Why do you have to press a button to open a door in games? Why can’t you throw something at the button and save yourself some time in the long run? These are all questions I ask myself, especially in high-stakes games like Apex Legends or Escape From Tarkov, where hitting the interaction key too late might mean the difference between life and death.
Well, in Hyenas, Creative Assembly’s new sci-fi shooter, you can shoot buttons to open (and close) doors and turn things like anti-gravity features on to help you in the heat of a moment. And that in itself has got me very excited. Not only because it’s a gamechanger for tactical play, but because it shows the developers have done their research on the pitfalls of other competitive FPS games out there.
The crime here, though, is that Creative Assembly hasn’t made a big song and dance of it – or any of its tactical features, really. The presentation shown to me behind closed doors at Gamescom was unapologetically ostentatious and designed to poke fun at the capitalist world we largely find ourselves living in. It was loud, bright, and flashy, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to realise that all of this… noise, is just a distraction from the game the Alien Isolation devs are trying to create.
At the moment, Hyenas plays a little like an extraction shooter, except you’re all after the same plunder. Teams of three, who’ll all need to select specialists from a roster of six, need to race into an arena with the goal of pinching as much loot as possible. This loot is pop-reference themed – and there’re a lot of Sega easter eggs for fans of the publisher to get excited over – but to get out alive, you’ll first need to reach a quota and battle it out with other teams and AI enemies to leave.
Unlike other extraction shooters like Tarkov, though, only one team can leave the Plunderdome. If a team who matches the loot quota manages to leave, the game ends. But if the leading team dies, the contest continues until someone is successful.
The combat itself feels a little bit like Apex Legends mixed with Overwatch and a bit of Hyperscape. It’s a weird blend, I know, but it works well in the heat of battle. The movement mechanics feel like they’ve been plucked right out of Rewspawn’s hit battle royale and the gadgets and abilities of the game’s specialist feel reminiscent of Blizzard’s hero shooter. There’s even a foam gun which works similarly to Mei’s Ice Wall.
While this sounds like a blended hero shooter on paper, it’s clear Creative Assembly has plenty of original ideas for Hyenas – it’s just they’ve been lost in the shuffle.
This is evident in the way that the studio is talking about the game, too. Despite its extraction mechanics and the fact it has ‘escape to win’ plastered all over its website, Creative Assembly isn’t labelling Hyenas as an extraction shooter. Instead, it’s being dubbed a sci-fi shooter – something that doesn’t really indicate much or celebrate some of the tactical elements the developers are clearly trying to focus on.
It’s a crying shame, especially given that to give your team the best chance, you need to seriously consider your team composition. Since each specialist has their own weapons and gadgets, finding the right mix for your team and your collective playstyle might be the key to winning.
Yet, despite clearly drawing influences from some of the best competitive shooters and best battle royale games, it seems Hyenas is at the mercy of the lions right now. Without a concerted shift in its messaging before its prospective 2023 launch, I worry that Creative Assembly’s new project might fall through the cracks.