What do you get when you cross a game of social stealth with a hero shooter? That’s what Deceive Inc wants to find out, with developers Sweet Bandits Studios cooking up a retro-future of funkadelic spies and sassy villas competing for a single prize.
Each round of Deceive Inc kicks off with a simple setup: You’ve chosen your spy, now you’re dumped unceremoniously onto the map, already disguised, one of 12 players with the same objective: Get into a secret vault, get a golden briefcase, and get out.
Deceive Inc. Screenshots
In a recent hands-on session, I got a chance to check out an early build of Deceive Inc. What I found was a studio trying to make something we haven’t seen before—and doing a pretty good job at it.
In a round of Deceive Inc you can take one of several broad strategies to win: You can try to move through increasing levels of security quickly to get to the case first. You can focus on tracking down other spies and eliminating them. Or you can stay low, focus on arming yourself and getting upgrades, then try to snag the case in the final mad rush to escape.
Which you’re best at will depend on what your personal skills are and on what character you pick. There are generalists, like Squire, whose silenced pistol, item-finding, and speed bursts let him excel both in and out of combat. Then there are specialists, like Madame Xiu, whose kit is all about flitting about to find and mow down enemies with an automatic crossbow.
I took a liking to Cavaliere, whose dual automatic pistols were superb at ambushing enemies in tight spaces. Combine that with her ability to do kung-fu melee leaps and I felt safe in fights. The icing on the cake was her ability to trap an entire room’s electronics, letting you pick juicy places to set up fights.
Of course, you’ve got to combine the three main strategies to win. The trick with Deceive Inc is that you have to stay flexible throughout the round, which has three phases.
First, you infiltrate. In this phase you want to gather intel points from terminals, then spend them to unlock doors, find items, and hack the terminals that open the secret vault. This is the phase of sneaking, where the map is wide open and there’s loot to grab—like the moments after the drop in a Battle Royale. Too conspicuous and another agent will pick you off. Too sneaky and the good stuff will all be gone before you get to it.
Second, the vault doors open. Now you can sneak through escalating security zones towards the prize, but so is everyone else. Anyone who wants to try and get that briefcase is being pushed into a big funnel with the other players. Anyone who wants to wait outside can do so—the rest of the map is still accessible—but they risk being out of position for phase three: the escape.
Once someone claims the briefcase they’ve got to make it to an extraction point around the map. Problem is, if you run with the case your location gets pinged, constantly, to every other player. After making it to an extraction zone, then, you’ve got another problem: First calling the escape vehicle, then getting on it, all while every spy left on the map is closing in for the kill. It’s an absolute high stakes, chaotic bloodbath.
Through those phases Deceive Inc really shows off what it’s about. The gun combat and use of hero skills play really nicely with the stealth and gadget elements, forcing you to figure out how to combine your situation with the tools you have. Combat is dangerous but times to kill are pretty high. You can usually pull off a clever escape if you feel threatened, or change tactics to figure out a way to win.
It’s nice that getting your cover blown isn’t a death sentence. Not always, at least: Your cover is a shield, so that first hit knocking you out of it has reduced damage. The problem is when you mess up, shooting an NPC or having them blow your cover by going into a restricted area without the right color-coded disguise. That leaves you exposed and vulnerable if another spy is around to notice.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on Deceive Inc as its development progresses. For more stealth multiplayer goodness, click above for the trailer for Specter, a spiritual successor to Splinter Cell’s Spies vs. Mercenaries multiplayer mode.