Having seen a behind closed doors presentation of SEGA's and Creative Assembly’s upcoming PvPvE shooter, Hyenas, the first thing we couldn’t help but think was, “This does not feel like a SEGA game”. Our second thought was “This really doesn't feel like a Creative Assembly game”.
SEGA hasn't released a game you'd call a first-person shooter since 2014’s Alien Isolation (also developed by CA) or The Typing of the Dead’s PC port in 2013. Neither of these are what you would call traditional shooters, and they're a far cry from the fast-paced, competitive multiplayer game that Hyenas is positioning itself as.
The studio best known for the grand tactics of Total War has left the battlefields of history, Warhammer and Halo behind, instead opting to send players to large space stations full of retro technology and things that want you dead. When described like that, Hyenas sounds somewhat similar to Alien: Isolation, but believe us, they could not be more different.
The billionaires have fled a destroyed Earth for a life of luxury on Mars. While they're there, the most valuable commodity and status symbol has become merchandise. Yes, really. Not fuel, not water — the most precious resource seems to be vinyl figures, swag bags, and old video game memorabilia. However, the fat cats haven’t taken all this stuff with them. Merch, loot, and branded products are stored off-planet on giant floating space stations called Plunder Ships, which seem like some hybrid between a casino, a bank, and Gamescom’s commercial area. It's an admittedly fun premise, and the demo we saw was not shy about its political message. In fact, the SEGA representative even joked about the irony of handing out bags and hoodies to the press for such a clearly anti-capitalist game after the demo.
However, while the game seems keen on making rather pointed commentary, it also wants to be a live-service, competitive shooter. The gameplay sees five teams of three Hyenas (space robbers) board one of these Plunder Ships. Teams must then gather merch, and drill into certain vaults for a bigger haul. All the while, you and your teammates will fight AI controlled PMC guards named MURFs as well as the four other enemy teams. Once one team has gathered enough loot, they'll have to get to a docking area to call for a VIP shuttle. If that team is killed by other players or MURFs trying to stop their escape, they will drop their merch and the game will keep going until another team gets enough Sonic plushies and Rubik’s Cubes to call for another shuttle.
While we saw an alpha version of the game, meaning it was not particularly polished, Hyenas seems to be aiming to pit players against more computer-controlled mobs than other PvPvE games, like Hunt: Showdown or Escape from Tarkov. It was somewhat unclear whether man or machine would be the bigger threat during gameplay, mainly because we were told that AI and their pathing, patrol routes, and more were still yet to be added.
That being said, enemies seem mightily dangerous, which is another way of saying you and your team have some very neat-looking tools, abilities, and guns that look and sound like they pack quite the punch. Things like animations and character models are still being worked on, but Creative Assembly did walk us through three characters/classes.
First was a sniper called El Silbon who had the ability let her and her teammates see through walls for short periods of time. This ability paired neatly with the Foam Grenade, which can create temporary cover or force enemies to find alternate routes out in the open.
We then saw some gameplay of Galaxia, a drag queen and (maybe) a tank equivalent. Her ability is a taunting shout that seems to cause MURFs to aggro on her, and some other effect on human-controlled characters that we didn’t see. The demo paired this with the Kitty Grenade which, yep, is a throwable cat toy that explodes into a field of lasers.
Lastly was Prima, a ballerina, who appears to have the power to ignore gravity for short periods of time. While certain rooms are zero-g, and other areas can have it turned off to flush out enemies from cover or get up to high ground, Prima is able to float in the air and gain some speed in order to get out of fights. This is where the devs highlighted the importance of evasion in the game, as sometimes you just have to flee to one of the Plunder Ship's many vents, especially if your teammates have been killed and you need to find a GROyou machine (you respawn teammates by quickly growing a clone of them, or a least we think that's what you do based on the name).
This is where the game reminded us of Apex Legends, not just its gameplay but also its somewhat cel-shaded art style in character cinematics. Characters were already very well defined with roles and personalities in this early version, while the art style employs hard lines and striking silhouettes similar to Borderlands.
While this showcase of Hyenas certainly has us interested, we still couldn’t help thinking, "This is such a baffling game". While a wider progression is promised, it's hard to tell if this game's loud characters and neon-drenched art will be able to pull PvPvE fans away from Tarkov or Showdown. On top of that, for a game with satirical anti-capitalist message already, it seems ripe for brand integrations, crossover merch, skins, and more. Alongside all the Sonic and SEGA jokes, the team has clearly already licensed both Rubik’s and Atari to cameo in the game with merch to fight over, and those are just the ones we spotted.
This all might not be a problem for you if you're just looking for a fun multiplayer shooter to play with (or against) your friends, but it was the most noticeable in a long line of things that made us think “This is such a strange game” during that 15-minute demo.
There is currently no release date for Hyenas beyond a vague 2023 window, but we're sure to see a lot more of it over the coming months. Are you excited for Hyenas? Let us know in the comments section below.