Having played a couple of Fire Hazard games before and thoroughly enjoyed them, when friends recommended Undercover to me it was just a question of when I could fit it into my schedule. From the vague whisperings I’d heard, and based on the website, I was prepared for a couple of hours of honing my spycraft against a bunch of unknown adversaries.
In contrast to other games from Fire Hazard, the participants didn’t all start together here, which was quite a different dynamic. In fact, there was relatively little in the way of introductions. We were given a place and an approximate time to meet our handler. When we arrived, she briefed us and sent us out into the local area for our final exam, with only a few checks that we had a vague idea of what we were doing.
If you’ve played Citydash, you may be expecting this to be a similar thing but with spy-related tasks and, to some extent, you’d be right, but there’s much more variety and structure to Undercover. Firstly, at any one time you’re engaged in a specific mission with a set time period and, secondly, the type of mission you’re undertaking is constantly changing.
Probably the most important distinction, though, is the directly adversarial nature of the game: you’re up against your fellow players. Sometimes you’ll be spying on them, trying to steal intelligence that they’re dropping off for someone. At other times you’ll be trying to drop off your information but convincing them to pick up a decoy. It’s amazing how suspicious you become of every person you encounter in the area. Is that person leaning against the street corner really making a phone call? They look like tourists, but is it a clever disguise?
When you’re not vying against other spies, you’re interacting with some of the non-player characters (who I’ll refer to as NPCs from here-on-in). You might be meeting them in a public place to exchange information, or they might give you a secret message to decode. Each interaction is a bit different, so it never gets repetitive.
On top of all that, you’re also trying to avoid being spotted by some of the NPCs in the game, so you should avoid making it obvious what you’re up to or risk forfeiting points. It’s not quite as adrenaline-pumping as avoiding the City Dash guards, because you’re not so conspicuous, but it’s still a nice touch on top of an already complex and interesting game.
Then, to cap it all off, the roles are reversed and it’s your job to track down the NPCs around the area, making use of existing knowledge if you’re lucky enough to have it, or knowledge of landmarks that you’ve gathered along the way, before heading back to HQ for the debrief.
After a slow start, we got going through the middle of the game and blitzed through the end to take third place. The winners looked to be experts and were more than a thousand points ahead of the rest of the players (who were all sub-2000).
This was a huge amount of fun and the two hours passed by ridiculously fast. When asked at the end what I’d have liked to see more of, my simple answer was “everything”. I could have played this game for several hours with ease. Just as I was start to get the hang of each activity, it was time to move on to the next. So much variety in a two-hour game was really impressive – at least six separate mini-games and then variations on top of some of those made this a fantastic event to take part in. If you haven’t already, then I’d highly recommend signing yourself up!