Ready Player None
Like any big gaming trend, there are inevitably winners and losers of the ensuing shuffle for dominance. There can only be a select few that can claim that winning throne. Right now Hyper Scape is nowhere near that level. With Fortnite, Fall Guys and Call Of Duty all muscling in on the battle royale action, Ubisoft’s vertically inclined late-comer to the market had quite the mountain to climb. Despite attempting to double jump, slide and hack its way to the top, Hyper Scape ultimately ends up lost in its own mediocrity.
The gameplay is particularly unbalanced (more on that later) and there’s a distinct emphasis on flight rather that fight making gunplay segments few and far between. Because of this, a lot of the time you’ll find yourself hopping between locales and the muted aesthetic fails to stand out.
While there are a few distinct landmarks on the map, the dominant yellow and blue primary colour palette mixes with dull greys to make a lot of the areas look very similar. If you showed me a picture of the Food Court and then the exterior of the surrounding area of Helios, I’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference.
This extends beyond the in-game aesthetic to the main hub and uninspired menus too. Unsurprisingly, this borrows heavily from Fortnite with particular emphasis on buying coins to unlock cosmetics or different weapon designs. 1000 coins will net you £8 while 2500 coins can be obtained for £19.99. Translated into in-game items, a different character model can be purchased for 1300 coins and cosmetics range from 500 up to around 900. This is where that virtual currency stings you because £7 for a splash of paint across a gun is incredibly steep.
Of course, given this is a free-to-play game, it’s inevitable that the micro-transactions play a part. Unlike Fall Guys where you can earn in-game currency naturally, Hyper Scape doesn’t have that option. At least, in the time I’ve been playing this all weekend I didn’t seem to find that included. There are, of course, different “tiers” you can level up to and this does naturally add more cosmetic items. However, it’s also telling that every time you do level up, the main hub constantly encourages you to head back to the marketplace again.
Beyond the egregious monetization, Hyper Scape weaves a narrative through its battle royale construct that sees you dropped into the futuristic world of Neo-Arcadia. It’s 2054 and you, along with numerous other hopeful gamers, are dropped into the virtual world to become one of the very best. Bolstering out the lore are various memory shards hidden around the environment which, when collected, can be played back at your convenience.
At the time of typing, only two are actually available in the map. Another is on the way in 20 hours’ time while some of the later memories are held back for upwards of 30+ days. Whether you’ll stick around that long or not remains to be seen.
The game is split into two distinct modes – team and solo. Solo is your traditional battle royale experience that sees you dropped from above the map in a space pod along with 99 other players. When you land, various crates are dotted around holding goodies while virtual holo-pads include weapons and hacks.
Hacks are an interesting inclusion and generally give you a defensive edge in battle. These range from turning into a metal ball and bouncing around to teleporting a short distance and burst-healing. They’re easy to pull off, pressing L1 and R1 respectfully (given two can be equipped), while weapons can be switched with triangle.
Interestingly, Hyper Scape features the ability to upgrade your weapons and hacks over time. Finding compatible weapon upgrades in crates and holo-pads will allow you to increase ammo, reload speed and recoil. By comparison, hack upgrades allow your defensive buffs to last longer or improve cool-down times. This really encourages you not to camp in one place and to get out and explore different areas.
Of course, in true battle royale fashion that’s easier said than done. The map slowly starts to shrink down just like in other battle royales, but these come in the form of collapsing districts. They’re random too and oftentimes three or four will collapse at once forcing you to constantly move around.
Visually it’s very similar to Assassin’s Creed: Unity during the collapse segments and a voice-over informs you every time another collapse is imminent. Only, the bizarre omission of a mini-map in the UI forces you to check your map to make sure you’re safe.
This decision then ultimately feeds into the gameplay too, as you have to strategically juggle checking the map with everything else around you. That’s not all either. Hyper Scape’s vertically-inspired slant to its combat includes double jumps, bounce pads and a whole array of goodies designed to increase the mayhem. Using the bounce pads though can be incredibly detrimental.
As players spy you flying through the air (and vice versa) it immediately gives away your position and players will swarm on your location. Sliding is hilariously quick too, and a lot of the success I had in the game was from spamming circle to slide and then jumping, repeating this motion while picking off players and hoping for the best.
Given the emphasis on defensive hacks and speed, fighting can be difficult when you’re on the offensive and getting a kill even harder. You may get lucky in a large stretch of road but given the aforementioned hacks include a variety of ways to make a hasty retreat, you’ll need to be relentless in your pursuit to get that all-important elimination. This feat is made even harder by your health constantly regenerating which – when used correctly with the hacks – can bring things to a real stalemate.
This is only further exacerbated by the various different “events” the game throws in, including an extra jump, health kits and more. These are a nice spin on a tried and tested formula but feel far too gimmicky and give little incentive to deviate from the mission at hand. In fact, in the case of the health kits it actually exacerbates a lot of the problems with combat. It’s an interesting idea in theory but one that’s not executed that well.
The other mode comes in the form of team-based eliminations which Hyper Scape claims is its favourable mode. This sees you paired up with two other players as you duel it out in 3 on 3 fights. When you die here though you’re granted a second chance. If you manage to make it to various different pads dotted across the environment, your teammates can bring you back to life.
It’s a really nice idea and gives you that second chance (or more) in games. Then again, it also feeds back into those unbalanced issues with stale-mate gameplay. Unless you’re super aggressive with your play-style, it’s difficult to pick off players and be strategic with combat.
It’s worth remembering though that this is only season 1 and there’s plenty of time to iron out these issues. Unless Ubisoft decide to pull the plug early of course. The loading screens are problematic and the gameplay definitely needs some tweaking. The guns are generally pretty good but given the emphasis on speed, SMGs and other fast-firing guns are generally going to be the more favourable ones to use.
Hyper Scape ultimately falls within that realm of forgettable mediocrity; a mid-level battle royale player that never quite hits the top 20 spot but isn’t the first one eliminated either. Next to Fortnite, Fall Guys and Call Of Duty, Hyper Scape is unlikely to step out their shadow any time soon. Whether it can stick it out for the long haul remains to be seen but based on this showing, there’s just not enough in Hyper Scape to tear you away from better Battle Royale entries.
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Verdict - 4.5/10