Creative Assembly is one of my favourite developers; I have no shame in saying that. Total War: Three Kingdoms was my first 10/10 in seven years of reviewing games (at the time), and I've long been a fan of the developer, thanks to their work. I admit I was surprised when SEGA announced Hyenas; it just wasn't the regular sort of game from the team. Though nor was the outstanding Alien: Isolation. Now, the studio is moving into the MP shooter area, a genre I look upon like an infectious disease; the question is if Hyenas can turn this around.
So what is Hyenas? As I've said, it's a co-op shooter. However, this isn't two teams fighting it out against each other as with almost every other game of the type. No, this is different. With up to fifteen players per match, this is a five-team matchup with the added benefit of NPC enemies thrown in (so PvPvPvPvP...vE?). The aim, break into some vaults and steal the capitalist idols of the past. Yes, you can risk your life stealing a Sonic the Hedgehog figure.
That's the loot to be found here, old icons of consumerism and entertainment. As you would expect, the tongue is so firmly placed within the cheek that there's likely a permanent indentation. Indeed, this sort of humour permutates through every square inch of the game shown to me. Want to break into a vault? It's time to pull out your Mega Drive Breaching Device (Genesis for you yanks out there), which will cut through the vault door. There are multiple vaults per map, which will be massive, going by the available one. Once a team collects enough relics, it's time to leave.
Only one team can leave; that's the core thing here. Creative Assembly's Alex Hunnisett clarified that Hyenas is designed as a game of three parts. The first is getting started, the opening part of any MP game. Nothing to see here. Then you're at the heist phase, each team going to their selected vaults, looting what they can. There is a chance of PvP combat here, but the maps are sufficiently large enough that you may not see another player. Finally, there's extraction. The leading team goes to a highlighted point on the map and has to hold off until they can get out.
It's this stage where Hyenas moves closer to the sort of game I'm less interested in, and one of the reasons when talking with SEGA and Creative Assembly, I asked about the division of the game and if there are chances to avoid people. Alas, there is no total avoidance, so there is always a chance of getting the plague from the fleshy humans. Still, I did like what they had to say about the tactical aspects that come into the game, particularly around combat and movement.
If you've not seen anything about Hyenas, you need to know that you're in space. You're performing a heist on a vast spaceship or station. That part I've lost to COVID or alcohol. It's irrelevant. You need to know that the maps, as huge as they are, offer multiple routes - including some vents, to hell you circumvent people, and areas that feature zero gravity. Even places with gravity have switches you can shoot, turning the gravity off and helping you dislodge any enemies you may be fighting.
Other tactical aspects come from the weapons characters use. Each Hyena (thus the game name) has set weapons, with class aspects you'd typically find in the game type. It's the use of certain weapons and consumables that interests me. For example, a foam grenade can create a temporary wall for you to hide behind. Each Hyena also has unique abilities, one being Galaxia - a flamboyant drag queen - that can lure MURFs (AI enemies) and has a shield that can absorb incredible damage.
What comes after, nobody knows. Creative Assembly hasn't even determined the results of your success; that's how early in development Hyenas is. Even the 2023 release feels tentative for now, with the current alpha only having six characters to select and one map to play on. This is supported by an incredibly vibrant and extravagant Borderlands-style aesthetic, with audio and one-liners that fit the tone. All I'll say to finish this is that I want to try Hyenas out. Sadly, the invites are only open to those in North and South America, but this should roll out to Europe soon.