My favorite multiplayer game of 2023 so far is basically competitive Hitman

Woman holding sniper rifle in Deceive Inc.
(Image credit: Sweet Bandits Studios)

I knew I was going to like Deceive Inc when I lost a staredown with a janitor. There we were, standing six inches from each other, both disguised as staff at a hotel, both wondering if the other guy was an actual player or an NPC. I thought I'd seen him open a drawer earlier in a very spy-like way, and I was certain he'd noticed me running when I should've been walking.

Seconds that felt like minutes passed until I couldn't take it anymore. Screw it, if we're doing this I better at least take the first shot. I drew my revolver, lined up a headshot, and executed a completely innocent NPC. Oops. I nabbed the keycard I'd gone into the room for in the first place, disguised myself as the guy I just killed, and went on my way.

Deceive Inc (opens in new tab) is the most exciting and original multiplayer game of the year so far and I'm amazed more people aren't talking about it. I bought it last night on a whim after seeing its "very positive" Steam rating, fired it up, and then somehow five hours happened. I've played a lot of social deception games, but never one as elegantly designed or effortlessly fun as this one.

I'm getting pretty good at imitating the way that NPCs will sometimes walk into a corner and twitch in circles.

One of the best things Deceive Inc has going for it is that it's very much not a "find the killer" game like Among Us and the billion games that have copied Among Us. Deceive Inc is more like the old Assassin's Creed multiplayer modes, or a competitive version of Hitman. Around a dozen spies enter a map disguised in a sea of NPCs. Your job is to blend in, find intel, and steal a golden briefcase deep within the vault.

Those are the broad strokes, but the real meat of Deceive Inc is the spies themselves and the surprising ways their unique guns and gadgets clash. I've tried out six of the eight launch agents so far and I like them all so much that it's been hard to pick a favorite. I'm leaning toward Cavaliere, a detective brawler with dual pistols who can investigate hacked terminals and doors to reveal the spy who used them. That ability came in clutch when a Larcin popped his invisibility cloak to disengage from our fight—one scan later and I'd found him sitting on a park bench with a new face.

I'm really impressed with the range of possible playstyles I've stumbled into after only five hours. Every agent has a signature weapon, active ability, and passive ability each with three unlockable variations that I've just barely started exploring. Cavaliere's investigation, for instance, can be tweaked into a trap she sets on terminals to mark enemies who use them.

On top of all that, you also pick two secondary gadgets to bring along. I've been relying heavily on binoculars that let me remotely hack stuff without walking up to it (suspiciously), but I'm considering swapping it out for a device that lets me transform into any prop for high level hide-n-seek shenanigans. 

The guns and abilities have so much personality and flair too. A few other favorites:

  • Larcin's pistol which, instead of reloading, he throws at enemies for extra damage
  • Hans' golden arm that unfolds into a double-barrel shotgun
  • Cavaliere's pistols that she reloads by sliding them against each other like a John Wu protagonist
  • Chavez's holographic shield, which he activates by opening a locket with pictures of his daughters
  • The cartoonishly evil Madame XIU's automatic crossbow that'd be right at home in a '60s Bond movie

It's remarkable that developer Sweet Bandits Studios has managed to make a mechanic that barely exists in other social deception games—combat—into the most thrilling phase of Deceive Inc. Though none of it would come together if it weren't just as much fun pretending to be an NPC (opens in new tab). Deceive Inc's civilians are especially good at doing things that seem suspicious but actually aren't (hence the murdered janitor). My new project is trying to harness bugs for my benefit. I'm getting pretty good at imitating the way that NPCs will sometimes walk into a corner and twitch in circles. 

This might sound weird, but I also love that Deceive Inc costs money. It's a $20 game (opens in new tab) with no battle pass and, as far as I can tell, no grand plan to become a forever game. If Deceive Inc never gets another map or more agents, it will still have been worth it. What it does need, though, is private match functionality. Currently the only way to play with friends is to group up for the 12-player team mode, which is neat, but I want to hunt my friends in one big free-for-all.

If you like multiplayer stealth games, give this a shot. And if you just like cool shooters, also give this a shot.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.