[PREVIEW] Hyenas – Pop-cultural appropriation much?

If I’m to believe SEGA and Creative Assembly, my room isn’t cluttered at all. It’s a vault. And if shit ever goes south on planet Earth, all of my acquired merch will be considered extremely valuable. Right now, many might see my living space as immature and my collection as a waste of money. But in the ‘Taint’, I’m a goddamn billionaire. And that, ladies and gents, makes my house a perfect target for the Hyenas… if we ever get to the point where we actually colonize Mars and ruin Earth in the process.

If this makes very little sense to you, don’t worry. It’s not you. Hyenas needs a bit of explanation to understand and I’ll gladly try to make things a bit more clear. At first glance, Hyenas will be one of those competitive shooters that just rings a few bells here and there. It tries to be unique without really being one-of-a-kind. Hyenas is kind of a jumbled game, tapping hard into elements that totally work in other shooters. The style and pizzazz of Borderlands, the tactics of Rainbow Six Extraction, a whiff of Hunt: Showdown, and a whole lot of pop-culture references as a bonding adhesive.

To give you an idea, let me try to explain what we’re dealing with. Hyenas – created by Creative Assembly – is all about joinking merch and getting the fuck out in a 3-vs-3-vs-3-vs-3-vs-3 setup. With Earth destroyed, billionaires have taken interest in pop-culture merch, which they’ve conveniently stored in space malls called Plunderships. These malls are under tight security and patrolled by Clout, so there’s your A.I. As a Hyena, your job is to loot a set amount of merch from the Plundership’s vaults before you get the f out of dodge. But Clout isn’t the only one trying to stop your threesome. The four other Hyena packs have the exact same objective.

And that – as shown via a hands-off presentation at Gamescom – can get messy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be, but it can be, depending on the tactics applied. According to Creative Assembly, winning a game of Hyenas could technically be achieved without firing a single shot. Is it advised? Fuck no! They ain’t packing you with pew-pews and a GLOO Cannon-lookin’ thingamajig – which is great to create barriers or just encase an enemy in goop – to clear the scene all stealthy. Search and destroy, maddafakkas!

And I have to admit, it really looked like it could be a whole lot of fun. Tactical squad-based looting with zero-G elements to spice up the gameplay… SEGA sure knows how to present it. That’s why it’s a damn shame that it ended up being just that. A presentation. With alpha playtests going on, opinions on Hyenas could have been more substantial if we had actually got to play it. Unfortunately, that was not the case. All I got was pre-rendered gameplay. And even if it looked the part, I couldn’t really put my finger on it just yet. I’m still not entirely sure what Hyenas will be like.

The thing is, even Creative Assembly is still trying to put its finger on it. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It might actually be a good thing because Hyenas is still in a stage where player feedback helps to shape the game. As of now, Hyenas is still set up to be a ‘5 crews of 3 players’ PvP shooter, but things aren’t set in stone. If there’s a demand for it, Creative Assembly won’t discard the possibility of a full-blown PvE mode.

Even when it comes to a business model, all balls are still up in the air. It could be a full-priced game whenever it launches, but it might also turn out to become free-to-play. At this point, nobody knows. All we know for sure is that there will be no pay-to-win mechanics whatsoever. Period.