Battle royale fatigue may be problem for Ubisoft's new game 'Hyper Scape'
It's no surprise that three years since the debut of "Fortnite" and "PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds," some studios still hope to lean into the popularity of the battle royale genre.
"Hyper Scape," a new free-to-play battle royale and first-person shooter from Ubisoft Montreal, takes place in a fictional world in 2054, when everyone can seamlessly plug into a metaverse. This virtual playground allows 100 players to battle in hopes of being the last one standing in a variety of game modes. "Hyper Scape" releases to PC first via open beta on July 12. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One access will come at a later, unspecified date.
For those wanting to jump in sooner, a closed technical test begins Thursday until July 7. Information on how to participate can be found on the official website.
To make the splash they're hoping for, Ubisoft has a lot to prove. The battle royale market is saturated, and many have expressed fatigue with the genre. That's why Ubisoft hopes to set itself apart with some unique elements, such as Twitch integration, and twists to respawn cycles and upgrading your arsenal.
The Washington Post had a chance to play the game for a couple hours. While navigation - sliding, jumping and being beamed up to reach higher vantage points - feels great, gunplay lacks satisfying impact when shooting and a singular map begins to feel stale after a number of matches.
When the game is streamed on Twitch, viewers can vote on limited-time in-game events. For example, a health event would spawn health zones in the world where players can regenerate, and an infinite ammo event for a period of time. Those holding a battle pass can progress and unlock rewards just by watching. If you want to enter the game, the streamer can invite you in directly from Twitch, queuing you up to join the next match.
"We wanted to create a game that was able to bring players and streamers together, and have them interact," creative director Jean-Christophe Guyot told The Washington Post.
It's a novel idea that helps bridge the gap between viewers and streamers, but in practice, it's gimmicky. The Washington Post had a chance to play a match where in-game events were spawned randomly (since the demo wasn't streamed on Twitch). Unfortunately, these events don't dramatically change the experience due to their short duration, and some were poorly explained (such as the "visibility event") leaving players confused.
Ubisoft confirmed the game has a single map called Neo-Arcadia, that "changes over time," especially around new seasons, Guyot said. Like most battle royale maps, the playable portion of the map shrinks, and if players find themselves in zones that are decaying, they'll take damage, so it's best to keep moving.
Like most battle royale games, the playing field is relatively even. Everyone begins with the same melee weapon, and looting is how you can customize your loadout with new abilities (called "hacks") and items. You can carry two weapons at a time, and two hacks (some of which include temporary invisibility and spawning an impenetrable wall that keeps enemies out for a duration). If you find duplicates, you can fuse your hacks or weapons to generate new upgrades that impact cooldown rate, magazine size and the amount of damage you inflict.
Finding loot takes careful exploration. Higher-end gear is found in "landmarks," which are often large, flashy buildings that come with more risk. It's fun to scout areas with teammates to find the best possible options while being wary of foes that could be lurking nearby.
"Hyper Scape" has two game modes in the technical test: Crown Rush Squad features teams of three and offers two routes to victory: Steal a crown, which spawns in the center of the map, and keep it in your team's possession for 45 seconds or eliminate all enemies on the map. The second mode, which will be available for a limited time, is called Dark Haze Solo. It features no teams - all players are left to themselves to battle one another - and must navigate the map with reduced visibility.
Two additional modes will launch with open beta: Hack Runner is focused on hacks and Turbo Mode is more fast-paced, with more powerful weapons and hacks.
When you die in "Hyper Scape," all is not lost. In death, you turn into an "echo," a holograph of your former self that lets you roam the map in a translucent form. You can't engage in combat, but you can ping items and areas of interest, as well as scout ahead to warn teammates of danger. If your squad manages to eliminate enemies, a restore point - an area that lets you respawn and return to the playing field - appears in their spot.
During the demo, it was difficult to judge how well this works, because of the limited amount of players. The map felt vacant, with only pockets of enemies.
The big question following my demo is whether Ubisoft is doing enough to stand out. So far, the answer is no. Much of the gameplay is standard fare for the battle royale genre, aside from a few twists that don't feel consequential enough. Time will tell when the game releases to the public this summer.The Washington Post