DECEIVE INC. Preview – Deceptively fun stealth game shenanigans

Deceive Inc. Header

The core concept of DECEIVE INC. is deliciously compelling: get in, sneak and hack your way to the objective, grab and then manage to make your way back out with the goods. Along the way, you’ll be racing to the goal against other spies, all vying for the same goal.

Throwing a bit of Late Stage Capitalism into the mix, you and all of your rival spies are actually all employed by Deceive Inc., the private corporation having a total monopoly on the espionage market and choosing to flood a target with spies, all scrapping and competing instead of working together.

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With so many spies running around the place, it could feel impossible to get anything done covertly, were it not for the Cover system. No, this doesn’t have you hunkering down behind low walls and parapets, but is rather a holographic camouflage device that lets you assume the appearance of any NPC you’re able to get close enough to. This lends you the ability to blend in and enter restricted areas for staff, guards and scientists, like a simplified version of the disguises from the Hitman series, but also plays a key role in keeping your activity disguised from your rivals.

You see, as you explore the level, you’ll have several key tasks to complete. One of these is simply interacting with items in the world to gather intel. This intel can then be used as a generic resource to unlock doorways to restricted areas, open safes to grab character boosts, heal at health stations, and so on. All of this is inherently suspicious, so it helps that the NPCs in the world are about as gormless and unflappable as they come, happily meandering around and walking up to things. Still, the movements of a player within a game and those of an NPC are inherently different, especially if you’re trying to constantly look around to take in your surroundings. The Cover, therefore, will always face in the direction that you’re moving, even if you’re strafing, back-pedalling, or wildly spinning on the spot. The only things that will break it are taking damage or firing your weapon.

It’s an excellent twist that allows for enough uncertainty to fill the mind of a new player, while advanced players will learn how to imitate the NPCs as fully as possible.

Deceive Inc. Kill

There’s two experiences in the game, and the dynamics between solo and team play are completely different. As a team, you’ll want to loosely stick together, work toward certain objectives, keep watch at certain chokepoints while your buddy is hacking, and strategise your way through the level. As a solo player, you’re far more isolated, inherently suspicious of your surroundings, but also a potentially more easily overlooked target.

For a first time player, it can be pretty overwhelming. You’ve got a whole map layout to try and figure out, the fundamentals of spycraft, and the constant wariness of your surroundings. There’s also learning how to use your tools of the trade. Each of the spy characters comes with a signature weapon, from pistols to sniper rifles and even slingshots, but there’s also a variety of gadgets to pick for your loadout, which can include an inflatable cube, tripwires, turrets and more.

In the end, I took the well-worn approach of goal-hanging. Once the main objective has been snagged, it will regularly ping its location, highlighting to everyone where the culprit is and suggesting the exfiltration point they’re heading to. And once they get there, they have to wait while their getaway vehicle drives or flies in to pick them (or anyone) up. I saw some great tactics in play, like using the inflatable cube to fling would-be escapees away from the car, as well as some cunning distraction techniques in team-play.

Deceive Inc. Sniper

My win, though? Well, that came down too simply hanging around near the exfiltration point with my character’s sniper rifle searching for someone trying to make their escape. A tense sniper battle later – they were playing the same character, and the sniper is balanced so it will take a few shots to down an enemy – and I managed to take them down, grab the loot as the last player left alive, and saunter over to the car to win.

There’s a deceptively good game behind Deceive Inc’s somewhat familiar exterior. The graphical stylings won’t excite this side of Team Fortress 2 and Fortnite, but the structure or the game and its blend of stealth, action, social deduction and being able to spoil someone else’s victory lap at the last moment all add up to something that could be pretty special.

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