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Deception 4: Blood Ties review

Solid
AT A GLANCE
  • A wholly clever premise
  • Puzzles with an emphasis on experimentation
  • Comedy and horror in a perfect blend
  • Repetitive gameplay
  • Unfair enemies and infrequent checkpoints
  • Perverted humor can be a bit much

Take Home Alone, give the protagonist a slightly stronger relationship with The Devil, and you'll get Deception 4: Blood Ties. It's the unexpected revival of a Tecmo series with a premise so irresistible, it's a little surprising the last sequel sits nearly a decade away. Since the series' creaky 1996 beginnings, every take on Deception has felt like a more refined version of the same basic idea, and part four doesn't differ at all in this respect. Tecmo's desire to make Blood Ties about twice as long as it needed to be make some sections feel like a total slog, but the series' focus on lethal Rube Goldbergian puzzles remains undeniably addictive.

Blood Ties throws you into the role of Laegrinna, the very daughter of The Devil, whose frail humanoid form belies her true power: Setting up elaborate death traps to cut short the lives of anyone entering her domain. And while the basic act of luring enemies into bear traps, springboards, and swinging axes may seem simple at first, Deception 4 shines by constantly challenging players to make the best use of their arsenals in increasingly elaborate ways. Sure, you could always catapult that annoying soldier into a bed of spikes, but when you see that rickety chandelier dangling over his head, just try and resist figuring out how to make it come crashing down.

Blood Ties falls in line with later installments of the series by focusing not just on killing intruders, but doing so as part of a long (and creative) chain of mayhem and humiliation. The developers understand that it could be incredibly easy to fall into a rut of using the same traps over and over again, so Deception continually offers rewards for experimentation. Because stairs, columns, and other architectural features of a room shape your trap-placing potential, each section of Laegrinna's habitat presents a unique challenge that tests your versatility, especially when enemies start appearing with resistances to certain kinds of traps. And with each room offering its own pre-installed traps that take a bit of extra work to get right, Deception 4 gives players plenty of tools to figure out how to send an enemy flying from one end of the room to another via a 10-hit combo.

Deception 4 could be an incredibly frustrating game if enemies had the same amount of craftiness as the whisper-thin Laegrinna, but luckily, her opponents aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. Braindead enemies could easily be a downside in another genre, but Blood Ties isn't interested in quick action; instead, the emphasis is placed on building elaborate trap systems that work within the restrictions of their respective rooms. And when you're trying to see if you've finally stumbled into something that works, it'sa godsend to have not-so-bright test subjects so willing to walk across the same spot that nearly killed them minutes ago. The challenge--and satisfaction--isn't so much in the act of killing so much as it is the means of killing.

Keeping with the game's trend of encouraging players to experiment, Blood Ties offers a handful of environments, each with their own unique quirks and pre-installed traps. The game starts off in your standard spooky mansion, but Laegrinna and friends soon flee to a factory with a working sawmill and an abandoned amusement park where you can eject unfortunate opponents into the mouth of a giant clown. Unfortunately, towards the end of the game, Deception's desire to consistently present new wrinkles to the formula had me doing what the game initially seemed engineered to discourage--resorting to repetitive tactics in the pursuit of progression.

The game also works against itself when it comes to certain enemies that employ cheap tactics. About halfway through the game, enemies gain a number of offensive options, and while they aren't any smarter, their attacks sometimes stun Laegrinna. This often results in other enemies getting free, often unavoidable attacks on you. And considering Laegrinna can't take more than a few hits before keeling over, and death often means returning to a checkpoint that's 20 minutes in your wake, you'll tend to resort to a more conservative playstyle. In the latter 20 percent of the game, I stuck to some very basic, boring trap setups because the experimenting I did in the past often just resulted in very, very annoying deaths.

It's this reason Deception IV works best in Mission Mode, which offers 100 unique, bite-sized challenges that range from scoring a particular amount in a trap combo to using a predetermined assembly of traps to kill a stationary enemy. While in the main game, an experiment gone wrong can cost you up to half an hour of progress. In Mission Mode, it's much less of a time sink to finally try out everything you've unlocked from the campaign. And because money and experience from Mission Mode carry over into the story, it's always fun to play a handful of challenges after a chapter, if only to collect resources for some of the costlier traps in a much more relaxing atmosphere.

Even if you've never heard of Deception, there's no need to fear the "4" that follows its title; Blood Ties doesn't require any knowledge of the older games, and, if anything, it's the finest take on Tecmo's cult series to date--even if it doesn't quite stick the landing. Deception hasn't yet been able to shake out all of its flaws, but it's still an undeniably addictive experience unlike anything else you'll find on the Vita… or any other platform, for that matter.

More Info

Release date: Mar 25 2014 - PS3, PS Vita (US)
Available Platforms: PS3, PS Vita
Genre: Other Games/Compilations
Published by: TECMO KOEI
Developed by: Tecmo
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood, Suggestive Themes, Violence

Deception IV: Blood Ties continues the legacy of Tecmo's cult series, and feels like a full realization of the original premise. If you have the patience for its late-game flaws, there's never been a better time to cast your lot with The Devil.

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7 comments

  • Scoob - April 8, 2014 3:08 a.m.

    The same Bob Mackey from 1up? Or you been here a while? This is the first I've noticed you here anyway.
  • taokaka - April 8, 2014 1:58 a.m.

    I'll definitely pick this up somewhere down the line.
  • alex-roy-bristol - April 7, 2014 7:26 p.m.

    Is the game scary at all, or is it more a horror-themed game? It seems to be the latter, which is just fine, I'm just wondering
  • TheVoid - April 8, 2014 11:22 a.m.

    Not scary at all. Horror-themed, definitely, but otherwise (arguably) more of a comedy - albeit a VERY dark and twisted comedy. It's one part Looney Tunes, one part gothic horror splatter-fest. I mean, hell, it even allows for the classic "stepping on a rake" trap, which will stun you opponent just long enough to mow him or her down with any of the more sinister-minded traps at your disposal. Being a huge fan of the series since Deception 2 on PS1 (admittedly never played the original, which I understand was a bit of a departure from it's sequel and all that followed) I agree that this is one of the most under-appreciated franchises out there. Admittedly I had no idea this was even coming out until it was released, although I did buy it immediately upon learning of it. I just assumed Tecmo dumped the franchise (the last having been a single entry for PS2 that was rebranded as "Trapt"), which would be fair considering the 3 PS1 entries and 1 PS2 entry never claimed any notable critical or commercial success. The fact that the series had gone as far as it had was a shock in of itself. But with the very unexpected and pleasant surprise of Deception 4's release (apparently "Trapt" is being considered it's own thing despite it being a Deception sequel in every way other than it's actual name) I agree with Bob's assessment that this one is, to date, the best one hands down. It still clings feverishly to some of the series' biggest warts, but many of the refinements in this entry are LONG overdue and very much appreciated. As for whether it's a game for you, it really comes down to how much enjoyment you can get out of orchestrating complex trap combos that brutally murder your (in-game, of course) adversaries. To watch some hapless soldier chase you into a corner, only to find himself flung into a wall thanks to a hidden floor catapult, and then fired across the room compliments of the perfectly-placed wall trap (that by no coincidence anticipated the victim landing there, thanks again to said catapult) and ultimately finished by an Indy-style boulder dropping directly on his head, all thanks to your cunning trap layout, never gets old. And when it does, you just switch up the trap layout to try something else altogether. It has incredibly replayability in that regard. One thing I really like about IV is that your character - finally - is simply bad news, playing the role of "devil's daughter" to the hilt. Prior games would similarly expect you to hammer and detonate and slice your opponents to pieces, BUT the story was always about your character (always a defenseless girl, barring the whole "can lay lethal traps everywhere" bit) being innocent in some way, driven to these dastardly actions out of circumstance. Here you play as an icy, malevolent demoness - assisted by a gaggle of blood-thirsty witches, no less - which fits nicely with the series' core mechanics more than ever before. Before, setting up deliciously evil trap combos seemed to go against the grain of the character's motivations. Now, with a character in place that easily justifies the setting and actions taken, going full-brutal has never felt more encouraged. So basically, only those comfortable with letting their darker selves go nuts in a gaming environment need apply. Sure, one could say going bananas in any GTA game allows the same, but in those cases it seems a lot more reactionary. Here it's a lot more pre-meditated, which gives it a sinister quality I can't say I've seen elsewhere.
  • alex-roy-bristol - April 8, 2014 4:21 p.m.

    Hahah, sounds good to me! I'm playing Bulletstorm, Fallout3, and Dishonored right now, so my darker self isn't afraid to go nuts in a gaming environment, trust me ;D
  • TheVoid - April 9, 2014 9:01 p.m.

    Even though I wasn't a huge fan of it (and I realize I'm in the minority on this one), Bulletstorm probably has the most in common with Deception, at least among those you listed. Definitely loved the other two (Fallout and Dishonored), although oddly enough I played the "good guy" in both. I usually do in most games, actually, which is probably why the Deception series has been such a welcome outlet/guilty pleasure for me for quite some time now. It definitely forces me out of my "comfort zone" in that regard - there's just no way to put a "good" spin on what the game expects you to do (despite Tecmo's best efforts to do just that with previous installments' stories, which btw are completely unrelated and don't really factor into the gameplay much at all). But comparisons/overlaps aside Deception is really a one-of-a-kind experience, which in my book is worth a ton in this day and age of knockoffs and cash grabs. Amazed the Deception series has had the balls/tenacity to do what it's been doing for so long, amazed no one else has taken a stab at the formula (probably because most developers wouldn't dare "go there") and double-amazed the knee-jerk "games are violent" media outlets haven't caught wind of the series' premise. That's right morons, you keep looking at untouchables like GTA while the likes of Deception soar far overhead (or underground, more aptly)...
  • Kyo - April 7, 2014 6:28 p.m.

    "Perverted humor can be a bit much" I'm glad I don't believe in that. lol

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