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Ready Player 99
In Ubisoft Montreal’s new sci-fi battle royale Hyper Scape, the world has become overpopulated and everyone is turning to video games for an escape. For some reason, this is being described as a dystopia?
The year is 2054 and a lack of space, poor living conditions and excessive poverty has driven humanity to create a new, more idyllic haven for themselves, inside the internet-a-like Hyper Scape. Players gather in the billions to visit virtual city Neo Arcadia, and to do battle in the e-sport Crown Rush. It is essentially the entire plot of Ready Player One, and as soon as that trailer concludes you can forget the entire thing.
Hyper Scape (the real one, rather than the in-fiction one) is a battle royale taking its gameplay inspirations heavily from Fortnite and Apex Legends. The story is disregarded once the game begins in favor of frenetic, high-thrills parkour action and lightning fast gunplay.
If you have played any battle royale game in the past, the opening sequences will be familiar. Join a game lobby, goof around for a few minutes whilst everyone spawns in, then 99 players drop-pod over an island to a destination vaguely of their own choosing. Games are played in squads of three (either auto-matched by queueing solo or a pre-made team of three friends), and the last squad surviving is crowned the winner.
You begin with only a weak melee attack to your name, but around the levels are scattered a glut of weapons and items for you to equip. And that is where the similarities end and the differences start to become apparent. If you’re sick of battle royales by now, this is the point where you tune back in.
Hack to the Future
Unlike EA’s Apex Legends, Hyper Scape has no classes or characters. Weapons are found at random, and include the usual assortment of pistols, shotguns, rocket launchers and sniper rifles. However, Hyper Scape also has power-up abilities known as “hacks”, which can be found around maps just like weapons. Players can hold two hacks at any one time, swapping them out at will. These provide a surprisingly wide range of tactical opportunities during gun fights. Invisibility is always handy in a pinch, allowing you to get some much-needed distance when the numbers aren’t in your favor. This is especially true in Hyper Scape, where any kind of running or jumping leaves an obvious red trail that enemies can spot from across the city.
Other utility hacks enable escapes, such as the Teleport which works as an instant dash forwards, or Wall which puts up a huge physical barrier that enemies cannot penetrate. Ball puts you literally inside an armored bouncy ball that can bound over buildings in a single leap, whilst Heal provides some team health regeneration on the fly.
Not all of the hacks are for escaping though. The Shockwave and Slam abilities are great at dealing area of effect damage to opponents, whilst Mine lays down an explosive for unsuspecting foes. The Reveal hack highlights targets in the local area — a particular favorite of would-be snipers looking to get those headshots with the Protocol V rifle.
Hyper Scape is fast. There’s no getting around that simple fact. Apex Legends introduced a quicker paced style of gun play to battle royales, including knee slides. Hyper Scape looks at that like Neo staring at gun men in The Matrix, catching Apex’s bullets in the air and dropping them to the floor whilst delivering a flying spinning back kick to Fortnite’s face. The gameplay of Hyper Scape feels closer to Quake Champions than to any of its battle royale brethren. It’s exhilarating and intimidating all at once. Knee slides are joined by a blisteringly fast sprint, parkour climbs, and spring-pads that quite literally send you from ground level to the top of a skyscraper in the space of a heartbeat. I began to realize my own failing reflexes as other players felt the need to engage me in gunfights whilst in mid-air on such jumps. I was too busy trying to make sure I didn’t overshoot my landing by a foot and a half.
Circles No More
Thankfully for slightly slower players like me, dying is not the end of your run. One of the most exciting new elements of Hyper Scape is that I can be a ghost when I die. Death means losing all of your weapons and hacks, but you continue on as an intangible “Echo”, visible only to your own team, and able to ping important things to your allies, such as enemies and valuable loot. The ping system has been lifted wholesale from Apex Legends, though in practice it’s less meaningful for anything other than alerting your team to enemy players’ directions. Enemy encounters are so fast and frequent in Hyper Scape that alerting anyone to open doors or looted areas would have little meaning anyway. Pinging out Restore Point locations is crucial, though.
Echoes can be returned to life by finding a Restore Point, which are spawned from downed enemies. This leads to some frantic plays, as teams engage enemies that potentially outnumber them in order to create Restore Points for downed teammates. A live player and an Echo player must converge on the point to activate and bring the Echo back into the game. It is a fun take on Apex Legends’ respawn feature, making death more engaging and the act of revival more immediate than the cross-country treks that Apex often resolves in.
Making skirmishes and revivals more localized is key to one of the other big innovations in Hyper Scape, which is the game’s take on the ever-shrinking circles of other battle royales. Instead, sectors of Neo Arcadia decay away. Players are given ample warning that their sector is decaying, including a nice visual effect on the scenery. Entire buildings begin to flicker out of existence around you as you dash, bounce, and teleport to get into a safe zone. This makes the rush for the safe zone far more dynamic than in Hyper Scape’s counterparts, as you never know exactly which sector will be next. Shrinking circles in other games often lead to squads camping, looking to take out anyone fleeing into the new safe area. The decaying sectors of Hyper Scape make camping a lot more difficult, as does the erratic movement of the players.
Voted By The People
Once the city has finished decaying to its final form, the Showdown Phase of the game occurs. A crown spawns in the final area of the map, and players have two methods of gaining final victory. Capturing the crown and surviving with it for 45 seconds guarantees an instant win, as does eliminating all other players in the final area, the old-fashioned way.
Keeping the players constantly moving and constantly guessing seems key to Ubisoft Montreal’s design philosophy with Hyper Scape. Announced during the Ubisoft Forward event in July, Hyper Scape has a built-in streamer voting system called CrownCast. This Twitch extension allows players to watch their favorite Hyper Scape streamers and to vote on elements of the game they are taking part in. These votes determine global effects that happen in the game, from small things like increasing everyone’s speed or granting them all a healing effect, to big game-changing effects like granting infinite ammo or changing the gravity. Doing so grants voters points towards their own Battle Passes, and CrownCast also allows streamers to invite their watchers to join the game. It’s very clear that Ubisoft are aiming for a piece of that Fortnite pie, with Hyper Scape very much geared towards streamers, e-sports and microtransactions. The game has plenty of cosmetics marketplaces, battle pass upgrades, and room for additions to CrownCast effects, in-game hacks and weapons.
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I have had a passion for writing almost as long as my passion for video games. Which came first, the controller or the pen?
My earliest memories include stapling A4 papers together to make books to write on, and playing Super Mario on the NES with my brother. Now I play a huge variety of game genres, platforms and styles, from indie to AAA, from 2 hour experiences to 50 hour marathons, from RTS to FPS to RPG and every three letter acronym in-between.