Hands-on with Hyper Scape, Ubisoft's urban battle royale shooter

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

If the battle royale genre didn't feel crowded enough, Ubisoft is diving into the scene with free-to-play sci-fi FPS Hyper Scape. It's the most fun I've had moving around a battle royale map, but after a few hours and a dozen-or-so matches, I'm not totally convinced that Hyper Scape will stand out from the deeper battle royale games that millions of players are already invested in.

Where Hyper Scape is unquestionably unique is in its map, Neo Arcadia, a sprawling kilometer-wide city that looks like London filtered through a digitizer. For a game that mid-range PCs should handle well, it's a great-looking utopian skyline flanked by massive churches, hotels, and skyscrapers.

Hyper Scape has no flat fields of grass or mountainous sniper outposts. It’s one big concrete jungle sliced up by districts and surface streets. You can wander around at street level, but the high ground is such a big advantage in a fight that any floor lower than a rooftop might as well be lava.

VIDEO: A full Hyper Scape match from my preview session. Also on YouTube

Hyper Scape encourages climbing to its heights with a generous double jump, precise air control, and jump pads on every city block that can quickly send you to the clouds. The movement is intuitive: Without any practice, I could easily leap across small footholds and slide under low walls. Surprisingly, Hyper Scape gets closer to Titanfall’s transcendent locomotion (still no wallrunning, sadly) than Respawn's own Apex Legends does. That said, I really wish I could clamber up walls a few meters to reach a rooftop. More than a few times, trying to scale a building from one of its windows felt awkward with only jumps to work with.

The bright outlines around enemies and neon streaks left behind while running make subtlety impossible.

I thought about Apex Legends a lot during my play sessions, because it’s clearly the flavor of battle royale that Hyper Scape is going for—a bright, frantic shooter with three-person squads, tiered loot, and abilities that can make or break a teamfight. The biggest divergence is that Hyper Scape isn’t a hero game. Abilities (Ubisoft calls them 'hacks') have to be looted from the world just like weapons. You can hold two hacks at a time and swap them out whenever you want. Hacks have unlimited use on a cooldown, so it does feel a lot like Apex in practice, except you're scavenging the build you want over time instead of locking into a set role.

Messing with each of the nine hacks in the build we played, I found myself ditching fun options like the short-range teleport for defensive hacks. Extra mobility can be useful, but it felt so much safer to bring the healing field or armor buff that makes me bulletproof for a few seconds. The bright outlines around enemies and neon streaks left behind while running make subtlety impossible, so raw firepower plus healing seemed to be the ultimate decider in most of my fights.

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

I'm on record as being decidedly anti-looting in battle royale games, so it's cool to see Hyper Scape go even further than Call of Duty: Warzone to simplify the process. There's no armor, backpacks, or health packs (health regenerates automatically) and just a single ammo type to keep track of. There are also no weapon attachments, so there are no inventory gymnastics either. Instead of scrounging the map for tiered loot, you can boost the stats of weapons and hacks by “fusing” them with extra copies you find on the map. High level hacks have much shorter cooldowns, but maxing out weapons feels way more important. Higher fusions means larger magazines, and in some cases, a straight up damage boost. A max level Protocol V sniper rifle can deliver a one-shot headshot from full health, making it the deadliest weapon I’ve seen so far.

I like how streamlined Hyper Scape's looting is, but I dislike the linear weapon progression. Rather than a give and take, more levels simply mean more power, so clever teamplay will only take you so far against a squad with better loot. I hate praying to the loot gods to shine favorably on me in Apex, and I still hate it here. It stings even harder because Warzone already solved this problem by letting a low-tier SMG kick as much ass as an assault rifle with five attachments.

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

So far, I'm also disappointed by Hyper Scape's guns in general. Each of the nine weapons is undeniably distinct (revolver, minigun, plasma cannon, etc), but they’re not that fun to shoot. Part of the problem for me is that the time-to-kill is really long with level 1 weapons. The first skirmishes of all of my matches were these embarrassing back-and-forths that felt like we were shooting each other with popcorn kernels. 

I have a particular beef with the Ripper, Hyper Scape's only assault rifle. The thing shoots like an airsoft gun with a dying battery. It’s got no sizzle, not even a hint of pop. It's an embarrassment to gaming weaponry, and it would hardly matter if there were an alternative to reach for. I don't think the game's cyber world setting does itself any favors here, either. Every weapon sounds too virtualized and artificial while headshots sound like I'm slapping a block of canvas instead of popping a watermelon. Maybe it's not fair to hold the audio to Warzone's admittedly high bar, but no game sells gut-wrenching bullet impacts quite like it.

The most interesting tactical decisions I made while playing happened after I died.

Ubi is planning to add a new weapon and hack in each season, but the small weapon pool is emblematic of my biggest hangup with Hyper Scape: It's all a bit too simple. The weapons are plain, the rules are basic, and hacks lack any interaction with each other or interesting counters. The most interesting tactical decisions I made while playing happened after I died. Instead of falling into a 'down but not out' state or getting shipped off to a gulag, fallen players in Hyper Scape rise as invisible echos that can run around the map and scout for their teammates. You can only be revived at the corpse of an enemy player.

It's a cool gimmick that forces squads to be aggressive instead of hunkering down or retreating to a predetermined respawn point. When one or two of us were dead, we had to get pretty crafty to find another isolated player and ambush them. I originally thought that the death loop would lead to constant revives, but I've never had a tougher time getting back into the action. Enemies learned pretty quickly to proactively hunt down stragglers and camp their own friendly corpses. It’s not friendly to comebacks the way that Warzone or Apex are.

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

The build of Hyper Scape we played was less than 10 GB and hit 144 fps on my RTX 2060 without blinking.

Winning a match with one or more teammates down is near-impossible throughout the genre, but Hyper Scape does give the underdog an alternate path to victory with the endgame Showdown phase. As more of the map shuts down, a golden crown spawns on the map. You can win by being the last squad standing, like any other BR, but you can also win by holding the crown for 45 seconds. Holding the crown paints a target on your back, so it's easier said than done. It’s kind of like catching the golden snitch, but with eight other players lobbing grenades and bullets in your direction. I didn't get to witness a miraculous lone survivor hold onto the crown and beat the odds, but I’m sure it's possible, if unlikely. Matches can also be affected by Hyper Scape's elaborate Twitch integration that lets viewers vote to trigger in-world events like low gravity or infinite ammo.

I love Hyper Scape's athletic movement and roof-hopping navigation, but I want more reasons to explore the map than the pursuit of power upgrades, especially when those upgrades feel required to stay competitive in a fight.

One thing Hyper Scape does nail is the technical side of things, and if it’s fun enough despite my complaints, it’ll likely stay in my rotation anyway. I prefer Warzone's shooting and in-game economy, but it’s a nightmarish 200 GB download that never quite runs as well as I want it to. The build of Hyper Scape we played was less than 10 GB and hit 144 fps on my RTX 2060 without blinking. Both are free-to-play, but I’m way more likely to boot up Hyper Scape on a whim to play with friends.

Anyone curious to try Hyper Scape for themself can start watching Hyper Scape streams today for a random chance at access to the week-long Technical Test.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.