Ubisoft launched Hyper Scape on Thursday, an all-new free-to-play royal battle shooter (BR) from the Montreal-based team behind Rainbow Six Siege who will seek to carve out their own niche in a highly competitive genre.
Hyper Scape is, as first verified by leaks earlier this week, a much more futuristic-styled BR game set in a sprawling urban city, a departure from the usual barren landscapes and apocalyptic settings used by many of its current competitors. It is also a whole lot quicker and more unpredictable than could be used to by most players.
Last week, I had to play an early “technical test” version of the game on a PC for about three hours. I was paired up with two others in a random group, and we were allowed to queue as many times as we wanted with other testers, streamers and Ubisoft players during our demo session.
I will tell you now, to get it out of the way, that Hyper Scape is really fun. The game, a first-person shooter and not a third-person shooter, is highly polished and provides some real innovations that are not seen on the market in any other BR game. For example, the final circle of any game transformations from a kill-or-be-killed contest to a game of capturing the flag, where teams either try to outshoot their opponents or hold them onto the coveted crown for 45 seconds.
Nevertheless, the big question will be whether this falls victim to the growing BR fatigue of the gaming community. The hero shooter Crucible of Amazon Game Studios, which had its own BR mode, fell flat one month after launch, but Ubisoft is much more developed and has a much better track record. However, when it releases later this year, Hyper Scape will have to show that it is original and funnier enough than what is out there today to pull off players who have poured hundreds of hours into games like Apex Legends and Fortnite.
Another complicating factor is the recent uproar Ubisoft has created of allegations of sexual assault by high-ranking executives. The organization has vowed to fix the problems and fully rethink its internal culture, but this makes it a especially busy time for the publisher to launch a brand-new property.
Unlike other royals in war, this one actually has a story aura. Set in the near future, Prisma Dimensions, the fictional development company, operates a futuristic, metaverse-style virtual universe similar to OASIS in Ready Player One. It is called the Hyper Scape, and it features a professional sport called the Crown Rush, where competitors in cyberspace materialize and battle each other for a chance to win. (Ubisoft also released a nice fake Prisma DImensions website after the game leaked earlier this week.) It is not exactly top-level narrative world-building, but it is something at least.
I know what you would think: “No, please, not another royal battle.” That is completely fair. The industry has poured tons of money and teams of game designers over the past three years into producing last-person video games, leaving behind a graveyard of abandoned early access indie ventures and half-hearted cash grabs from major studios. Ubisoft claims that it has been developing this game for about two years now, indicating that the catalyst was Fortnite’s early success.
Some BR games today are giant, profitable, and legitimately fun experiences, such as Call of Duty: Warzone, while others are quiet, popular, and laser-focused on the fundamentals of Respawn’s Apex Legends, and PUBG Mobile. Fortnite, primarily responsible for setting off the battle royale phenomenon along with the PC version of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, continues to experiment and evolve on what kind of game it can really become.
And now the Hyper Scape of Ubisoft’s. It has all the elements expected; this includes a shrinking circle to accommodate battle in tighter quarters and lobbies of up to 100 players all competing for a coveted finish in the first place. But I think Ubisoft has come up with some really exciting innovations here that distinguish Hyper Scape, and I am pretty confident the game will find an audience, if not pull some fans away from the more frenetic BR titles like Apex Legends and Warzone.
The main strengths of the game are its innovative fighting pace and in-game features, as well as the improvements that Ubisoft makes to the BR formula. Like other battle royals and hero shooters, there is no scarcity of weapons or mod systems, no special powers of heroes or ultimate attacks, and no consumable pieces of health or armour.
Instead, any Hyper Scape player can use any weapon and upgrade it to its full capacity by figuring out other variations in the world. You can then combine the two together with the tap of a button to create a more powerful weapon. The same applies to skills: Instead of depending on unique characteristics of character, anyone can find such skills as loot and carry up to two at a time. These include a healing power, one that allows you to pull up a covering wall and one that encloses your character in a protective sphere that allows you to bounce off to safety.
The intense level of mobility is what helps to reel in the messiness of these wars. There is no fall risk at Hyper Scape and every rooftop can be traversed. You do have a fast slide and double jump at your fingertips, so that you can fly at blinding speed in the air or whiz around inside buildings. Nearly every street corner or wide open space has circles of light that propel you up into the air to help you travel from the ground to the rooftops with comfort.
Unlike everything I have played before, the outcome of all these combining systems is a kind of BR battle. It has the drawn-out, skill-focused feel of an Overwatch match with the pace and just unadulterated zaniness of the best fights in Apex Legends and Warzone. On top of that, you are practically spending half the match flying through the air. Playing in ways that few BR games can still do today is exhilarating and I think a lot of players used to anything slower would feel novel.
Hyper Scape brings some fascinating concepts to the table about the improvements to the BR format. You are not knocked out, when you die. There are no systems which are down and revive. Instead, you are some sort of battlefield specter. You can move around and watch what is going on just like you are alive, but only your team members can see you and you can not fire a weapon.
Your goal, in that state, is to find a respawning point that you can use for your currently living teammates. These points are located randomly in the map or in the bodies of the opponents who have perished. You can queue up for a respawn while there, but your partner has to come and enable the process, risking their own life in the process. It seems to be intended to keep players involved in matches even though they early lose their first or second battle.
When the circle comes to a close, players will not witness as you would imagine a hurricane or mustard gas. The universe is beginning to become translucent, instead. Buildings become see-through until you can actually run through the walls and eventually, over time, begin to take damage. The advantage there is that it is easy to get back into the safe zone without having to deal with obstructing objects, but the downside is that it is also easy to see enemies and for them to see you when you try to get in.
The game turns the flag contest into a catch when the final circle is locked, with the titular object in Crown Rush falling down from the sky and showing up on the screen. You win if you keep it for 45 seconds so every other team will see where you are on the map. Hyper Scape is almost a different game in my experience playing this portion of a match, which requires a high degree of performance strategy.
Ubisoft, too, is planning some interesting streaming ideas for Hyper Scape. The developer is working on a Twitch integration that will allow viewers to decide on short-term random map events such as low gravity and unlimited ammo. The same integration would also allow streamers to immediately queue up at the touch of a button for matches with viewers.
Just for a few hours, it is obvious from playing the game that a whole lot of thought and effort has gone into making Hyper Scape something more than a late-in-the-day attempt to cash in on a phenomenon. How quickly it expands will be the greatest sign of its success; Apex Legends is obviously Ubisoft’s main competitor here, and that game has expanded to tens of millions of players within a single week. Ubisoft is focusing smartly not only on the computer market but also on the console one.
So the components are there — it all relies on whether players are willing to give an ever-declining amount of their attention to yet another free-to-play game. Yet right now it seems as if it is worth Hyper Scape.
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