Ubisoft’s Hunger Games in a revolutionary Battle Royale

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Officially announced just moments ago, Hyper Scape is a free-to-play multiplayer shooter which will be released over the summer on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Ubisoft’s debut in the crowded battle royale panorama opens with an initial testing phase (until July 7) that will allow PC users to try the game with their hands, as long as they “drop” a key during the live shows. one of the streamers of the program “founder“In addition to being part of this happy crowd, in recent days we have had the opportunity to test preview the peculiar experiment of the French publisher, based on a concept that we do not struggle to define brilliant. Hyper Scape is indeed the first “game as a spectacle“, a formula that perfectly describes the character of a title designed to climb the popularity charts of Twich, with the contribution of a damn fun gameplay.

Welcome to Hyper Scape

The new Ubisoft Montreal title draws players into the embrace of a science fiction dystopia as familiar as it is undesirable, which recovers the thematic traits of the literary cult Ready Player One to offer the public a narrative frame full of cyberpunk nuances. The 2054 of Hyper Scape it is an era dominated by the interests of corporate tyrants and marked by strong social inequalities.

A world in which the economic elite can afford to lead a comfortable and worry-free existence, in a golden cocoon protected by ranks of security agents and private militias, charged with maintaining the “watertightness” of this new caste system. The remaining 90% of the population is therefore forced to face the rigors of a pitiless daily life, to fight day after day to survive the abuses of a world that offers only one way out: the digital universe of Hyper Scape.

Developed by Prisma Dimensions, the most powerful of the megacompanies of the future according to Ubisoft, this virtual platform has over time become the crossroads of all human activities, from work routines to school education, as well as the only way to climb the ranks of society and gain a place among the privileged. Among the experiences offered by Hyper Scape there is in fact a version 2.0 of gladiator games: an intense battle royale that rewards the winners with fame and money, providing them with an opportunity to make a name for themselves and leave the misery of the slums behind.

As can be guessed, the scenario of our ballistic deeds will be the arena created by Prisma Dimensions, while the context will always remain in the background, in line with the canons of the reference genre and with the characteristics of the developer’s playful proposal. In this sense, the narrative premise has a very relative weight in the production balance, if not for what concerns the definition of a brilliant concept, with all the potential to guarantee Hyper Scape a place of honor in the panorama – increasingly crowded – of online shooters. According to the words of creative director Jean-Christophe Guyot, Ubisoft’s new battle royale was conceived as a “game as a spectacle”, a digital stage where you can show off your skills to win the favor of the public, called to intervene directly on the fate of each clash.

Highly dynamic virtual shootings

The basic rules of Hyper Scape’s virtual scuffle are the same that characterize most of the battle royale: projected into the skies of New Arcadia with nothing but a truncheon and the hope of not landing on the trajectory of a bullet, the contenders will have to quickly replenish their equipment to be able to excel on the opponents.

The battle, which sees a hundred players compete for the golden crown of the winner, moves between the meshes of a completely urban map divided into 9 different sectors, each characterized by unique locations and milestones, shaped to give personality to the setting and grant users different tactical opportunities.Crowncast and Master ModeAmong the strengths of Hyper Scape there is undoubtedly the idea of ​​offering the public an experience perfectly integrated with Twitch, spectacular both to play and to watch. The interaction between streamer and audience takes place through the Crowncast extension, which also allows viewers to advance in the Battle Bass simply by participating in the on-screen voting. Users can also spend Kudos (purchased by spending Twitch Bits) to activate additional effects (such as fireworks at each kill) and demonstrate support to their favorite streamer, who will receive a percentage on all transactions. Among the opportunities granted to players there is also the possibility of “casting” a game playing the role of the Master. A mode that closely resembles the Show Director Mode of Darwin Project or the Commander Mode of Battlefield 4, and allows you to intervene directly on the progress of each match, deciding how to narrow the map and what effects to activate. To ensure the quality of the show, Ubisoft has implemented a system of cameras managed by the AI, whose task is to make sure that the Master always has an eye on all the noteworthy actions.

The audience in question is that of Twitch, the most popular streaming platform of the moment, with which the French publisher has partnered to transform Hyper Scape into an experience as fun to play as engaging for the “home audience”, with the help of an extension (Crowncast) designed to promote spectator interaction and enhance the sense of participation during the battles of their favorite streamers. On the one hand, the app allows creators to directly invite chat users to join a game, and on the other, these can significantly alter the flow of each match. In fact, at regular intervals, Crowncast will start a vote to choose (among three different options) an effect capable of temporarily modifying “the rules of the game”, for example reducing the gravity in the arena to increase the height of the jumps, placing a large number of medikit around the map or providing fighters with a significant increase in running speed. Elements that promise to enhance the unpredictability of a gameplay designed to minimize downtime, so as to keep the interest of the public and that of the players on the field skyrocketing.
The extremely vertical and well-articulated design of the city effectively enhances one of the playful cornerstones of production, that is, a system of agile and very fluid movement, which allows you to quickly pass from the streets to the roofs of New Arcadia thanks to Parkour-style dynamics as functional as they are intuitive. Between shots, climbs, double jumps and slides, the mechanics linked to the “traversal” share of the gameplay contribute to defining the frenzied pace of the shootings that mark the race towards the final showdown, and they agree very well with an equally refined gunplay. Reactive, precise and rewarding, the Hyper Scape shooting system seems almost a more arcade revision than that seen in Rainbow Six: Siege, accompanied by a rather generous “time to kill” (health regenerates over time) but still consistent with the features of the product. The management of the equipment is modeled to respect the canon of immediacy that defines the whole experience: all fighters can carry a maximum of two weapons at a time, to be collected at the different spawn points arranged around the environments and determined randomly. The arsenal includes a total (at least for now) of 9 fire mouths, all characterized by a pleasant and refined sci-fi design, and by a recognizable feeling linked to their warlike peculiarities. Between assault rifles, gatlings, grenade launchers, energy cannons in BFG style and launchers capable of projecting electrified spheres at a wide range, we can assure you that the paraphernalia will not fail to offer you tools capable of fully satisfying your war preferences, with the complicity of an essential and effective strengthening system. Once the classic subdivision into categories of increasing rarity has been put aside, all the Hyper Scape equipment can be upgraded (up to the fourth level) by simply collecting the same weapon several times, in order to gain bonuses for damage inflicted, recharge times, rate of focus or magazine capacity. Using the same mechanism you can also improve the performance (cooldown times, duration and efficiency of the effect) of the hacks available to your avatar, which represent the second keystone of the combat system.

In the virtual world of New Arcadia, these special powers will allow you to manipulate the “code” of the simulation to produce anomalies that are particularly useful on the battlefield: the list of 9 Hacks currently in-game includes the possibility of generate barriers to hinder enemy lines of fire, the ability to become invisible for a few seconds or to teleport a short distance, and even more whimsical gimmicks, such as the ability to transform into an armored and bouncing sphere, to be used to move away from the crossfire in relative safety.

Learning to make the most of the joint use of hacks, weapons and movement dynamics obviously represents the backbone of the pugnacious success, and the immediacy of all the mechanics involved in the gameplay outlines a practically flawless learning curve, which helps to define the indisputable appeal of the production.

The show must go on … always

After six hours spent furiously flashing among the buildings of New Arcadia, we can therefore confirm that the formula developed by Ubisoft Montreal looks promising and well thought out, the daughter of a creative approach aimed at promoting the rhythm of clashes without imposing abrupt interruptions to the flow of gameplay, in line with the dictates of the “game as a spectacle” concept.

Even the respawn system fully respects these precepts, and represents one of the most compelling novelties of the Hyper Scape playful proposal, as well as a pleasant breath of fresh air for the battle royale panorama. After being shot down, we will then find ourselves in the role of a “digital eco”, a ghost visible only to our teammates whose main task will be to go ahead and report (using the excellent ping system integrated in the game) the presence of enemies or resources to collect. The other team members can then bring us back to life using the different respawn stations arranged around the map (after we have activated them as a spectrum), or those that will be automatically generated after the killing of an opponent.

It goes without saying that the death of the entire team will inevitably lead to defeat, at least according to the rules of the only game mode that we have had the opportunity to test with our hands (others should be announced before the launch), called the Crown Rush Squad. This brings a maximum of 99 contenders, divided into teams of three, to clash to reach the last phase of the battle and finally conquer the victory.

A goal that can be achieved in two ways: completely annihilating the enemy forces, as in the best tradition of battle royale, or keeping control of the golden crown for 45 seconds that will appear once the map has reached its minimum size. The scenario shrinking dynamics, another of the typical elements of the trend, also follow in Hyper Scape somewhat peculiar routines, justified by the virtual context in which we will find ourselves fighting.

During a battle (which lasts an average of twenty minutes) we will therefore witness the progressive “digital decay” of the various sectors that make up New Arcadia: a process that will force us to quickly reach the locations that are still intact (indicated on the interface) in order to avoid suffering the same fate as the city’s architecture, losing health up to be definitively excluded from the simulation.

Although not too far from the consolidated standards of the segment, the approach chosen by Ubisoft Montreal shows at least two intriguing flashes of originality: on the one hand the structure of the map makes it difficult to predict the progress of this constant involution, and on the other consider the unknown linked to the possible presence of a Game Master in flesh and blood, which has the power to decide which areas to eliminate during the match. All the variables and systems involved in the gamplay therefore contribute to defining a playful offer that appears spectacular and multifaceted, the first step along a decidedly promising evolutionary path. Regardless of the unquestionable potential of Hyper Scape, the long-term take of the title is linked in double thread to the continuous support strategy put in place by Ubisoft Montreal, also as regards the effectiveness of the seasonal progression.

A title for all configurations

Hyper Scape’s free-to-play recipe includes a seasonal Battle Pass divided into levels (to be ground by accumulating points on the field), each of which guarantees users aesthetic elements of various kinds, including emotes to show off in battle to skins for the different champions, or the pre-packaged avatars available to players. Each of these will have its own distinctive style, and the developers plan to take advantage of the seasonal rotation to deepen different aspects of the background of each, in order to enrich the narrative context of the title.

Although at the moment it is not possible to verify the value of the progression system, we know that in this first pre-launch phase it will be possible to access ten tiers and as many prize packages for free, in order to start personalizing your digital alter ego.

In the absence of details on the cost of the Battle Pass, or on the purchase price of the objects present in the in-game store, we can confirm that every single element will have an exclusively cosmetic value, and will in no way alter the balance of the gameplay. A route that Hyper Scape shares with many other free titles, designed not to generate annoying disparities among the user ranks. Turning to the technical side, the new IP of Ubisoft is supported by a light and versatile engine, which offers an excellent level of scalability and seems capable of satisfying the characteristics of a wide range of configurations without effort. The relationship between image quality and performance solidity seems well balanced, and on the test configuration we had no difficulty in pushing the game to the 4K threshold without sacrificing much of the graphics.

More generally, Hyper Scape brightens the senses with a pleasant and convincing glance, although the need to keep the game fluid has forced the team to make some evident compromises on aspects such as lighting system, polygonal size and effects. The animation sector is excellent, with absolutely positive consequences on shooting behavior and movement mechanics.

It is also worth noting that the title is already surprisingly stable now, even on the netcode side: the tickrate is currently set at 60hz, a value that perfectly matches the characteristics of the gameplay. The sound sector also deserves an honorable mention, showing off a functional sound design and well-made electronic music.

We also liked it some particular level design choices, such as the presence of barriers placed on the doors and windows of each building, which can be knocked down to gain a good line of fire, while also giving opponents the same luxury. An element with a well-defined role also in the framework of the collaboration between living players and echoes, given that the latter cannot actively remove the obstacles present in the scenario, and therefore must count on the support of their companions to access the different structures.

Overall, the team play dynamics seem well planned, and the variety of the arsenal pushes the members of the same team to use different equipment to maximize the lethality of the deployment. In this sense, we have noticed some minor distortions on the balance front (some weapons and hacks are significantly more efficient), but nothing that cannot be solved with a couple of targeted interventions.

In this regard, however, it must be considered that Hyper Scape does not aim to find a place in the sphere of competitive titles, and therefore they are stumbling blocks – especially in this phase – have a relative weight. Furthermore, the user interface has not completely convinced us, at times a little too invasive and sometimes ineffective in providing clear indications to the players.

By the way, we wouldn’t mind at all if the team decided to add a minimap to the hud, which may solve some of the problems encountered. In principle, however, the new proposal of Ubisoft Montreal faces the panorama of online shooters as a well-turned product and full of personality, the son of an intelligent and innovative concept that could bring it to the top of the ranking in the blink of an eye of the most popular titles on Twitch, with the support of interaction systems designed to promote “engagement” and exponentially expand the player base.





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