OpinionVideo Games

I Played the Hyenas Beta and Still Don’t Know Who It’s For

Hyenas shootout
Image via SEGA

It’s no secret the multiplayer FPS market – especially the battle royale and extraction segment of it – is crowded as all hell right now. The massive failure that was Ubisoft’s Hyper Scape still feels recent, and more contained and sincere efforts like YAGER’s The Cycle: Frontier are also struggling to find an audience. At this point, betting large sums of money on these two sub-genres is a bad call unless you’re carrying brand recognition with you or have a truly earth-shattering twist on a formula that already feels tired. Now, SEGA and Creative Assembly believe they can crack the code with Hyenas by waving around the first, and after some time with the game, I still don’t know who it’s for.

Despite the eye-catching marketing campaign and robust production values on display (plus Creative Assembly’s extensive experience), Hyenas isn’t exactly making a splash online, not even after a generous closed beta that, at the very least, feels very polished. I was lucky enough to get into it and give the game a whirl for three hours or so. Sadly, I came out really confused and feeling pessimistic about its chances when SEGA finally decides to let it out in the wild. While many of my doubts can be linked to my thoughts on the BR and extraction sub-genres and where they are at the moment, the game itself also exhibits several problems that are hard to fix this late into the process.

Hyenas characters

Image via SEGA

A common sentiment among closed beta players, and one I must echo, is that Hyenas simply feels way too cynical and market-tested to hell and back. The first sign came when the folks at SEGA themselves said the game’s development had been challenging and confirmed they hadn’t locked down a business model yet despite the game looking almost ready to go and absolutely free-to-play both on the outside and the inside. Two minutes into the game’s tutorial and you’re hit with more bad news: Hyenas proudly wears the worst parts of Borderlands’ personality (something which already hurt both the third mainline game and New Tales) in an age when people are getting over cheap sarcasm and self-parody.

Hyenas is essentially about stealing shit from the rich and the corporations in the far future (and in outer space). That’s a basic premise we can vibe with. It’s also about shooting other hyenas in the face, as everyone wants as much loot as they can carry. Honestly, there was probably enough juice in there to craft a brisk single-player game with cool characters instead of a derivative online FPS, but the big publishers like to chase the heat, especially when they’re late to the current trend. Unfortunately, and as I mentioned before, it’s hard to get into the BR/extraction space without a strong identity, and SEGA is banking on IP power and a cringey and outdated “How do you do, fellow kids?” attitude to sell the entire thing.

Related: Hyenas Reveals What Its Plunder Riot Gameplay Mode Looks Like

Hyenas goon

Image via SEGA

It’s hard to play two or three matches of Hyenas, sit down for a bit to collect your quick thoughts, and come out saying this is 100% a game Creative Assembly wanted to make. Don’t get me wrong, it’s well-made, and the studio’s artists specifically should be very proud, but it feels the opposite of genuine, especially when you look at what the output of CA typically is. Hyenas looks and sounds like Borderlands; most of the core design philosophy comes from Apex Legends; and the structure is, well, that of your average extraction shooter. A game that simply feels and plays “good enough” doesn’t cut it anymore in this space, I’m afraid.

If anything, Hyenas demonstrates CA is comfortable making first-person games. The gunplay is snappy, and the movement is smooth even in zero-G. Even if SEGA and Disney aren’t striking a new deal to let the studio create a follow-up to the fantastic Alien: Isolation, I wouldn’t be mad if these devs kept trying their luck outside RTS games. But this most definitely ain’t it. Players into competitive online titles are often underestimated, but they’ve gotten pretty good at seeing through insincere facades, and I seriously doubt Hyenas has a good shot out there despite some inspired bits, like the overarching map design and stress-inducing PvE elements.

Hyenas arcade

Image via SEGA

The business model (which I guarantee will be a traditional F2P one) should be the least of SEGA’s concerns. Hyenas’ “bold new take” on sci-fi shooters involves a universe where space looters risk their lives to extract bags of merchandising and dress up like Sonic the Hedgehog while spouting out irritating quips and references that only Ready Player One diehards will enjoy for longer than a couple of minutes. All this probably sounded like a great idea five years ago, at the tail-end of the “anything goes” golden era of geeky content. In 2023, we’re generally too jaded to care about more nostalgic noise without anything meaningful to say or at the minimum some unique moves.

About the author

Fran Ruiz
Fran J. Ruiz is a freelance writer for The Escapist as well as other gaming, entertainment, and science websites, including VG247, Space, and LiveScience, with a strong focus on features, listicles, and opinion pieces. His wordsmith journey started with Star Wars News Net and its sister site, writing film, TV, and gaming news as a side gig. Once his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Studies (University of Malaga, Spain) were done, he started collaborating with more and more sites until he became a full-time freelancer on top of an occasional private tutor. There’s no film genre he’s afraid of, but sci-fi and fantasy can win him over easily. Star Wars and Jurassic Park are his favorite stories ever. He also loves the entirety of Lost (yes, even the final season). When it comes to games, Spyro the Dragon and Warcraft III are his all-timers, but he’s the opposite of tied to a few genres. Don’t try to save him from his gargantuan backlog.