Often times, the best multiplayer games are the ones where anything can go wrong. Even the best laid plans can fall apart in an instant. It either leads to a story of the glory that could have been or a rousing tale of how victory was achieved in the face of overwhelming odds. Deceive Inc., from Tripwire Presents (the Tripwire Interactive publishing branch) and Sweet Bandits Studios, is one of those games that has that element nailed down and is a blast to experience, just as long as you have friends at the ready.
Deceive Inc. immediately catches the eye with a funky 1970s atmosphere. Environments are colorful, NPCs look groovy, and the game's playable characters look like they stepped straight out of a spy film. Players can go into the free-for-all Solo mode or take part in three-person teams to complete a series of tactical objectives that ends with a successful extraction.
The premise is a unique one. Every agent is cleverly disguised as an NPC, making the idea to blend in as much as possible. That means behaving as an AI character would to ward off suspicion. Everyone starts off at a different part of an oversized map. While it's possible to try and go the whole match disguised as a civilian, getting to the objective requires a little more work. Players can disguise themselves as members of a facility's staff or as a guard, which will allow entry to restricted areas. This is particularly important, as blowing your cover will not only expose you to other players, it will draw fire from the NPC guards.
The object is to locate the Package hidden somewhere in a vault. Vaults are unlocked through Vault Terminals, though not every one necessarily leads to the right place. After picking up the Package, it's time to make a clean getaway at a nearby extraction point, though that's the point where a full-on fracas breaks out and players frantically fight to survive until time runs out.
The gameplay loop is an engaging one, as accessing many parts of the map requires intel caches. Intel is scattered throughout the map, though collecting it may sometimes clash with the idea of staying incognito. Intel can also be used to collect field upgrades inside safes, ammo, or health. All of this sounds straightforward and neatly organized, which makes it all the more fun when things go south.
Don't trust anybody
A game like Deceive Inc. is always fun in theory. However, something like that relies on an average, everyday user will often devolve into chaos. Even if you play your role perfectly and act like a mechanical NPC, there are going to be times when an opposing player will blindly shoot at you in an effort to get lucky. These are the game's more frustrating moments, because if another spy catches you from behind, they'll more often than not take you down before you can even take out your weapon.
I did have a few instances where an enemy player tried to take a shot at me and I successfully won the duel, which felt satisfying, but these scenarios often end with whoever shoots first standing tall. Worse, there isn't much consequence for blindly firing, because while you'll draw attention to yourself, the NPC guards are easy enough to outrun, allowing enough time to reapply your disguise. This is the type of game where players should only fire when they're absolutely sure they've nailed someone down and I don't think I got that vibe out of Deceive Inc. I felt like I got more random players who approached this as a standard shooter, which is something I feel wouldn't happen when playing with friends. Unfortunately, private friends-only lobbies aren't available just yet, but at least it's possible to team with buddies with cross-platform play.
With the main negative out of the way, the positive is that Deceive Inc. gets much better as it goes along. It's a game that rewards players for paying attention and exercising tactics, especially as they unlock new agents, gadgets, and abilities. The ability to disguise one's self as an inanimate object, specifically, is wonderful and leads to fun moments. Likewise, it's possible to get better by learning to read player behavior versus AI behavior and that's something I greatly appreciated over time. After ascertaining that AI players don't jump and using that to my advantage, I felt like I had become a better student of the game.
Of course, there's nothing like a gunfight during the extraction phase. This was another area where Deceive Inc. was at its best, where players would either frantically convene on an extraction point in a desperate effort to take down whoever had the package. I saw full-blown shootouts, I saw clever uses of gadgets (including more than one instance where Bounce Mats were used to dive at foes from above), and I saw cases where a disguised player was simply seated peacefully at a bench by an extraction point, only to stand up and start firing away at the unsuspecting escapee.
The spy who shot me
Deceive Inc. starts off frustrating, especially given that there are a lot of rules in place and even more mechanics at work. However, once the growing pains subside and the rules become more clear, it starts to become a lot more enjoyable. However, like other games of this type, it is at its best when there are groups of friends taking part and not just random people firing blindly.
There are a few other hiccups to be aware of with this game. I had occasional connection issues that saw me hang on loading screens or get booted from lobbies. I had more trouble with gamepad controls on PC. Remapping my gamepad controls to give myself control of my gadgets, which is a pivotal part of the game, is an issue in itself, but I also had several cases of my controls being outright unresponsive in either menus or the spectator screen.
Outside of some bugs, Deceive Inc. is a multiplayer game like few others right now and it's a refreshing change of pace from the usual deathmatch shooter. It's creative, both visually and conceptually, and something worth watching, because its best days may be ahead of it.
This review is based on a Steam digital code provided by the publisher. Deceive Inc. is available now on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox for $19.99 USD. The game is rated T.
- Creative concept with engaging gameplay loop
- Vast, colorful environments
- Strong agent variety
- Cool gadgets
- Gamepad controls are sometimes unresponsive
- Occasional server issues
- No private lobbies for friends