Hyenas’ space-pirating actually makes for a refreshingly speedy extraction shooter

I saw Creative Assembly’s live service heist ’em up Hyenas at last year’s Gamescom and came away unimpressed. I thought it was obnoxious and underwhelming, in all the ways you’d expect from a colourful hero shooter whose hook is stealing Sonic merch.

But this year I got to spend a good 30-minutes in a match against other players and have come away… pleasantly surprised. I like the way it eschews the sometimes slow, methodical pace of other extraction shooters in favour of a faster-paced team deathmatch. While it’s way too early to make big judgement calls like, “the entire game will be good”, it might have more of a chance at launch survival than I thought.

We split into five teams of three, and I partied up with two German lads and assumed my position as the quiet one from the UK who spent a little too long trying to figure out which earcup on his headset was left and which one was right. We all had a few moments to scan the roster and lock in our character choices, and I went for a mask-toting, bank robbing geezer who came armed with double SMGs and a double-barreled shotgun. Double doubles! If I pressed Q, he’d pop down a turret that would auto-target enemies and largely do all the work for me.

There was a lot to absorb in such a quick session, but I gathered that each team spawned in separate points on the map, all with a view to crack open vaults scattered high and low. The aim of the game was to nab as much loot as possible, then extract with it in one piece. And much like Escape From Tarkov or, more recently, Warzone’s DMZ mode, there were both AI baddies and actual players who’d rather you don’t walk away with bags of SEGA merchandise.

Leaping around a match arena in multiplayer shooter Hyenas
We didn’t get to try out zero gravity combat, but moving through these spaces was a bit fiddly. I spent most of it smashing it walls. | Image credit: Sega

There’s an element of powering yourself up over the first half of the match, with lockers and caches home not just to medi-kits and shields, but swappable grenades, with duplicates used to level up your current option. I wouldn’t say it was a long and drawn out process, as I felt pretty comfortable heading into fights after one or two rounds of the cache dance. I equipped an EMP grenade that stunned enemies and caused drones to drop from the sky, as well as a foam grenade that could erect a wall to block damage.

And I used both fairly frequently during our gunfights against the AI mixture of mechs and soldiers. They either stood in your way at certain intervals, or they’d spawn in loads as you began the process of cracking open a vault, where a timer ticked down as the laser cutter did its thing. Rarely did they ever pose a threat, but the gunplay was solid, and my shotgun had a lovely heft to it. The health bars on enemies also ticked down clearly, with good hit marker feedback whenever you rattled them with headshots. Love me a good hitmarker noise.

The second portion of the match, once we’d done our safe cracking, was us trying to extract with our booty, encountering other teams on the way – in less of a calculated way and in more of an “oh shit, hello,” sort of way. I wouldn’t say we were particularly tactical here, beside charging folks down and spitting bullets into their bonces. It was an undeniable thrill to down an enemy and hear them say “I’m down, I’m down!”, before blasting their precious existence into a puff of merch that upped our team’s total, displayed at the top for all to see.

The player fires an RPG that explodes in the mid distance in Hyenas

A character aims at a big mech suit with a bunch of guns strapped to it in multiplayer arena shooter Hyenas

Image credit: Sega

The last portion saw us wing it over to an extraction zone, where we had to hold our ground as enemies flooded our position. Presumably, it would be at this point where every team would try and swarm us, too, but we made it out unscathed and without any outside interference.

Hyenas long term appeal remains to be seen, but I had a surprising amount of fun with its fairly fast-paced extraction shooting. It nicely compresses the usual lethargy of extraction shooting into a tight knit crash through a colourful map, where things are wrapped up within the half-hour. I still think the game will struggle to crack a saturated space, but my hopes are higher having spent some time with it. The closed beta arrives on August 31st and runs until September 11th, so maybe I’ll hop in then and give it a more thorough look. Last year, you would never have caught me uttering those words!

Gamescom 2023 has arrived, and you can find all the latest news and previews from the show floor in our Gamescom 2023 hub.

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