The tech test for Ubisoft’s Hyper Scape, a battle royale FPS that borrows heavily from arena-style shooters like Unreal Tournament and Quake, has come and gone.
The game’s rumored for a public launch on July 12th–which would coincide with Ubisoft’s planned not-E3 event, Ubisoft Forward–which isn’t too far off now., but if you couldn’t get into the tech test before they shut the servers down, we’ve got you covered with our early impressions of the game below.
At least in the technical test, Hyper Scape doesn’t offer much in the way of a tutorial. The game drops you into a firing range similar to the one Apex Legends offers in which you can fire the game’s various weapons at dummies (the mannequin ones, not other players like yours truly) and experiment with its various abilities.
Hyper Scape takes an interesting approach to loot in that finding duplicates of weapons or abilities ranks your version of that weapon up into a more powerful one.
If you’ve got a sniper rifle, for example, and pick up another one, your rifle will upgrade itself (sometimes with a cool animation) into one that does more damage. The effect is cumulative, so if you combine two level 2 versions of the rifle, you’ll end up with a level 4 one, and so on.
Weapons aren’t the only loot you find in Hyper Scape, however. In-game abilities like invisibility, teleport, and one hilarious one that turns you into a giant chrome beach ball are procured on-site rather than being assigned to specific characters a la Apex Legends.
These abilities can be ranked up using the same system to reduce their cooldown or improve their duration. A rank 4 invisibility will last significantly longer than a rank 1 version, for example.
Hyper Scape also takes a unique approach to reviving your fallen comrades.
First off, the TTK and TTD of the game seem noticeably longer than in other battle royale shooters, and they’re definitely more analogous to arena shooters than they are to twitchier ones like Call of Duty.
Your health bar can withstand a good deal of damage before it hits 0, and it’ll regenerate gradually once you stop taking damage for a few seconds or if you find and use the heal ability.
Once your HP does deplete, however, you’re immediately transformed into a ghostlike version of your character–no awkward crawling animations or bleeding out.
As a ghost, you can run freely around the map, communicate to your surviving squadmates, and even ping enemies and weapons using the Apex-style context-sensitive communication system.
Hyper Scape’s map doesn’t feature any static spawn points. Instead, your squadmates can revive you at the corpses of your fallen enemies, which is equal parts horrific and hilarious and not nearly as graphic as I may have led you to believe.
It’s also my favorite innovation in the game because it means that if your squad wins a firefight, a revival is nearly immediate and doesn’t really incur any additional risk. It also means that you’re incentivized to continue engaging with opponents in order to open up new opportunities to resurrect your fallen team members.
The ghost mechanic itself, however, is a little less compelling. While you have free movement and can attempt to assist your surviving squad members by scouting ahead of them, your limited interaction with the game world (it’s not like you can actually fight anything as a ghost) means that you tend to over communicate, which is more a hindrance than support.
A new style of battle royale map
One of the most obvious differentiators for Hyper Scape from its peers is its urban map. Players can seek cover on the streets of the sprawling city, in the shadows of skyscrapers, or they can use a jump pad or an ability to launch themselves up to the rooftops to more quickly traverse the map.
It adds a welcome level of verticality to the game that feels fresh. It’s not wholly unique to Hyper Scape–Apex Legends and Fortnite both have their own takes on the concept–but it is a central design of the map and, presumably, the game.
I found that the urban streets left me feeling less exposed than I might out in the open of one of Apex’s maps, but it also left me unsure of the exact position of my enemies.
On the rooftops, Hyper Scape reminded me of one of Ubsioft’s other games: Assassin’s Creed. You’re removed from the chaos and the uncertainty of the streets below you somewhat, but you’re also more exposed.
The map shrinks in a unique way, too. Rather than a ring that forces players inward, bits and pieces of the map disappear over time, typically starting at the corners of the map and working its way inward.
If you happen to be in a part of the map that’s being taken out of bounds, you’ll notice your surroundings beginning to fade out into an effect reminiscent of the victims of “the snap” in the Avengers films.
Stick around too long, and you’ll start taking heavy damage.
During the technical test, I played a solo mode of the game called Dark Haze that was set on the same map but at night rather than in the day and with a thick brownish fog that obscured your view to within just a few meters in any direction.
Dark Haze actually lent the game a welcomed horror aesthetic and was good fun in its own right, but it also felt dramatically different from the standard game mode.
Really, more than anything, Dark Haze left me wanting an actual day-night cycle on the standard map.
One of the things I love about Apex Legends is its speed and mobility. Sliding down a hill and sprinting your way to a new location on the map feels good in that game.
Hyper Scape gives players even more mobility, though not as much as the Titanfall games that spawned (Respawned?) Apex, and that’s something that I’m generally all in favor of.
The sprint and slide are nearly identical to Apex, and Hyper Scape also allows players to double-jump without requiring any special abilities. Why don’t more of these games include a double-jump?
You can also clamber up ledges by holding the jump button or key as you collide with a wall. It works well enough, but I found the lack of a specific animation for the motion to be a little jarring: you just sort-of float up to the top of the ledge, and it actually feels too sensitive to me.
And despite an abundance of jump pads, I found myself stuck on the ground level more often than not, wishing I could just climb up the nearest skyscraper like Genji from Overwatch.
That said, there are some abilities that further augment your mobility. The beachball ability I mentioned earlier lets you bounce up to the rooftops easily enough; a teleport ability lets you blink forward or backward, Tracer-style; and another, slam, launches you high into the air where you can either rain shots down upon your enemies below or slam down with a shockwave on top of them.
Hyper Scape is not a hero shooter, but Ubisoft’s attempting a weird sort of middle ground between one and between the more Fortnite-style of player skins.
When you boot the game up, you’re prompted to choose an avatar, which can be changed at any time. These avatars come in the form of named characters, complete with unique voice lines and flavor text.
What those characters don’t possess, however, are unique kits or roles. There isn’t, say, a Lifeline, who’s more focused on supporting her team than on dishing out damage because all of your abilities are found throughout the map like weapons or gear (in other battle royale games; I don’t recall any gear in Hyper Scape).
It’s a compromise or maybe a hybrid that doesn’t quite work for me. Characters in hero shooters are as defined by their unique abilities as they are by their artistic design and dialogue or voiceover, and the absence of a unique kit for each character leaves them feeling rather soulless.
It doesn’t help that the character design itself doesn’t feel particularly inspired. Or that lip-synching hasn’t been implemented yet.
And while I appreciate that Hyper Scape is attempting to offer players a highly diverse cast of avatars to choose from, that’s really all they are: avatars, empty shells into which the player can project themselves. Oh, and bodies the player can decorate with skins they earn through the game’s battle pass.
Did I mention the tech test already had a battle pass mechanic implemented? Honestly, this is one area where I wish Hyper Scape had dared to innovate.
All of these design decisions mean that, at the end of the day, I didn’t particularly care about my avatar, and I found myself rolling my eyes at their voice lines and their emotes and their post-game poses.
That was doubly true for the flavor text and bios that pepper the character customization menu. Oh, so this one’s an artist? Can they do anything particularly artsy in-game? If not, then what’s the point?
Honestly, the game’s whole aesthetic, which borrows amply from films like Tron, left me a little underwhelmed aside from some incredible animations for things like gun transformations and reloading.
An experienced hindered by weak gunplay
With as much as I think Hyper Scape brings to the table, the most important aspect of the game feels the least polished to me.
I found that guns didn’t quite pack the punch I expected them to, especially at low levels, and they just don’t feel as unique or nice to actually fire as the weapons do in Apex Legends, Hyper Scape’s nearest relative.
Your projectiles move slower than you’d expect, for example, and connecting shots with an opponent isn’t anywhere near as satisfying as it should be. It doesn’t help that the game’s missing that delightful pop and crunch that you get when you break someone’s armor in Apex.
It’s not that the moment-to-moment gameplay is broken. It’s all serviceable. But it mars the overall experience.
After a few rounds of Hyper Scape, I found I was itching to simply play Apex Legends for a more satisfying battle royale experience.
In fact, after a couple of hours with Hyper Scape, I found it hard to convince my friend to keep queuing up with me. We ultimately switched over to Overwatch, which felt like the highlight of the night to me.
I think that’s telling, and I’m curious to see if other players agree with me once Hyper Scape launches, presumably early next week. If they do, Ubisoft’s going to have another upward climb on their hands, just like they did when Rainbow Six: Siege launched years ago.
They managed to turn that game around, but I have to wonder if they can do the same with Hyper Scape.