It should have been a quick in and out. Every Deceive Inc. mission promises the spy fantasy: there’s something locked away in a vault that has to be retrieved, and you’re the covert operative to hack terminals, pull it from the vault and get it to the extraction.
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There’s a catch. You’re not the only secret agent that’s been sent to retrieve the briefcase and in this multiplayer stealth smackdown you’ll fight against other teams or a horde of solo players with the knowledge that only one of you can extract with the package and win.
It’s one of the few multiplayer stealth games that genuinely works and it’s mostly due to the fact you’ll spend most of the game disguised as an NPC, with some thoughtful changes: looking around, aiming a gun or interacting with objects are hidden beneath your disguise, meaning you appear to be a normal NPC as long as you’re vaguely careful. NPC enemies and other players alike won’t be able to see through the disguise.
This means you can experiment – something that Spy Party and even the stellar Assassin’s Creed multiplayer offerings both had was that their social stealth involved making sure you mechanically played like an NPC. Here, you’re free to walk around, aim at people and try to get a sense of your surroundings safe in the knowledge that your cover will show you as an NPC that is looking in the direction you’re moving, and not giving you away.
Like any good spy outing, Deceive Inc. also packs plenty of innovative gadgets. The most eye catching is a scanner that will let you replicate most of the objects on the map and then pretend to be them – which led to a bizarre moment midway through a running firefight when a toilet charged into the fray and headed for an extract. For my money though, I prefer the inflatable crash mat, which you can use to trampoline up to higher levels, but you can also throw it down and inflate it rapidly to toss enemies skywards, or even block a passage from gunfire.
There is no respawn in solo matches – with scores of spies clashing together – meaning that an early death could relegate you to a long period as a spectator. In teams, you often get a solo respawn. As a result, engaging and disengaging in tense fights seems to be the name of the game. Rounds are usually around 10 minutes long, and the stealthy facade falls away slowly as each round progresses to a chaotic ending, often with the last person standing claiming the prize.
There are several spies in the game, each of which uses a unique weapon and has their own mechanics. One spy might be able to steal items from another if he’s undetected, while another might be best suited to sitting on a roof with a sniper rifle, covering the external areas and waiting for a moment.
Throw all of these elements together: the gadgets, the spies, the gunplay, the solid stealth mechanics…before you know it you have a big multiplayer stew packed full of anecdote. At one stage, a tense one on one firefight turned into the lobby scene from The Matrix as more and more nearby NPCs joined the fray, revealing they were player controlled agents. In another, I managed to toss down an inflatable crash mat at the extract car, inflating and deflating it to push enemies away from a winning exit and back into the scrappy fight below. Hell, did I mention at one stage I nearly had a firefight with a toilet?
I can’t think of many negatives: this is the sort of game that makes me wish I had more friends and already feels like it could comfortable sit in the pantheon of all-time greats like Garry’s Mod mode Trouble in Terrorist Town or Innersloth‘s Among Us, but my main concern is whether the game will be popular enough to find its audience. I hope it does, because the two hours of this hands on was some of my favourite in multiplayer gaming in recent memory.