Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
I don’t envy any developer who is trying to create a new battle royale game. If you’re going against heavy hitters like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Call of Duty: Warzone, you better bring something new to the table, a game that expands the genre in some way or is at least different enough to pull players away from the competition.
Ubisoft Montreal is hoping its free-to-play battle royale Hyper Scape will check all those boxes. Hyper Scape takes place in Neo Arcadia, a futuristic city awash in neon lighting and slick, glass-covered buildings. If it looks too good to be true, that’s because it is: Within the lore of the game, the Hyper Scape is a metaverse, a place you can only visit through virtual reality. According to the intro cinematic, the real world of 2054 is a bleak place, so people like to escape by fighting each other in this virtual playground.
Neo Arcadia is a fun setting (reminding me a lot of the film Ready Player One), and I was interested in spending more time in this universe. But a few nagging issues immediately dampened any enthusiasm I had for the game.
Super Battle Royale
Like other battle royale shooters, Hyper Scape has a ton of players (up to 99, but sometimes less) descending into a large map to scrounge for weapons and supplies. The last person or team left standing wins; alternatively, you can also win by holding onto a crown that appears near the end of a match. So far, nothing too unusual, right? But where Hyper Scape differs from the genre’s conventions -- and why it has a lot of potential -- is in the moment-to-moment gameplay.
First, there’s the sheer speed of the game. Your character moves at a quick pace, and you can cover huge distances with just a few jumps or scale buildings in a matter of seconds. Neo Arcadia is also filled with Hacks, temporary power-ups that can be found within the city. Some Hacks, like the straightforward Teleport, help you cover more ground, while others provide new offensive or defensive options. Certain Hacks have multiple uses. For example, you can use Shockwave to damage enemies and knock them away, or use it while looking down at your feet to launch yourself into the air.
Then there’s the handy fusion system. Instead of passing by and ignoring a gun or Hack you already have, you can simply fuse them into your existing loadout by holding down a button. By fusing together multiple copies of your equipment, you’re essentially upgrading them. For weapons, that means an increase in both clip size and damage. And fusing together Hacks greatly decreases their cooldown timers.
Between the Hacks, fusion, and parkour-like movement, it sometimes felt like I was playing a superhero game. Battles were incredibly chaotic, but in a good way. It wasn’t uncommon for firefights to start off in the streets, but then end up in a totally different place -- sometimes on a rooftop or even a different part of the city -- because of how fast everyone was moving.
The stealthy strategies I picked up from Warzone and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds were useless here. That was my favorite part of Hyper Scape: being forced to adapt to this new, electric style of battle royale.
But with new features come new drawbacks, and one of my biggest gripes is how Hyper Scape handles deaths. When you die in the game, you’re not out of the action: You still control an Echo, or ghost form, of your avatar. While you can’t use weapons or Hacks, you can still keep up with everyone, and use the ping system to highlight equipment or identify hostile players for surviving teammates. Your allies can bring you back to life via Restore Points, small platforms that appear when enemies die.
If you’re playing with friends, you can easily communicate about which Restore Point to use. But prepare to run into some trouble if you're matchmaking with strangers. For whatever reason, some people just don’t want to revive you. There were situations where I clearly pinged a Restore Point on the map, accessed it (you have to be inside the point for teammates to revive you), and patiently waited for someone to get me. And half the time, no one came. I’d jump to another Restore Point to repeat the process and … still nothing.
The worst is if you die early on, and you’re forced to run around as an Echo for the rest of the match because your teammates keep ignoring your calls for help. That gets boring real fast. You can just quit the match at that point, but I usually stuck around to help my team and, perhaps foolishly, hoped they would return the favor.
The problem is Hyper Scape doesn’t offer a lot of incentive for reviving. Maybe players would be more willing to do it if they got a big experience boost, or just a random gun or Hack. But something about it needs to change.
A Glitch in the Matrix
As much as I like the flow of Hyper Scape’s combat, it does fail in one crucial area (at least in the console version): aiming. The default sensitivity on the right analog stick is way too high, which makes the camera move erratically, even if you’re just slightly pushing on the stick. Tweaking the vertical and horizontal sensitivity options in the settings helped a little bit, but the aiming still felt wonky.
Just to give you an idea of how frustrating that is: I can count on two hands the total number of kills I’ve had after playing dozens of matches. I’m not the best FPS player out there, but I’m pretty sure I’m not that bad, either.
I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. Multiple people in the Hyper Scape Reddit community have also been complaining about how hard it is to aim with a controller (both on PS4 and Xbox One). According to Reddit comments from a Ubisoft representative, the developer is looking into the matter. But currently, it feels as if Hyper Scape is optimized more for mouse and keyboard than it is for a controller.
That’s why, despite appreciating what Hyper Scape adds to the genre, I don’t recommend playing it on consoles just yet. There are some cool ideas in here, and I’m excited to see how far Ubisoft Montreal will go when it comes to telling stories within this world (the game already has a few “narrative collectibles” hidden in the map). But it’s simply not worth playing until the aiming issue is addressed.