SEGA’s newest publishing endeavor is a hero-based extraction shooter called Hyenas, where you maneuver around zero gravity and steal retro merchandise.
The extraction shooter genre is filled with euphoric highs and depressing lows; you could be at the top of the world and have it all stolen from you in seconds, as the genre seeks to give higher stakes to the battle royale experience.
Hyenas isn’t exactly that, as it takes a much more arcade-y approach to the genre, opting to completely remove the stakes from matches as you don’t have any sort of items or gear that alter your stats.
The game features five teams, each with three players, who have to steal merchandise from spaceships that look like shopping malls. Every match requires you to steal 10 thousand (dollars? space coins? I don’t think it’s ever stated what unit we are working with) in merchandise, so you can buy your escape from the match.
Immediately, this question pops into my mind: Who is this for? I can’t imagine anyone who likes the thrill of extraction shooters even giving this a shot, as there are quite literally no stakes when it comes to winning or losing.
An extraction shooter without risk is like a Souls game that isn’t difficult; it completely clashes with the genre. Hyenas also doesn’t work as a battle royale, as it lacks the spectacle of large matches and open maps, filling a small shopping center with only 15 players, so what even is it trying to do?
Something about the presentation in Hyenas sets off massive red flags for me. If this game wasn’t published by SEGA I would just think it was some NFT crypto scam. There’s just something about the art direction and nostalgia milking that makes the game seem ill-intentioned.
The merchandise you collect during matches is all retro-inspired, from Atari cartridges to tapes of classic songs like Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It and Europe’s The Final Countdown. It may sound charming, but Hyenas isn’t necessarily a celebration of retro culture, as it does absolutely nothing with this premise.
The items are there, but they don’t really serve any purpose aside from being collected; they could be gold bars and nothing would change. The merchandise isn’t a celebration of retro media; it’s a series of hollow references meant to make you say “Oh, I recognize this”.
When it comes to gameplay, Hyenas is so safe that it feels like playing white noise. The gameplay has been so sanitized and broken down to its bare basics that it’s possibly the most intuitive game ever made, simply because there isn’t anything going on.
The gunplay in Hyenas is very disappointing; not only does every weapon feel completely weightless, but there isn’t any sort of dynamic to encounters. You’d think that the zero-gravity mechanic would make for interesting firefights, but nobody seems to bother with using it.
There’s definitely something to Hyenas‘ zero-gravity mechanic, and I do believe that a better game could make it work, but Hyenas certainly can’t. Personally I only found myself using it to traverse locations faster, as there’s really no incentive to fight in zero-gravity unless you are playing as Prima, one of the few characters who can directly interact with the game’s mechanics.
I would go over what each character’s skills do, but they are so uninteresting that it feels like a waste of time to even mention them. You won’t really bump into enemies until the end of the match, so for most of the time you’ll be using your skill to fight PvE enemies guarding the stores.
It’s pretty easy to go through a match and barely see your enemies, as everyone will be busy raiding the store closest to them as soon as the game starts. Most of the time two teams will die before you even see them, as matches go by really fast.
The environments are cluttered enough to make firefights a real chore. Some players make use of this to quickly disengage from uneven firefights, but a lot of the time you and your enemy will lose track of each other simply because of how over-designed and cluttered the map is.
The characters in Hyenas are all disappointingly bland, to the point where it becomes tough to recognize who you are fighting against, as most of them just look like regular people.
If you have read anything about Overwatch‘s or Team Fortress 2‘s developments, then you probably know how important it is to have distinct characters and character designs in a hero-based shooter, but Hyenas just chooses to ignore that.
Hyenas really tries to sell you the idea that its characters are “fun” and “wacky”, but the cast is filled with regular people; one of the few exceptions is Hero-Ki, who comes fully dressed in a Sonic-themed fursuit and constantly makes references to SEGA games; he’s possibly the only character with an actual personality and distinct design in Hyenas.
There were plenty of opportunities to make these characters interesting, like El Silbón, who is named after a Colombian folk legend. El Silbón is a ghoulish figure that is seen as an emissary of death who brings misfortune to those he visits. The El Silbón we find in Hyenas is just a regular human sniper wearing an FBI body vest and sunglasses.
It’s kind of insane to believe that this game came from the developers of Alien: Isolation. To move from such a technically impressive game to this just screams of decadence to me.
Enemies in Hyenas spawn in sliding around stuck in a static pose, generally completely bugged out and not taking any damage. I’m incredulous to believe that this was made by the same people who are responsible for the Xenomorph’s fantastic AI.
Since I mentioned the enemies, I might as well talk about the PvE component in Hyenas. Each store is guarded by enemies who will call in a SWAT team if you don’t kill them fast enough. It can be tight if you are raiding a store solo, but with 2 people or more it’s a bit of a joke how easy it is to kill them in time.
There is also the fact that their aim is atrocious, and most of them won’t get a solid hit on you unless you walk right up to them. The bigger enemies are even less threatening, as they mostly only hit in melee range, which you will never be in, as every player happens to be equipped with a gun.
I feel like the biggest missed opportunity in Hyenas is how you can’t even interact with the merchandise you collect. You can’t play the Atari games, you can’t listen to the vinyls, and you can’t equip the t-shirts on your characters, so what’s the point?
Hyenas feels like it was an NFT/live service game, but SEGA got too scared of the potential backlash and pulled the plug on it halfway through its conceptualization. That’s the only way I can rationalize why nothing really clicks into place in a satisfying way.
Other than that, Hyenas attempts nothing new- it has a thoroughly generic setting, bland characters, and heavily sanitized gameplay. It’s not offensive by any means, it just feels like sucking on a piece of cardboard that has a drawing of Sonic the Hedgehog on it.
Hyenas is coming later in 2023 to PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Microsoft Windows (through Steam).