There’s always something you should be doing in Hyenas, Creative Assembly’s forthcoming space-based first-person shooter (FPS).
There’s an almost overwhelming pace that means you’re either moving towards your own objectives, trying to stop another team from achieving their goals, or getting into firefight after firefight with the AI that roams your space station battleground, making a nuisance of themselves.
Hyenas is an extraction shooter that skips all of that looting nonsense and instead focuses on the best part of the genre: high-stakes firefights between multiple groups of players, all of whom desperately want to try and claim a big reward for being the last team standing. It’s a riveting feeling and one which will see Hyenas players dive into match after match to chase the dragon of a big firefight victory.
That’s where the similarities end, however. Even at a glance, it’s easy to see Hyenas is doing something different from other extraction shooters on the market. The most obvious thing is how much color there is everywhere, whether it’s in the vivid environments, the bright character costumes, or just the glowing pick-ups you’ll be hoovering up each raid. This alone sets it apart from its more fleshed-out compatriots like Escape From Tarkov or Hunt: Showdown, but it’s not the first extraction shooter to bring us a little color, which we’ll touch on below.
Hyenas' bright colors, paired with the larger-than-life characters that you’ll play as in the game - and the ability to pick up a nostalgia-baiting amount of classic Sega loot - like it’s aiming for people that may never have even tried an extraction shooter before.
This explains the shooting. Sadly, Hyenas gun feel lacks the lethality traditionally seen in the genre. Weapons don’t have the brutal signature of Hunt, and the encounters are a long way from the cinematic firefights of Escape From Tarkov. Both of these games have a very low time to kill, but shootouts in Hyenas between two squads are honestly a little too long for my tastes.
However, they are pleasingly chaotic, drawing in a lot of other players and NPC opponents as the fight draws on like there’s some sort of murder quicksand. Maybe regular quicksand is the murder quicksand. Sadly, I’m a games journalist, not a geologist, so I can’t tell you.
Still, Hyenas is notable because it’s not even really trying to emulate those games. Combat here is lightweight and straightforward; each of the playable characters has their own primary weapon, and, while they do have distinctly different uses, it’s simple to get to grips with just about any weapon over the course of a short match - killing someone is often as simple as holding down the trigger and keeping the cursor on your opponent.
Hyenas' hero characters have some quirks to liven things up, and I found myself quickly vibing with a former roadie that sprinkled fire mines throughout each firefight. He toted a light machine gun and was good at controlling the area where firefights were happening.
But then I became a patron of the arts and found myself drawn to a ballerina with a close-range submachine gun that controls effortlessly in Zero-G and can turn off the gravity in an area from time to time, albeit with a lengthy cooldown. She functioned best like an assassin, but also as an odd support character, where I would put enemies into a lazy low-gravity drift so that my teammate - a sniper who for some reason was wearing a hot pink flak vest identifying them as an FBI Agent - could take them out.
I was curious about Hyenas, and I think this hands-on has confirmed that, sadly, it’s not really for me. However, there’s enough substance here that I want it to do well, only because I want ridiculous shooters to still be made: Hyenas identity is fantastic, even if the moment-to-moment bits aren’t to my personal tastes. The 3v3 battles should get a lot of fans if the game manages to find its audience.
We’re living in an age when live games are collapsing under their own weight, with many failing to make their mark
But that’s the painful bit for every upcoming live game that I see now, really. Earlier, I mentioned that there were other extraction shooters that didn’t embrace the military simulation side, and that is technically true. You can play The Cycle: Frontier until September 27, when that game will be sunset forever, barely a year after it was first released. We’re living in an age when live games are collapsing under their own weight, with many failing to make their mark.
In a lot of ways, this is Fortnite’s fault. The free-to-play smash hit has created a test for any live service game that wants to make an impact because it costs no money and also feels phenomenal to play. While it’s not the be-all and end-all, if you’re looking to make a lightweight shooter for a casual audience, you’re likely trying to take people away from that game, or from another different always-on multiplayer blaster that’s getting regular content drops.
And that’s the reality that Hyenas will be born into. It’s good enough to justify its own existence, in my opinion. But if you asked me if it’s good enough to find an audience and not fade into obscurity of the servers being pulled? I’m not so sure.