There’s been a good glut of multiplayer games about deception and I think it fits in with my inability to rely on my reflexes. These tests of intelligence really appeal to me and another one has landed at my door. Deceive Inc. is the latest online-only, class-based effort looking to emphasise espionage. Sweet Bandits Studios are in charge and have managed to deliver a paranoia-inducing approach to the genre.
The objective in a match of Deceive Inc. is to lower the defences of a vault and then plunder the place for lucrative loot. To do this, the match is split into three distinct parts. The insertion phase sees the players scour the map for potential vault locations. Half a dozen are usually labelled at the beginning of play so, whilst there is no confusion about where to go, not all locations will have a vault terminal in them. It’s a good way to keep players engaged and moving towards an objective.
Actions like hacking doors and terminals require intel which are obtained by scanning phones and laptops that are scattered throughout the level. They’re plentiful so there’s no risk of being caught short but the opening stages of a match tends to involve hunting for available intel. Intel can also be spent on cracking safes which contain passive upgrades like decreasing timers on regaining your cover.
Disguise is a big part of proceedings. You begin each map with a civilian cover but there’s quickly a hierarchy to scale. Access to staff rooms, guard rooms and so on require the appropriate attire. Disguises are relatively easy to come by but I find the intel-free access cards much harder to find. It can be fun to role play as an automaton but time can definitely feel tight as teams or individuals search for terminals. One the vault is open, the infiltration phase begins as players look to grab the main prize.
The extraction phase is when the game is at its most exciting. Whoever has the loot has their cover blown which allows enemy agents to easily spot them. The thieves need to find an extraction vehicle and make their escape. It can be frantic but, like the rest of proceedings, objectives are clearly marked. When playing solo, I felt very exposed when carrying the cargo out. In a free-for-all, the other players can descend upon your position so having an exit plan is crucial. When working in teams, there’s more bodies to use as a bodyguard and I see a lot of successful runs have involved pairing up.
Whilst there’s four classes to choose from, everyone seems very individual in terms of setup. Each one has a unique weapon, passive ability and expertise which they can pop when a meter is full. I do feel the classes are little diminished but some of them do share key distinctions. Trackers have abilities to follow targets, Vanguards seem to jack of all trades tuned towards survival. Disruptors and Scoundrels look to mess with opposing players with status effects.
I’ve yet to really find a favourite. I started with Squire for his ability to ping rooms for passes and other objects of interest. I found it helpful to get some early intel but he doesn’t seem capable in a firefight. There’s character progression which will improve your weaponry and abilities but the static nature of a match’s objectives mean everyone largely has the same job in mind.
For a guy who’s never had the greatest trigger finger, the undercover nature of Deceive Inc. fits right up my sleeve. I could never be sure of who was watching so any suspicious activities had to be kept discreet. Part of the fun is observing and trying to uncover enemy agents. It’s not as simple as looking for running NPCs as they break into jogs fairly frequently. Locations can feel fairly active with a lot of eyes on you. It can lead to genuine paranoia brewing.
When cover does get blown, no character feels like a truly capable shooters. Most of the weapons each class comes equipped with don’t have a high rate of fire. Snipers dish out high damage but I find agents need several shots to go down. I’ve struggled to down enemies and prefer just not to engage in firefights. Although taking opponents down can rule them out for the rest of the round. Even better, if they cry for a revive, they can act as unwitting traps. I feel this game works better in groups as experience is given out as a team. It makes levelling up a quicker loop whilst having the opportunity to cooperate.
There is a cheeky, bright visual treatment running all through Deceive Inc. There’s a lively charm to it that really hams up the sixties espionage motif to a high degree. There’s a handful of maps that are large, colourful and intricately designed. I could spend ages learning all these corridors and staircases and each location has a verticality to it. Objectives tend to take you everywhere so you can expect to cover plenty of ground.
It’s a vibrant, sharp looking game that maintains a light tone through the perky visuals and soundtrack. The sarcastic announcer keeps track of all the major goings on and, whilst her lines are quickly recycled, it’s enough to keep me engaged. You get more of her during the tutorial and each character has their own set of lines. I do wish the tutorial was available for all characters because they’re not all that talkative. It would also be nice to test out different abilities rather than having it focus on Squire.
I do think the concept could be expanded upon. With just the one mode to play with, the structure of a match can get old quick. There’s so much more you could do with a spy-based multiplayer game and I do wonder if they have new ideas in the pipeline. As it is, the execution is well considered but I’ve already felt the excitement start to wane.
Matches are fairly quick to churn through. It’s longer to get through the intended objectives but defeating the other agents in combat can give you victories by default. Whilst the compromised combat seems to discourage bullets, I’ve found more and more matches in teams reach this swifter conclusion. Solo efforts seem more focused on the job at hand. I’m disappointed in that but there’s always the tenseness in the air that a mission could go loud at any moment. That tenseness is what keeps me going and few multiplayer experiences can deliver that specific brand of fraught insecurity.
+ Offers a mix of tension and paranoia that is intoxicating.
+ Matches are quick and well structured.
+ Has a cheeky, fun presentation.
- Firefights can devolve into a shambles.
- The training mode only focuses on one character.
- Levelling up characters can feel like a grind.