(Pocket-lint) – The looter shooter genre isn’t exactly the most welcoming one if you take the most popular games as any measure. Titles like Escape from Tarkov have given the genre a certain hardcore sensibility.
With giants like Call of Duty and Battlefield trying their hands at looting or extraction mechanics with varied success, Sega is hoping that Creative Assembly’s Hyenas can be one of the first games to break into the mainstream with it. We sat down to see a behind-closed-doors preview at Gamescom 2022, and chat about it with Alex Hunnisett, a product director on the project.
A new type of game
Hyenas is set in a nice and satirical vision of the future, a science fiction dystopia where corporations have taken over – you know the drill.
Where it makes itself a little more unique is in the flavour of this dystopia, which is heavily retro-infused. Nostalgic gadgets and collectables have become highly sought-after pieces of merchandise, subject to careful control and, therefore, piracy.
You play as a band of mercs seeking to make off from space wrecks with their holds full of this nostalgic gold dust, and with the backing of Sega there are plenty of fun references to be had in these rewards.
From Sega Genesis consoles to Sonic plushies, this is the first hint that Hyenas doesn’t take itself too seriously, a trait that stands it in welcome opposition to the likes of Tarkov.
A match in Hyenas will feature five teams of three fighters, each picking from a roster of heroes with unique abilities and weapons, and all searching for the same vault or vaults, holding that all-important loot.
As you loot, you’ll gain an in-game currency called Clout, and once this is full (either gained in small chunks or by being the ones to get a big score in a vault), you’ll be able to attempt an extraction from the map.
This extraction requires fighting off any attackers to keep an area clear and can get hugely chaotic if multiple teams are looking to bug out at the same time.
Throughout this, AI-controlled guards will be roaming the level providing low-level hazards to potentially disrupt your stealthy approaches or a bit of cannon fodder to help you get your aim warmed up.
It’s a nice amalgamation of systems from the likes of Hunt: Showdown and Tarkov, but the footage we saw made it clear that it’s way more fluid and fast-paced than either of those two games, which are far more tactical in their pacing.
Hunnisett talks about the three “E’s” that informed Hyenas’ development, to that end – “engage, exploit and evade”. As he says, this means first getting into combat situations, before then making the most of the different tools on offer during them, and finally getting out when it’s smart to do so.
“There are a lot of environmental things to navigate – it’s not just a map, we’ve got NPCs to guard the loot and marshal the ship. We’ve got traps, alarms, and more, that can set off and deal damage, and cause people to come to investigate, and we’ve also got what I think is probably the most fun part of our game, which is zero-g.”
That’s right – Hyenas isn’t just a funky shooter, it’s got floaty bits, too. In certain parts of the map, zero-g is continuous, while in other areas you can turn it on and off with switches, making for potentially crazy moments in the middle of gunfights.
It’s the sort of gameplay twist that really suits a hero shooter like this, and could make for some intriguing tactical flexibilities, with some heroes able to move more easily than others through it depending on their loadout.
With matches that last around 20 minutes if you’re in them for the whole span, and respawn mechanics that let surviving team members get you back into the fight provided your whole team isn’t wiped out, it’s sounding like a fun mixture of casual playstyles with that looter-shooter tension, risking what you’ve gathered as a game goes on.
Hunnisett was keen to emphasise that Creative Assembly wants to validate the idea that extracting without wiping out every other player in your server is fair enough a lot of the time, too, making that desire to escape with what you’ve got something to be indulged not shunned.
For now, Hyenas doesn’t look like a huge project – Hunnisett confirms there’s one map being worked at right now, and six specialists to pick from, which is a fairly tight scope for a multiplayer shooter like this. That’s a good thing, in our books – over-scoping is a far bigger risk than the opposite for a multiplayer shooter.
He wouldn’t be drawn on whether it’ll be free to play, too, so it’ll be very interesting to see how Sega positions the game. That’s a while off, though, with closed alpha tests concentrating more on whether players are actually having consistent fun than on how to charge them for it.
How to tell the stories of those specialists is another question, one that will be finalised closer to the game’s launch, but the footage we saw painted a picture of an impressively vibrant world, so we’re hoping that Hyenas can stand out from the crowd.
Writing by Max Freeman-Mills.