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Hyenas preview – an Apex predator shaping up for a big Payday

Creative Assembly is out to settle a score in Hyenas, an energetic blend of FPS rivals like Apex Legends and, surprisingly, Starbreeze Studios' Payday 3.

Hyenas preview: Two characters from Hyenas set against a blurred scene from the game; one has a massive machine gun over his shoulder and is wearing a black t shirt and white shorts, the other holds a small submachine gun and is dressed in a blue Sonic outfit

Hero shooters can be tricky to nail, but one thing I took away from my hands-on Hyenas preview at Gamescom is that developer Creative Assembly isn’t breaking a sweat in the face of some established rivals occupying the same space. The Hyenas release date is around the corner, and I reckon it won’t be long before it emerges as one of the best FPS games that 2023 has to offer.

I’ll admit, it did feel like there was a shadow over Hyenas at first. The game’s menu greets you with the usual array of exploration you’d find in contemporaries like Overwatch 2. Creative Assembly packs the lore hard with its zany collection of characters, each supported by in-depth explainers and a reason for them to be in the fight. But it’s hard to take that in and appreciate it when there’s an operator sporting a Sonic the Hedgehog space costume, aiming an assault rifle at my skull. However, that initial, small concern was quickly forgotten.

For my preview session, I ended up choosing Mozie as my character, equipped with a punchy assault rifle and dual submachines. Settling into the game’s controls doesn’t take more than two minutes. It’s your bread and butter FPS controls, but you’ll be harnessing each character’s abilities to get an edge over your opponent.

Hyenas revels in its over-the-top gonzo attitude, forging vibrant, Borderlands-style aesthetics into a refreshing FPS pallet cleanser of dazzling colors, high-tech environments, and the looming presence of a space underworld. The premise is simple: you’ll be acquiring as much gear within the time limit to meet your ‘quota’ and escape into the vastness of space. This is the sweet, sweet chaos of Plunder Riot mode.

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Teaming up with two fellow journalists to get our share of the brilliantly bizarre objects of desire, Plunder Riot pits you against rival trios out to put you down. After all, in space, no one can hear you scream.

One thing that stuck me was that there isn’t a level playing field in Hyenas. Literally. Zero-G moments put everyone off kilter mid firefight. While it is confined to the bigger interiors of the map, you’ll need to use the map as your weapon, rather than your trusty rifle. Having slick gunfights is par for the course in any FPS, and Hyenas meets that expectation, but the zero-gravity moments are one of the main aspects that will help it stand out from the crowd. Parts of the environment that weren’t cover before are your best friend now, and trying to outsmart my opponents by exploiting their disorientation is a thrill itself.

I couldn’t help but be surprised at how great Hyenas feels in action. After feeling admittedly lukewarm after seeing early trailers and the like, I wasn’t sure if it would match the infectious visual energy it wears so proudly. Hyenas is sure to be a hit with the movement-obsessed slide-cancel enthusiasts that Call of Duty has dissuaded as of late. Weaving and jumping around through those aforementioned Zero-G battles is a new kind of pressure to manage as you literally lose your footing, but the jet-pack lovers from the Black Ops 3 days will be right at home.

What knocked me for six though is how Hyenas actually shares more in common with Payday 3 than it does with its more obvious FPS rivals like Apex Legends or even other extraction shooters like Escape From Tarkov. There’s no preparation or high-detail plans to get heisting here, though. Hyenas strips back the core ethos of larceny, making it a lean and mean experience to do the following quickly: get in and get out.

Hyenas preview: Various characters floating in zero gravity with their hands outstretched, reaching for a small figurine of Sonic the Hedgehog

Once we met our quota of loot, my squad is upgraded to the Mars VIP getaway method, alerting us to a spot where we can hold down the fort and await to be extracted. Everything and the NASA kitchen sink is thrown at you here, from AI enemies in mech suits, to drones, to shotgun-toting grunts. During this onslaught, enemy players are also made aware of your VIP status and know you’re attempting to make your escape. And they will be hungry for your loot.

My edge was using Mozie’s sticky rocket to severely chip away at foes, often giving me the push needed to down them completely. Being stingy with bullets isn’t one of my mantras either, so once an enemy is down, keep them that way. The Hyenas’ map I played, which took in a space shuttle, is brimming with all the flourishes expected from the Alien Isolation developer. Vents and small passages ushered me into out-of-sight areas, rewarding my exploration with loot in the form of health, armor, and exchangeable sub-abilities.

Hyenas preview: A man in blue ripped jeans and a black leather jacket holds a large machine gun over his shoulder

There’s enough in Hyenas already to be a sturdy entry into the competitive FPS scene, and I can imagine things getting even more exciting when the stakes get somewhat higher than spending roughly 45 minutes in a Gamescom booth – leaderboards, a ranked mode, and maybe even an esports push will take the competitiveness to another level, despite its less-than-serious aesthetic. From what I’ve experienced so far, Hyenas is definitely worth assembling your crew for.

Keep your eyes peeled for more previews, interviews, and coverage of Gamescom from The Loadout over the coming days.