Even after seeing a 20-minute preview, I’m a little confused about what Hyenas is trying to be. It feels so far removed from Creative Assembly’s prior catalogue, but here’s what I do know: it’s a PvPvE looter shooter that’s a little too desperate for you to know how quirky and self-aware it is. It’s colourful and bombastic but also so deeply, deeply cringe.
Earth has gone to shit, the billionaires have pissed off to Mars and left the little people to fend for themselves on…The Taint. Status doesn’t appear to come from wealth in Hyenas, but rather from owning piles of pop culture tat. Inevitably the preview is packed with some not-so-subtle winks and nudges for Sega’s library and even some non-blue blur outings like Fall Guys.
These bits of tat are mostly knocking about on giant spacecrafts called plunderships, which you (as a Hyena) and your two teammates will be infiltrating in order to secure these sought-after items. Nabbing loot and gaining enough ‘clout points’ (yes, really) lets you escape the ship with all your self-referential goodies. There are five teams per match fighting it out, along with security bots and other defensive mechanisms to fight through in order to reach each stash dotted around the map.
The mentions of clout, swag and other terms that should’ve been left dead in the 2010s are already making me grimace, and then out comes the explosive Mega Drive—or Sega Genesis for the US folk, as the narrator flippantly jokes—that are used to breach the loot rooms. Hyenas is clearly supposed to be very tongue-in-cheek, anti-capatalist, but also in a weird meta self-loving way that gives me absolute whiplash.
I get a glimpse of three characters in Hyenas’ roster: Sniper El Silbón, who employs foam grenades to create barriers and entrap enemies, which looks incredibly fun. Drag queen Galaxia sports reflective barriers and ballerina Prima can float around any part of the map with her zero-gravity jetpack. They all seem nice enough. The preview doesn’t do a good job of making me feel attached to any particular one, something that’s important to me when a game is pushing a fixed character roster at you.
Despite not feeling strong about a lot of Hyenas, the map and combat manages to grab my attention. Certain areas around the map allow you to make use of zero gravity, floating to either escape your enemies or provide a good vantage point for gunning them down. It can be used to quickly traverse from point to point too and feels like a good way to get some quick coverage across large spaces. The maps are also fitted with vents that can be used to sneak your way around the ship, which Creative Assembly says should open up opportunities for how each match is tackled by teams. I like the idea of trying to quietly tackle each vault, letting other teams fight each other and the environmental hazards and slipping away before anyone can notice.
Hyenas looks to be playing with some interesting concepts, but they’re steeped in a weird metacringe I can’t quite overlook. I can’t tell if this is a game that’s trying too hard or not trying hard enough, and I’m unsure how good a chance it has of squeezing itself into an already oversaturated genre. It feels a little rough right now, understandable considering the alpha footage, but I can’t help but worry that Hyenas will be gone as quick as it arrives.