right as the doors close, and then wedge into the corner until the Drugspy meter on the right side increases. You can see this on both my SA and PA runs. This is my indicator on when I can exit out and giving myself maximum time to charge full speed. I suggest taking the time to develop some sort of style or method to exit at the correct time and save yourself a little extra time at no risk.

When you enter the room, you need to KO the guy who runs to alert security and pick up the Briefcase. You can either punch the guy, or shoot him with the Crossbow. The Crossbow shot is slightly faster and you also avoid getting stuck on him or the chairs, but it's a little bit of a tricky shot. Try to shoot once he stands up and turns around to give you the widest hitbox, and if you happen to miss, try again when you turn around. I suggest learning the Crossbow shot as it's not too hard, you get two chances, and the time save is worth it.

When you turn the corner before re-entering the lift, switch to Drugspy and do a 1-frame back up movement in order to have the lift start closing earlier than normal. This is a newer strat that you won't see in older runs, and it's a nice, safe time saver. Once you're in the lift, deploy the Drugspy into the corner facing the first door you came from. Angle your Drugspy so that the crosshair is on the right-half of the wall beside the sliding door. As soon as the lift doors open, press B to open the first door through the wall, and then pause to deselect the Drugspy. You can distinctly hear the door sound if you did this correctly. Now, to get back out undetected, you have to take a very tight line through the doors. If you are even a bit too far to the right, you'll get detected almost every time. I suggest overturning left, and then re-adjusting to the right on the way out. You might get caught on the corner between the two doors, but it shouldn't kill your run (though obviously is bad as a time loss). If you're learning the level you can position yourself in the middle of the two lift doors and simply walking forward as close to the left of the first door as possible, but as you get better, you'll definitely want to be right strafing. As annoying as this section can be when learning it, it's skill-based and not luck-based. If you move tightly, you will go undetected almost every time.

On SA and PA, there are two extra guards outside, and you'll need to shoot the one near the alarm before he rings it. Take a line as you would normally towards the cave, then do a quick turn, move forward, and take your shot. You can also fire at him in right strafe to save a couple tenths, but it's much harder. You also can't destroy the alarm (guards included) or it will be set off. You also generally want to avoid being seen by the nearby patrolling guard or you won't catch the alarm guard by surprise, making him run to the alarm sooner. Once he's KO'd, re-adjust your line for the cave and head in. If the Stewardess is fast, she'll be in sight as soon as you enter. Shoot her, grab the Disguise and head to the building. On PA, you should put on the Disguise as soon as you get it in order to avoid the patrolling guard also blasting you, but you do lose full speed. If you happen to hit her, pause, and haven't received it yet, use the time between extra pauses to start turning to the left.

It's very important to maintain as much health on PA as possible, as the ending guards will slaughter you most of the time. I suggest taking wide lines and losing a bit of time if it helps you avoid damage. If you need all the time save possible, you'll have to wait for good guard luck.

For SA, pausing at the door around 40.00 is good, but your time will vary depending on your skill level and how well your particular run went. Low 39s or high 38s are great starts. For PA, using the timer before objective 1 appears is generally a better measure since you can enter the base in different ways and positions. A low 46 or high 45 is pretty good, while a 44 is a great start. Use these references to help you analyze your starts and to assess how well you're doing.

This is a lot of information to digest, but it's all important. Watch some runs and study everything carefully, and it'll eventually become very natural to you.

Example SA Start 1
Example SA Start 2
Example PA Start 1
Example PA Start 2 - Note that the Drugspy backup was not known at the time.

Agent Mid-Section

Run straight down the first escalator and down the halls as tightly as you can. If you happen to fall at the right spots, you may accidentally land on top of the bottom-right of the escalator, allowing a bit of a tighter line if you can react to it. Once you reach the T-junction, you want to throw a Dragon for shattering the glass above, as well as deploying the Drugspy to the left. When you deploy, hold right strafe and left on the stick to get around the corner, but make sure you don't overturn and get caught on the walls. Positioning yourself into the corner is a good way to avoid this problem. The Drugspy is used to call the lift in order to keep it in place once it's activated. You can mash B on it and pause out of the Drugspy before the message comes up. After that, run into your Dragon, try to boost off of it and head for the stairs. Ideally, the Dragon is somewhat nearby and also kills the K7 guard. Once under the stairs, use a 1-frame Drugspy trick to warp upwards, activate the computer, grab the K7, then head to the lift.

There's a glitch where if you toss the Dragon at a certain timing of deploying the Drugspy that you'll be repeatedly throwing a huge arsenal of proxy Dragons. While it's possible to keep your run going, the massive lag will cost you a ton of time.

Example Agent Mid-Section 1
Example Agent Mid-Section 2

SA Mid-Section

Once you go through the door, head to the far escalator in a straight line, with a slight bend in the middle to avoid getting stuck on the sign. Drop off the Briefcase with a sharp angle so you can leave as quickly as possible, but be careful not to miss the drop off. You can mash Z and/or B here if that helps. From here, it's just basic lines to the lift you call yourself, then activating the computer.

There are two strategies you can do in this section however. The basic one is to just activate the computer, run down the stairs and then enter the lift. When doing so, you have just a little bit of leeway to call it and close it on yourself, but if you're a bit slow, be sure not to re-open just as it's closing. The faster strategy is luck-based and a little tricky to perform. If the first patrolling guard past the escalator is within reach, you can KO him for his Dragon, drop it off under the glass, and let the other patrolling guard blow it up. The Dragon has to be placed correctly for this to work, and you cannot simply throw it against the pillar. You also have to hope the guard doesn't get distracted by you or does an idle animation for him to make it in time. It's not that difficult to do, but it requires some extra skill and luck. The time saved with it is somewhere around .8-1.0s.

Example SA Mid-Section 1 (No Glass)
Example SA Mid-Section 2 (Glass)

PA Mid-Section

Drop off the Briefcase as you would in SA, but change to a left strafe and head straight for the computer. There's a Magnum guard along the way who isn't very threatening, but can get in your way later, so try to KO him as you run past. It's also very helpful to get a Dragon, but don't go out of your way to get one. Once you activate the computer, run straight for the big door around the main area and keep your strafing tight. If you missed Disarming a guard for a Dragon, you may be able to pick one up on the floor along the way.

Example PA Mid-Section 1
Example PA Mid-Section 2

Agent/SA Ending

Once the final lift doors open at the bottom, you want to shoot out the console controlling the lasers as soon as you can. I highly recommend that you develop a setup using visual cues on the lift. It's best that you create your own rather than copy other people's, as they're quite precise. When building your setup, start by waiting at the bottom with the doors open, position your crosshair on the console, and try to be as close to the middle of the doors as possible, then look downwards onto the floor and make note of your position based on visual cues. Build your setup and practice it a lot as every tenth wasted not destroying the console is a tenth wasted on your run, and your time will bleed quickly if you're poorly positioned. When the doors first open, you can pause buffer and use the black line across the nearby wall to help your vertical aim.

Once the console is destroyed, run through the lasers without getting zapped and then straight to the ladder of the plane, again, using floor markings to help guide your final line as you'll want as much lookdown as possible.

Now for the lasers, you have two options. The older method uses a lot of easy forward movement and waits for each laser to drop before advancing to the next, whereas the new method quickly skips one of the laser cycles with a slick, tight turn around the post. The newer method is much more difficult, but saves somewhere around .8-1.0s. It's a hard call which one to suggest learning because the juicy time saved with the new method is very helpful, but it's also significantly harder, especially when you're learning the level. Start off with the older laser method, and once you're more comfortable with the level as a whole, try learning the newer, faster method.

For the old laser grid strat, zigzag your way through the first few lasers, then cut closely to the post in order to block off one, and then simply run to the end. For the new laser grid strat, wait for the long laser to fade out, run straight towards the post, and then as the two lasers to the left of you fade out, make a very sharp and swift circular movement around the post to block off the next one. There's about a .4s window between the two lasers being fully faded out and the one we block from activating. After that, run towards the last post, and then wrap around it and run to the end. You may find yourself arriving too early when using the new laser grid strat, so some players like to sandbag when they leave the lift. I suggest always running immediately in case the guards back you, and then running into the wall if you need to slow down. Just be sure not to get blocked off by the very first laser which we normally just run right through.

The main difficulty of the new laser grid strat is getting around the first post smoothly to block off the laser. The post itself has another laser extending both in front and outwards, which you'll end up zapping yourself on a lot if you're not tight. You can either do a left to right strafe change around the post, or do a snapping left turn all in left strafe. Illu, Clemens, and myself all found the left strafing method to be easier, but I suggest trying out both and seeing which you prefer.

Agent and SA are identical essentially, except on SA, you can afford to take more laser damage. Always use lots of lookdown in the ending section for less lag and more control. You have to become competent with the laser grids in order to get a good time, so make sure to practice a lot. I suggest that when you're learning (ideally on Agent), that you play out every slow Stewardess run as practice for the laser grid until you're consistent and confident with it.

Older Laser Grid Example 1
Older Laser Grid Example 2
Older Laser Grid Example 3
Newer Laser Grid Example 1
Newer Laser Grid Example 2
Newer Laser Grid Example 3

PA Ending

The ending of Air Base Perfect Agent is one of the most brutal sections in the game, and you will die repeatedly until you get good guard luck or play extremely well. This is literally what caused the birth of this classic elite meme:

There are 3 K7 guards along the halls towards the safe room, and 3 K7 guards in the room beside the safe room. All of them will destroy your health in less than a second, and each has enough body armor, requiring you to drill them back to just stun them. If you are playing safe and slow, you can forward run to get better aim and kill as many as possible. The 3 in the halls will already be alerted from attacking other NPCs, and are a little sporadic with their movements and placement. Once you're passed them, enter the rooms. If you are playing risky and quickly, you want to strafe along these halls to prevent time loss, while firing however you can along the way. You'll almost certainly need good guard animations, gun jams, or having them run out of your way in order to do so. Ding the lift and then head into the rooms. Try using lookdown as you pass their view to help keep them unalerted. If you are playing slower and/or safer, don't ding the lift or you won't make it in time.

Once you enter the rooms, you need to blow up the Remote Mine attached to the door, and you want to do so as fast as possible. Once it explodes, enter the room firing at any stray guards and run along adjacent to the explosion's radius. You need to wait for it to fade out, but you can position yourself closer to the safe room. Strafe onto the ledge, double duck as fast as you can, crawl through, then double unduck. Run for the switch and mash B to move the seal and hit the safe button. It's very easily to do quickly, just hammer away at B, then run to behind the safe to pick up the Flight Plans and head back out the way you came. Any hallway K7 guards that weren't killed will be waiting for you on the way out, so forward run and fire to get through safely, or strafe by and blast them as you go to save additional time. If you were fast and called the lift earlier, close it behind you. Otherwise, it may just be closing as you arrive, depending on time loss and how safe you were.

The lift must go to the very bottom before it goes to your final destination. To close the doors just as they open, look above them and watch the brownish/orangeish wall texture slowly disappear from your view. Pause buffer until you cannot even see a sliver, and then press B. This will give you excellent door closes consistently, saving valuable time at no risk. I suggest riding the lift up and down a couple times to practice this. After it goes back up, simply run to the end.

PA Ending Example 1
PA Ending Example 2
PA Ending Example 3
Lift Door Setup Example

Untied Potential?

On Agent, all of the 1:13s are very good and don't really lose time anywhere. Even with perfect everything, I can't really see anything better than a mid or maybe a low 1:13. 1:12 isn't happening without some new strategy innovation, or a collection of small time savers.

On SA, Green's 1:41 is currently the only run that uses every modern strat, but isn't absolutely perfect. His ending decimal is .43, and Boss's pace to the building door is about .5 faster, so that alone is proof that 1:40 is possible. 1:41 is already considered to be a tier 4 WR, and 1:40 would definitely be at least tier 3, perhaps tier 2. I think it'll reasonably happen one day.

On PA, through the mess of getting a fast start and the chaos of the guard ending, surely lower is possible. Green's 2:02 is a bit more modern, and has a .48 decimal, which is pretty convincing that 2:01 isn't unfathomable. 2:00 would require extremely good OCJ and extremely good guard luck, and I'd imagine it would instantly be viewed as one of the strongest WRs in the game. There is also the hypothetical strat of warping through the lasers and running to the ladder at the bottom of the lift. This would save about 4 seconds, but given how badly damaged you'll be at this point, along with how difficult the warp is even with cheats on, it will most likely remain a TAS-only strategy.


I hope this provides you with more than enough details about everything in the level and answers all the basic questions you may have. As I suggested, you should definitely start on Agent to build your core understanding of the level, then play on SA to add in the next layer of difficulties, and finish with PA to challenge your mastery of Air Base. Study the level a lot, practice your lines, and analyze your runs for time loss.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please share! :v
« Last Edit: August 07, 2018, 11:51:24 am by Icy »


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Re: Air Base A/SA/PA Guide
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2018, 07:56:42 am »
Super sick write up as always Icy. I really like your guides mate. They are always very informative and nice to read