Hyper Scape Review | Fight for the Crown

It's no secret that battle royale games, even when free, can be very lucrative for publishers. This is a big part of why the market has been flooded with them from the uber-popular Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone to the more niche Realm Royale and Cusine Royale. Personally, even as a fan of classic FPS multiplayer, battle royale games have never grabbed my interest for long, I played Fortnite for about a month straight before I stopped, I played Warzone until I got my first win before uninstalling it, and I played Apex Legends just long enough to know I was awful at it. It is into this already congested space that Ubisoft Montreal's Hyper Scape releases. So let's see if Hyper Scape can secure a chicken dinner or if it's dead before deployment.

Hyper Scape takes place in the virtual city of Neo Arcadia and the setting, as shown in the game's opening cutscene, should feel familiar to fans of Ready Player One. The game takes place in 2054. A company named Prisma Dimensions releases a virtual reality headset called B-Link 2.0 that lets users access the Hyper Scape, essentially Internet 2.0. Crown Rush is a battle royale mode within that reality and in typical BR fashion, you can win by either fighting or hiding. As the match carries on sections of the map will "collapse" meaning no one can stay there without taking damage. Unlike the typical giant circle moving in from all directions, the collapsing sectors in the Hyper Scape are random and disappear in blocks. This means the showdown at the end will be in a building or a city block and not inside of an arbitrary circle in the middle of a field. Towards the end of each match, a gold crown spawns into the map and the last player who survives with the crown in their possession is the winner. Before we continue onto mechanics and gameplay, I do want to take a quick second to mention that the setup for Hyper Scape lends itself well to be a single-player RPG in the vein of Dishonored or Prey. I don't know if one is already in development but let this be my formal request for one.

In order for a new BR game to stand out in the crowd, it needs to have some sort of gameplay twist, like becoming a chicken upon death like in Realm Royale. For Hyper Scape that twist comes in the form of Hacks. Hacks are special loot items that can grant players abilities ranging from teleportation to invisibility to turning into a giant metal bouncy ball. At launch, the game has 10 hacks which do a great job of mixing up the gameplay without breaking the balance of the game. In my time in the Hyper Scape, no one hack trumped the rest, and the added level of tactical timing necessary means first to shoot isn't always the winner. Are you gonna put up a wall and give your team a chance to recover or use the Slam Hack to launch yourself up and get to a new vantage point? With two Hack slots available these are the sort of minute-by-minute decisions that make gunfights in Hyper Scape exciting.

Though that's not the only trick Hyper Scape has up its sleeve. Throughout a match, there are a number of events that can occur such as low gravity and triple jump that change the game for all players for a limited time. And if you have the pleasure of being in a match with someone that is streaming, the decision of what event comes next is made by the all-powerful Twitch chat. If you're playing Squads there is a revival system in place to bring back downed teammates, but in order to use it, the downed player has to go to an active revival point, which is dropped when a player gets killed. This is important for two reasons. The first is that going to a revival point forces players to go to a spot where there was action, adding in a risk-reward element. The second is that revived players will usually have loot nearby, due to the fact that another player died and dropped all their loot there, so they don't have to wander around weaponless.

When it comes to movement mechanics in battle royale games there are two extremes. One side is strictly boots on the ground, like Warzone, while the other is fast-paced parkour, like Apex: LegendsHyper Scape lands somewhere in the middle and that does take some getting used to. There were several times where I hopped towards a wall, expecting to start wall-running, only to plop down to the ground with a thud. On that note, I do want to mention that the game has no fall damage. The movement can be quite fun, running across the rooftops of Neo Arcadia chaining together double jumps and Hacks, as long as you don't come across any awkward street gaps that are just too wide to cross in two jumps. In these cases, the game will sometimes give the player a helping hand and auto grab a nearby ledge, but it can be disorienting to think that you're going to miss a jump only to magically make it at the last second. 

As for gunplay, each of the 11 guns in Season 1 is unique and controls well. While guns like the Ripper, a fully automatic assault rifle, are straight forward to use, weapons like the Skybreaker, a single-shot energy cannon, require more skill to be effective in combat. As you run and jump through the map you can also find duplicates of the same weapon and fuse them to power up. There are 4 levels of fusion and once it is reached the option to Overfuse becomes available. This makes picking up a new item a gamble and I speak from personal experience when I say nothing is more annoying than choosing one of two weapons and only coming across the one you left behind for the rest of the game. Fights in Hyper Scape can often be chaotic, with players using launch pads and Hacks to move all over the place, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed. If you're playing in squads it is essential that you stick together because taking on even two enemies alone can be disorienting. And if you're playing solo, don't be afraid to fall back to reorient yourself before continuing the fight. Wall, Teleport, Ball are all useful Hacks in these scenarios.

Both visually and audibly Hyper Scape commits to its Ready Player One-esque setting from the electronic beats pulsing as the pods are released onto the map to the shimmer of pixels when a player gets killed. Neo Arcadia has a nice level of polish to it and there were several times where it reminded me of the Paris in Assassin's Creed: Unity. Wearing headphones is crucial to survival in the Hyper Scape. The sound design is great and it's easy to pinpoint an enemy's location if you stand still and listen. I did mute the in-game music after a few days and started listening to my own selection of playlists and podcasts in its place but that's less because the music was bad and more because I wanted to control my own jams.

That isn't to say that the game cannot improve through seasonal updates. My main gripe at the moment is that the time to drop in the game is too long when compared to the damage output of the weapons. It's because of this that the Hexfire, a Gatling gun that's pretty accurate and has a crazy rate of fire, is the goto choice for a lot of players so far in Season 1. Also, the way that the revival system currently works makes it easy for a downed player to wander the map and shout out enemies to teammates that are still alive giving them an upper hand in encounters. Limiting a downed player's travel radius from players that are alive, forcing them to not venture too far, could be an easy fix for this and one may be in use already but if so that limitation is far too intent. Another minor complaint I have is that the player character, Aditya "Adi" Khan in my case, talks way too much. Every weapon pick-up or Hack exchange is met with some sort of quip and it gets old fast.

I just want to make a short addendum here to mention that the game just received its first major update which added a new mode called Faction Wars. This mode splits the 100 players into 4 teams and the last team standing wins. I've only dipped my toes into this game mode but I will certainly be playing it some more. Apart from the fact that I find this game mode fun, I'm also bringing it up because some of the trophies and achievements in the game, mainly the ones pertaining to getting wins, will be easier in Faction Wars because the 1% chance you normally have of winning goes up to 25%. And those are odds I can get behind. If this is just the first addition to the game, I look forward to what comes next.

As it stands now Hyper Scape is a fun new battle royale backed with the polish of the AAA team at Ubisoft Montreal. The familiar FPS gameplay is enhanced with the game's use of Hacks and timed events and the city of Neo Arcadia is a great playground for the action. Having the game be free will certainly get players in the door, but how the developers support the game through subsequent seasons will determine if those players stay or not. And that is something we'll just have to wait and see.

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