Hyper Scape introduces fresh mechanics to help make it stand out in a crowded space, but is it enough?
Ubisoft has entered the battle royale arena with the official reveal and technical test for Hyper Scape, and I know what you're probably thinking: another battle royale? In recent years we've seen so many come and go, with a handful that've stuck around with healthy player bases and ongoing support. It can be hard to imagine space for another one, but to its credit, Hyper Scape--which Ubisoft has been cooking up for two years--is trying plenty of new things to make it stand out.
I was able to spend about three hours playing Hyper Scape alongside many other media folks prior to the game's announcement, experiencing full matches and coming to grips with the unique mechanics. And for all that it's doing differently--the revive system, scouting as a dead player, the oddball-style endgame, and overall pacing--it's clear that Hyper Scape is leaning heavily into faster, more aggressive play.
In the heat of combat, I'm reminded of playing an arena shooter. My skill sets from the days of Unreal Tournament and Quake came through, because weapons like the Komodo rocket launcher, Salvo grenade launcher, and Skybreaker shock rifle aren't deadly one-hit shots. Instead, you're predicting movement patterns for splash damage and landing multiple hits before enemies are taken down. With everyone double jumping, launching off of jump pads, and hopping across rooftops, the action of Hyper Scape isn't necessarily about pulling up on unsuspecting opponents but beating them in high-flying head-to-head shootouts.
That said, weapon feedback might be one of the weaker aspects of the game. While the weapons function just fine, they don't feel or sound like they pack much punch or have a distinct impact. Standard weapons like the assault rifle, sniper, and shotgun will take several hits to knock an enemy out, which is understandable for the game's style, but firing them seems like wielding a peashooter. And when the primary verb of an FPS is to shoot, this shortcoming will certainly be at the forefront.
The arena shooter-style dance of Hyper Scape takes place on a map called Neo Arcadia, which is designed as a whole city. You'll be scouring multilayered buildings and streets for loot and hopping around as you engage in combat. There seems to always be an alley or window to escape through when things get tough, leading to cat-and-mouse types of fights as well. What's unique about the map is that it's made up of specific districts, so instead of a circle closing in over time, distinct chunks are closed off as the match progresses. This ensures that players aren't forced into awkward positions by an indiscriminate danger zone, which lets the map design stay intact as intended.
Where this design philosophy sort of gets lost is in its art style. The sci-fi aesthetic and theme of being a virtualized battlefield works well, but so far, the stylings have made aspects of the game harder to identify. The map uses an urban setting and relies on mostly similar buildings--the lack of distinguishable landmarks became noticeable when I struggled to accurately call out enemy positions or tell my squad where I was retreating to in order to post up away from danger. This extends to identifying loot, which resembles blue-tinted digitized icons that can be hard to decipher--and in heated situations, gearing up becomes more of a chore than it should be.
The loot system itself is much more streamlined than what you might be used to. There isn't a color-coded tier system for gear or attachments to fiddle with; you simply find an assortment of weapons and abilities (called Hacks) across the map. You can then upgrade them in-match by looting duplicates of the gear you have equipped, which can be done up to four times. Doing so will slightly increase magazine capacity and damage output for guns or shorten the cooldown timers for abilities. In practice, you'll scavenge for the gear you prefer and then keep an eye out for duplicates--this both simplifies the loot grind while also encouraging you to still be mindful of what's around you.
Hacks are what would typically be hero powers, but you'll outfit yourself with whatever you can find during a match. These range from a teleporting dash or temporary invisibility to proximity mines or an area-of-effect heal. A more outlandish option is the Hack that transforms you into a super bouncy ball, which can come in clutch for reaching high-up places fast or getting out of dodge. For my style of play, I found that pairing invisibility with teleportation to be most effective for surprising enemies in combat while also being useful for escaping losing situations. Regardless of which abilities you prefer, Hacks offer a much needed strategic element to the wild, fast-paced firefights in Hyper Scape.
The fast pacing also applies to matches as a whole. Each one I played had about 20 to 25 squads of three, so upward of 60 players. And matches lasted around 15 minutes if I made it to the final phases. If you find battle royales to be drawn out and aren't fond of the suspenseful aspect of the genre, Hyper Scape might be more in-tune for you.
And even when you die, there's a reason to stick around. Rather than twiddling your thumbs waiting for a revive or spectating active teammates, you become an invisible entity who can still move around the map. You can't attack or use abilities, but you can scout for enemies, ping locations, and even watch unsuspecting opponents up close to help your surviving squadmates fight. Respawning is still possible, too. When enemies die, they drop restore points on their location, which act as platforms that let dead players be revived by active teammates. So, to respawn a teammate, you better get a kill (or swoop in on other dead enemy locations). These are crucial strategic elements that Hyper Scape introduces to encourage aggressive play but also keep you invested up until victory or defeat.
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Another key element to Hyper Scape is how it handles the endgame phase of a match. When the map shrinks to its smallest form with a few squads left, a crown will spawn. You can pick up the crown and win the match if you hold onto it for 45 seconds. However, your location is revealed to all remaining players. It's an exciting feature that ups the intensity of a battle royale's final moments. Instead of taking pot shots from secure locations or hiding out until the last second, the crown encourages players to get aggressive, again.
My overall takeaway is that Hyper Scape is going for a faster style of battle royale, not just in match length, but in the moment-to-moment gameplay. It also layers on some interesting elements not seen among the competition to round out its arena shooter-style approach, even if it currently comes up short in some regards. It's fair if you're burnt out on the genre as a whole, but if you're up for trying a new battle royale, it'll be worth giving Hyper Scape a shot.
Keep in mind that Hyper Scape is in its infancy and currently only in a technical test phase. It'll be a free-to-play game, and will have a free and premium battle pass, cosmetics to earn or buy, and progression mechanics to flesh out once it's fully released. Ubisoft has indicated that since this is a live service game, more content is planned for the future like new weapons and Hacks, game modes beyond solos and trios in 100-player matches, and bits of story to liven up its world. For now, the tech test is running until July 7 on PC through Uplay. To gain access, you need to watch Twitch streams for the chance to get a key through Twitch drops. There's no official word on a broader beta phase or full launch date yet.