In­vis­i­ble, Inc

EDGE - - PLAY - Klei En­ter­tain­ment PC (ver­sion tested), PS4 Out now (PC), TBA

What is it about break­ing rules that we find so be­guil­ing? What shard of the hu­man spirit is it that wants to plant two feet and stick the same num­ber of fin­gers up at the sys­tem? What­ever it is, clan­des­tine agency In­vis­i­ble, Inc has given in to the temp­ta­tion of­ten. Which is why, in the open­ing sec­onds of an in­can­des­cent cam­paign, the mega­corps that rule this noirish cy­ber­punk world join forces to erad­i­cate you from the face of the Earth.

Driven from your home with naught but a shut­tle, just two agents not ei­ther dead or cap­tured, and a fast­de­grad­ing but lu­di­crously po­tent AI called Incog­nita, you have 72 hours of backup power to find a way to keep her from frag­ment­ing com­pletely, at which point all hope is lost. That’s in-game hours; the whole cam­paign could take you as lit­tle as three in real time. It’s a breath­less start to a game that does noth­ing but es­ca­late un­til the nerve-shred­ding fi­nale, a hay­maker of a fin­isher that will floor you in one way or an­other.

The part in be­tween is all about rid­ing the crest of the dis­as­ter curve, and the thrill of trans­gres­sion. You are in con­trol of hacker-spies on the run, and the only way to stay ahead of the corps is to keep­ing do­ing what they do best: slip in through the back door, snatch what­ever you need, and make a break for it be­fore you at­tract too much at­ten­tion. Here that means turn-based sneak­ing across grid­ded fa­cil­i­ties in which you’ll find your­self con­sis­tently out­gunned – if an agent’s ex­posed and cornered, a sin­gle shot will take them down – hid­ing al­ways a cleaner op­tion than con­fronta­tion.

That im­plies In­vis­i­ble, Inc is a stealth game, but that’s only true in­so­far as it suits you to not be seen com­ing. You can play ag­gres­sively if you can bal­ance out the neg­a­tives, while pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated lev­els and evolv­ing threats elim­i­nate the path-watch­ing mem­ory tests and rote learn­ing hang-ups of that genre. It’s more a high-stakes heist sim­u­la­tor with no time for mal­ice afore­thought. Stealth’s just one tool in your roll bag.

But it will still take plenty of thought to keep your agents alive. Par­tially, that’s a ques­tion of tar­get pri­or­ity. Af­ter the oblig­a­tory first mis­sion yields a list of juicy sites to hit, you have to ex­am­ine the pings on the globe and weigh up the ben­e­fits of each po­ten­tial take. Is it worth ten hours in the air to spring some­one from a se­cre­tive hold­ing cell, hop­ing that it’s a fel­low Inc-ling? Or do you raid a nearby cy­ber­net­ics lab to in­stall a few body mods, and then crash the server farm next door to bol­ster Incog­nita’s sub­rou­tines in the same time frame? You’ll need money to pay for your black mar­ket toys, too, and to de­velop your agents’ very par­tic­u­lar skillsets. Seventy-two hours feels aw­fully tight when it slices down to just a hand­ful of mis­sions to get all that done.

Sterner tests await when you tele­port into each level. The corps may lack much in the way of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion and identity – one plush, Deco-fu­tur­is­tic of­fice here is much like any other – but they all jeal­ously guard their stuff. Pa­trolling guards and drones are ob­vi­ous lines of de­fence, but you face lay­ers of digital pro­tec­tion, too. And here’s where Incog­nita demon­strates why she’s worth sav­ing, a click al­low­ing you to see the world as she does: a ma­trix of se­cu­rity sub­sys­tems and the fire­walls that pro­tect them. At first, us­ing her is lit­tle more than a case of click­ing to hi­jack cam­eras or cut the power to in­frared grids, with noth­ing out of reach, but a lim­ited pool of power and the back­lashes that come as the threat level climbs soon man­date ju­di­cious hack­ing. Fire­walls rack up and dae­mons are in­stalled that pun­ish you for com­pro­mis­ing their sys­tems, stack­ing neg­a­tive ef­fects atop you un­less you can af­ford coun­ter­mea­sures of your own. And mis­sions of­ten force you to con­front your greed: you may want the con­tents of that safe, but can you af­ford not to hack a walk­ing gun plat­form and use it to head off the guard who’s com­ing to check up on the bug you tripped last turn, all be­cause you hadn’t left your­self the re­serves to deafen it? Fans of clear in­spi­ra­tion Netrun­ner will know the feel­ing well. With the dy­namic sys­tems of both the phys­i­cal and digital worlds to jug­gle, each feed­ing into the other, it’s not in­fre­quently that the thrill of tin­ker­ing with a Rube Gold­berg ma­chine of po­ten­tial dis­as­ter gives way to the hor­ror of the whole thing crash­ing down around your agents’ fe­do­ras and chrome cans. With their death a likely out­come of push­ing your luck too far, you’re granted a stock of turn rewinds, the lim­its tight­en­ing as you as­cend the dif­fi­culty tiers. With­out the safety net of Be­gin­ner mode, which is oth­er­wise no soppy tu­to­rial, mis­sion out­comes are fixed, how­ever, so un­dos be­come an­other lim­ited re­source to han­dle with care.

As be­fits a sys­tem of so many adeptly crafted lay­ers, In­vis­i­ble, Inc of­fers a bril­liant game of lock pick­ing, where each tum­bler has to re­ceive just the right amount of pres­sure to progress. But it as­sim­i­lates a lit­tle too much ma­chine to con­nect as suc­cess­fully on a hu­man level. De­spite the won­der­ful vibe im­bued by the ex­pres­sive art style and the dry tones of ma­tronly M-alike Cen­tral, agents are merely pawns that boil down to lit­tle more than a dossier photo and spe­cial abil­ity. Sim­i­larly, Klei hints at an in­trigu­ing world of clash­ing, dis­tinc­tive con­glom­er­ates, which is in­stantly un­der­cut when the level tiles feel like they’re all drawn from the same bag. That’s not to say In­vis­i­ble, Inc is bland; a game that al­lows you to de­liver a fi­nal quip in des­per­ate cir­cum­stances is not short on per­son­al­ity. Nor is it in­sub­stan­tial; this is rare case where the drive to keep ex­per­i­ment­ing means the gap be­tween fin­ish­ing one cam­paign and start­ing the next can be mea­sured in mi­crosec­onds. It’s just some­times too ob­vi­ous that it’s cold, emo­tion­less rules, not peo­ple, you’re flip­ping the Vs to from mo­ment to mo­ment.

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