Adapting to this new way of navigating a battle royale space happened pretty quickly during my hands-on with Hyper Scape. Like with Assassin’s Creed, there’s good use of visual design to direct your attention to spaces that can be used or entered. All ‘windows’ and ‘doors’ are actually opaque sheets of bright orange glass, which call your attention to a new area to duck or dive into. They also indicate where people have been; no orange means danger inside at worst, or all the good loot has gone at best.
Ah yes, the loot. It’s the staple of the battle royale genre, and yet it’s boiled down to just the bare essentials in Hyper Scape. There is no inventory, no weapon mods, and no armour system. You simply have two weapon slots alongside two ability slots for ‘hacks’. You see, Neo Arcadia isn’t a real city; it’s a VR metropolis located on the internet, used as an escape from a dystopian IRL. Yup, the fiction is straight out of Ready Player One, and that allows for a little bending of the rules when it comes to special abilities.
While I say that, the current build doesn’t bend the rules as far as I’d like. Most of the hacks, which are picked up from the ground just like weapons, are established ideas from other battle royales given an in-universe make-over. Wall, for instance, throws up a brick barrier to break sightlines, akin to Fortnite’s building. Heal and Armour do what they say on the tin, made special only by the absence of health and shield pick-ups on the map. These are not tools that make me feel like I’m breaking the Matrix.
One of the hacks does offer some promise that Hyper Scape may have more interesting ideas to come, though. It’s called Ball and it… well… transforms you into a ball. A giant, bouncing sphere that can leap over buildings like a chrome version of the Rover from cult sci-fi TV show The Prisoner. It makes escaping – be that from overwhelming engagements or from the edge of the shrinking playzone – quick and entertaining, and I hope as Hyper Scape grows and evolves it embraces more of that madness.
And that goes for weapons, too; while sporting a collection of assault rifles and shotguns, Hyper Scape also has an energy cannon that feels pulled from Unreal Tournament, a rotary mini-gun last seen on the set of Predator, and a plasma blast rifle from Halo’s cutting room floor. I hope that, as the game evolves, more of these kinds of weapons appear. There’s already a taste of Unreal to the combat with its jumping and launch pads, but I think introducing a flak cannon with bouncing projectiles would really add a special spice.
Hyper Scape screenshots
Furthering the quest for simplicity, instead of a series of modification upgrades like scopes and silencers, Hyper Scape simply upgrades your weapons and hacks if you find another copy of it in the world. For example, if you’re using the Ripper assault rifle, each subsequent pick-up of another Ripper increases its magazine size. For the Protocol V sniper rifle, each new ‘fusion’ gradually builds the damage to a one-shot-kill.
This creates an interesting progression arc that rewards long-term attachment to weapons, as ditching a gun or hack for something new means resetting your progression. It’s in direct opposition to Warzone’s rarity tiers, which continually offers cooler, better equipped guns, or Apex Legend’s modifications that freely transfer between guns of the same category.
As such, any change in tactic requires sacrificing a benefit; if you’re forced from the rooftops to the street by the playzone and need to exchange your sniper rifle for a shotgun, you have to throw away progression. The speed of Hyper Scape feels designed to encourage quickly pivoting tactics as circumstances change, and so during the hands-on I found myself often using base-tier weapons, which felt frustrating. Hopefully the ever-changing nature of battle royales means Hyper Scape finds an answer to this problem.
Another decision that I’m interested to see play out is Hyper Scape’s approach to death. When you succumb, instead of being forced to spectate you actually remain on the map as a ghost. You can run around freely with the remaining members of your three-player squad, although you can’t interact with the world. To resurrect, you need to find a restore point, which is generated on the spot where players die. Handily, you’re not limited to using points generated by kills your squad has achieved, so if you find an area where a battle has broken out there’s usually plenty of restore points to choose from. Simply step on, get an alive team mate to activate it, and you’re dropped back into the fight once more, albeit with nothing more than your melee baton starting weapon.
The system means more than there being no true downtime, though; dead players can act as scouts. As a ghost, you can run ahead and ping incoming enemies, allowing team mates to successfully ambush. Yes, they’ll be a player down, but intelligence is a vital tool. Only time will tell if a squadmate being able to warn of advance danger is as OP as it sounds.
As with other battle royale games, you win Hyper Scape by surviving to the final safe zone of the map. But rather than a shrinking circle, the map actually disintegrates in sections. There are nine districts, and each will randomly begin to ‘decay’. Buildings begin to lose triangle-shaped patches of their textures, and gradually the entire area turns black. Then the map begins to collapse; buildings are erased from beneath your feet as you sprint for safer zones. It’s a much more interesting idea than a shrinking circle, and the decay effects make it clear just how long you can stay in the sector.
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When forced into the final zone, Hyper Scape plays around with the traditional battle royale finale. Yes, killing everyone else left alive bags you a win as the genre’s tradition dictates, but there’s another way of claiming victory. A crown is spawned in the final area, and a team who can grab and hold onto it for 45 seconds is named the victor, even if everyone else remains alive. Getting the crown encourages you to make the most of Hyper Scape’s double-jump-heavy vertical routes as you flee from everyone else, rather than try and zero in for the final kill.
Everything I’ve described so far happens inside the game, but Hyper Scape has ambitions beyond the boundaries of its own software. Ubisoft has partnered with Twitch to add tools so that viewers can interact with streamed matches of Hyper Scape. For example, mid-match events – such as temporarily giving everyone unlimited ammunition or reducing the gravity – can be voted on by Twitch viewers. Streamers who want to take an extra step to bond with their community can also activate a squad join feature, allowing viewers to play with them at the click of a button. While these features will benefit only a portion of Hyper Scape’s potential fanbase, they’re arguably its most interesting ideas, and ones that I can see transcending the game and finding their way into other multiplayer offerings.
For those features to have true worth, though, Hyper Scape needs to resonate reasonably well with both the player and spectator audiences. If it has the muscle to climb that mountain – one already dominated by Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Call of Duty: Warzone – remains to be seen. Out of all its rivals, Hyper Scape is the game that puts immediate fun at the centre of the experience, and there’s nothing quite like its rooftop leaps and launch-pad assaults in the genre. But the tense 1v1s of Warzone’s gulag, the frantic builds of Fortnite’s final circle, and the engaging personalities of Apex’s characters already have their hooks in deep. Hyper Scape may need to reveal another killer feature or two before it can guarantee itself a spot on the battle royale podium.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer. You can find him in Verdansk, Kings Canyon, and maybe Neo Arcadia this summer.