Hyper Scape review: Hack me to death

Hyper Scape is Ubisoft's entry into the free-to-play battle royale space, but is this cyberspace last-man-standing a killer app or just shovelware?

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I’ve been through my share of battle royale games. From the humble beginnings of H1Z1 and PUBG, onto the innovations of Fortnite and Apex Legends, and up to the vast expanses of Verdansk in Call of Duty: Warzone, I’m pretty fond of the improvements that have been made with each new take in this series. But I feel equally as capable at this point of telling you whether or not something new is a meaningful take or just a shot at getting into a popular space. Hyper Scape has some good ideas. It plays with some unique toys and tries to make its own statement with them, but I feel that statement is so marred by imbalance that Hyper Scape is a full step backwards rather than anything innovative or good enough to pull me away from other games in the genre.

Ready Player Royale

Here’s the gist of Hyper Scape. In a future ruined by bad decisions, reality has become so miserable that a company called Prisma Dimensions has created a virtual reality called Neo Arcadia where things suck less. Everyone who’s anyone takes part in and enjoys a sport in the VR world known as Crown Rush. In regular battle royale fashion, Crown Rush is a last-player (or squad)-standing gauntlet in which parts of the Neo Arcadia city collapse in digitized ruin as players kill each other off to be the last solo player or group alive.

A number of interesting twists are present. For one, as everything comes down to the wire, you don’t have to simply be the last team standing. A crown spawns and if you or your squad can hold it for 45 seconds, you win. This is easier said than done depending on how you’re decked out. Speaking of which, the other major wrinkle is that in addition to normal weapons like rifles, shotguns, pistols, explosives, and such. There’s also equippable hack abilities that can give you special offensive or defensive capabilities. For instance, Invulnerability will give you temporary immunity to damage, but you can’t shoot while it’s active. Meanwhile, Teleport will let you blink short distances in the direction you’re looking instantly and a hack like Magnet will drop a unit which yanks opposing players close to it, limiting their mobility briefly.

If you can survive to the end of a Crown Rush match in Hyper Scape, a crown will spawn and you can win by keeping it for 45 seconds if all other players aren't eliminated first.
If you can survive to the end of a Crown Rush match in Hyper Scape, a crown will spawn and you can win by keeping it for 45 seconds if all other players aren't eliminated first.

Every piece of weapon and gear can be found in either crates or holographic stations throughout the map, and what’s more, you can power up each weapon and hack by finding copies of it. For hacks, it generally means shorter cooldowns for more frequent use. For weapons, this means increased magazine sizes and damage, and maxing weapons is just another strategy on the way to the finish line. The whole concept alongside the hyper cyber visuals gives the game a crisp tone and feel like the Ready Player One game it seems to want to be.

That said, it’s not so visually unique that it’s easy to tell where you are at times. There are major landmarks in Hyper Scape’s map. That said, unless you’re on a roof with a view of the landscape, the sameness of the non-unique structures feels so cut and paste that I found myself having to open the game’s map regularly to see where I was going. That's a forced decision with a real chance of getting caught and shot while trying to figure out where I am. Furthermore, it’s a problem exacerbated by the fact that Hyper Scape doesn’t feature a mini-map in its UI - a confounding decision given the presence of this standard feature in most other games.

Imbalance in all things

The Ball hack might look goofy as heck, but it's also one of the most efficient escape or engage tools in Hyper Scape.
The Ball hack might look goofy as heck, but it's also one of the most efficient escape or engage tools in Hyper Scape.

Interesting concepts are neat and all, but execution is where Hyper Scape altogether shows every blatant flaw. Mobility is extreme in this game. Regular movement speed is already fairly fast and jump pads that will launch you up over buildings to take the fight regularly between rooftops and ground level. Then you also have the aforementioned mobility hacks like Teleport that will warp you through the environment and a ground slide that will shoot you forward 10 yards in pretty much a second. It’s safe to say that if you run into opposition and don’t finish them nearly immediately, expect them to run. If you don’t have the hacks or mobile know how to chase them, you can also expect them to get away as the game’s auto regenerate on health brings them back to fighting form in seconds.

And that takes us to the number one glaring flaw of Hyper Scape. It has all of these tools and gadgets and, arguably, only a handful of them truly matter. Powered-up hacks like Ball (which turns you into a metallic bouncing ball to easily traverse the environment), Slam (which launches you high into the air before landing with a shockwave), Invisibility, and Teleport make even the most damaged opponent an uncertain victory. They can and will just activate any mix of these tools on a whim and try to leave the battle. The only counter to that is being able to follow them with the same tools. That means that while experimenting with things like Reveal, Heal, and Shockwave can be fun, they ultimately become useless in the face of other more versatile or utility hacks like mixes of the aforementioned ones.

And so it also becomes a matter where you need to kill your enemies very quickly to keep them from leaving, and there are a lot of weapons in Hyper Scape that, even when upgraded to their full potential, will not do that. Outside of the Mammoth shotgun, Ripper and Dragonfly rifles, Riot One pistol, and Hexfire gatling gun, every other weapon is just too weak or inefficient to do the job against anything but a player equally poorly equipped, which is not going to be the case even minutes into a match with how available gear is on Hyper Scape’s map.

Behold the supermassive chunk of metal and energy that is the Skybreaker and despair at how few skies you'll actually be breaking in Hyper Scape as it is now.
Behold the supermassive chunk of metal and energy that is the Skybreaker and despair at how few skies you'll actually be breaking in Hyper Scape as it is now.

Take the Skybreaker for instance, this massive heap of a so-called “cannon.” It’s a one-shot heavy weapon that fires a slowly traveling energy round (I’m pretty sure a slide is faster than the speed of Skybreaker’s projectile). You get one shot before a lengthy reload, and if you’re not upgraded it will take off about a third of a player health bar. That means you need about four Skybreaker shots to kill someone at its base level. At max upgrade? It gets closer to around 60% of a health bar. Let me say that again: max level, five Skybreaker drops worth of level. Simply put, you aren’t going to be breaking any skies before someone derezzes you with even a base level Ripper assault rifle or Mammoth shotgun. That is unless they feel like leaving, which is equally easy in the wake of the Skybreaker’s long reload time.

Ubisoft put so much effort into crafting mobility, these interesting hacks, and various weapons, but at the core, the balance of gear and movement is just so lopsided that I don’t know this can fixed reasonably with a single update or even several. One thing I will give it is that I barely noticed any bugs. Most of the time the game played as smooth as silk without any noticeable technical hiccups. The only real issue I saw is that I had a few matches where the game simply outright crashed without warning. I could not determine what the cause was anytime that it happened, but given all my other frustrations, I figured maybe Hyper Scape was just trying to lesson the pain inflicted upon me by playing Hyper Scape.

There are also microtransactions and a season pass available with a slew of the usual cosmetic rewards, and none of it affects the gameplay. So it really is free to play with some purchasable goodies if you like what you see, and that's fine.

Sack the planet

The attempts at innovation that Hyper Scape brings to the table are underwhelming when the execution is so frustratingly unbalanced.
The attempts at innovation that Hyper Scape brings to the table are underwhelming when the execution is so frustratingly unbalanced and stifling of experimentation.

There sure have been a lot of battle royale games to come out within the last few years, and I have to say, I’m not tired of them. I genuinely enjoy when a game can innovate meaningfully in this evermore cramped space. Hyper Scape brings a lot of concepts to the table that, in theory, I thought were interesting, but the execution… this ain’t it. There's just too much that stifles the fun between the sheer lopsided balance of gear and hacks, the mach-speed mobility and abilities that allow guilt-free exits from fights with ease, and the blandness of non-unique environments, just to name a few problems. All-in-all, there's a massive amount of work to be done here before I’d ever consider Hyper Scape a go-to over other options in the space.


This review is based on a free-to-play digital version of the game on PlayStation 4. Hyper Scape is currently free-to-play and available PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

Review for
Hyper Scape
4
Pros
  • Mostly bug-free, smooth gameplay
  • Strong mobility and verticality mechanics
  • Neat concepts of leveling up guns and abilities on the fly
  • Some hack pairings are quite fun
  • Microtransactions have no effect on gameplay
Cons
  • Gunplay & hit feedback feel horribly weak
  • Huge balancing issues in gear
  • No mini-map forces use of a vision-obscuring large map
  • Half the guns feel useless even at their best
  • Half the hacks feel useless even at their best
  • Far too easy to exit a fight at your leisure
  • Occasional game crashes
  • Skybreaker will break exactly zero skies
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