Online multiplayer games tend to encourage arsehole moves. In a competitive format, the only goal is to win – even if that means turning on your friends, or betraying long-held morals. But in Deceive Inc., victory isn’t so simple. In fact, being the arsehole is a sure way to tank any romps towards hard-won glory.
This multiplayer extraction game is inspired by classic spy movies. You are an operative armed with a variety of gadgets and weapons attempting to infiltrate one of four colourful locales: Silver Reef, Hard Sell, Diamond Spire, and Fragrant Shore (with more maps likely added as the game’s seasonal content launches). In each, a secure vault hides a brilliant reward – but to nab this, you’ll need to unlock three Vault Terminals scattered around a map (or wait until your fellow operatives nab them for you), steal the prize, and then escape with your life.
After multiple hours and rounds of Deceive Inc. in solo mode – where you go it alone against 11 other players, though you can also play in three-person teams against three other teams – this is a goal that still feels very far out of reach, as victory is easy to slip out of your hands. But the equally frustrating and rewarding push towards success spices up every redo, as the game’s coveted prizes, which reward you with new gear unlocks, in-game currency, and cosmetics, get closer.
Deceive Inc. encourages a more tactical multiplayer strategy, with a gameplay loop that cleverly encourages deception and subterfuge over outright maiming or that aforementioned ‘arsehole’ behaviour.
Three phases determine the pace of the action, with players loading into each map at random – a gorgeous sunset villa, an underwater mall, a high-flying hotel, and a port city in the Caribbean – disguised as a random civilian.
These disguises are your primary defence, as you wander lobby halls and haciendas looking to investigate the location of each map’s Vault Terminals, which appear as points of interest. While some are red herrings and lead to immediate busts, every world must be explored – as you need helpful tools by your side as you infiltrate and analyse your surroundings.
To get through some locked doors, you’ll need to find key cards or intel, which are scattered at random throughout each map. The challenge here is to do it surreptitiously – because if you’re spotted ‘out of character’ doing something an ordinary civilian wouldn’t do, you risk being spotted by enemy agents, who litter the field around you.
In a good game of Deceive Inc. you’ll never spot your fellow spies. They blend in with the crowds of civilians littered along each map, walking at a slow pace to appear ordinary, and only seeking intel in cloistered spots with little visibility (a toilet, for example). If you’re spotted, expect chaos – as anything unusual may attract damage or death. Think cartoon Hitman, but with a tad less realism.
Hit a spy, and their disguise will break, leaving them exposed to guards. Get hit, and prepare to run. While you can usually get away in moments of strife, the need to recover your disguise (or leg it from enemy spies) adds multiple layers of tension to your every move – as well as a disincentive to simply fire wildly, and hope for the best.
Killing enemy spies is certainly a tactic you can pursue – but this will, in all likelihood, lock you out from achieving the game’s main goal. Any attack runs the risk of failing spectacularly, as gunplay has a floaty feel that makes shooting accurately, particularly in a panic, difficult – and not every spy is suited to close-quarters combat.
Ace, for example, is a sniper specialist. If you get too close, there’s a zero chance you’ll survive an encounter with an enemy spy. Chavez is a much better option in that regard, as he has access to a pistol and an invulnerability power-up – but we went with Cavalière for solo gameplay, because she has access to powerful twin handguns with bite.
In close quarters, these weapons proved extremely useful, and allowed some quick thinking when enemy spies broke cover or began acting strangely enough to come under suspicion.
It’s in this cover-based, subterfuge-focussed system where Deceive Inc. shines brightest. While the neat twist of having an extraction-based goal effectively reduces the temptation of shooting first and asking questions later, the added layer of needing to ‘act’ normal ratchets up the pressure of each round.
It means you’re constantly wandering, following the tide of people, analysing what you can get away with, and what moves will be spotted from afar. At the same time, you’re monitoring movement, and trying to determine who is most likely to leap from shadows and attack.
If you run towards a highlighted point on the map, or linger too long over an intel computer, or appear in a high-visibility location, you run the risk of being killed and denied your prize. Plan your approach and stay patient, and you’ll find yourself with a real stake in the fight, as more terminals are unlocked, and the rush for the vault begins.
Your efforts can be thwarted at every stage of the journey – usually by keen-eyed opponents, and frequently in the final, desperate rush to extract yourself – but with each round feeling quick and snappy, you’re constantly encouraged to jump in again, to try new tactics, to unlock new enemy agents, and eventually deploy a winning play that brings you all the way from infiltration to final extraction, prize money in tow.
It helps that game servers are currently well-populated with keen spies, and that typical wait times for rounds are only 60-90 seconds – meaning you can jump in whenever you like, and always find a match easily (although, it’s important to note maintaining this enthusiasm will require significant game upkeep by developer Sweet Bandits Studios, and new content to keep players interested).
In Deceive Inc., the real, compelling draw of gameplay is in experimentation, discovery, and working out exactly how to escape using every trick in the book – whether that’s disguising yourself as a plant (a worthy tactic in the Hard Sell map), deploying invulnerability at the right moment, or hiding as a civilian until just the right moment.
Your path is littered with obstacles along the way, but the engaging trickery of each round in Deceive Inc. makes any victory you do achieve feel uproarious and triumphant. When you finally win, you know it’s well earned – and then you jump in again, and again, in chase of that satisfying thrill.
The game has a strong future ahead if it can maintain this excitement, and its devotion to cool gadgets, clever gameplay, and stylish, creative maps.
Deceive Inc. is now available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.