Rogue-lite games continue to be one of the hottest things in video games right now. From Slay The Spire to Dead Cells, it’s a genre that is surprisingly still ripe for the picking as devs continue to use that framework of “die, upgrade, repeat” to craft some truly addictive and exhilarating video game experiences. Most of these games are still taking the form of 2D side-scrollers or over-the-top action adventures, but Hypergun aims to take that formula and bring it to the world of the first-person shooter. Sadly it does so unsuccessfuly.
Hypergun sees you in an empty office building that is home to a massive, futuristic combat simulation machine. While the game doesn’t present any kind of narrative to you in regular gameplay, you can wander around the offices to read sticky notes and email logs detailing the lives of these absent employees and the work they’re doing to seemingly help prevent the end of the world. Hypergun is light on the story and heavy on the action though, so these characters and world details aren’t the main focus of the experience.
Instead, your main goal is to enter the combat simulator, and experience randomly generated levels made up of various indoor combat arenas as you collect coins, find upgrades, and tackle the bosses at the end of the levels. Your only weapon is your trusty SMG, with paltry damage and terrible rate of fire. You’re meant to enhance this weak starter gun with the various random attachments you find throughout the levels, and Hypergun promises endless, wild combinations of guns and gadgets.
Unfortunately, my combinations were rarely wild, and mostly mundane. The various scopes, bodies and barrels I found had unique appearances, sure, but their modifiers to my combat ability were little more than minor stat changes like “plus 10 accuracy”. I found it needlessly challenging to make my way through the levels with this sorry excuse for a gun, and it was only when I found secondary weapon attachments that I could actually stand up to the enemies I faced and have a fun time exploring the rooms. Even these items, though, were little more than grenade launchers or rockets with silly models.
If you want to have a truly different base weapon, you’ll need to get enough randomly dropped Hypercoins to be able to purchase the three additional character classes that have different base guns. Unfortunately, these guns are just as plain and uninventive as your starter SMG. In a game all about making crazy, off-the-wall guns, it’s incredibly dissapointing that they all still act like a regular old machine gun at the end of the day. These character classes at least have different abilities and skills, which feel almost necessary in some of the later levels.
To me, what makes a rogue-lite fun and addictive is a set of three key things. You need unique drops and modifiers for your runs that shake up your experience each time. You also need an engaging set of unlockables or upgrades outside of your runs that provide a reason to keep playing or a means of enhancing your abilities. Most importantly, though, you need a balanced and satisfying core combat loop that makes every run worth playing, no matter how poor your drops are.
I’m taking the time to outline these points so that I can then tell you how Hypergun fails at delivering on all three of these.
Like I just said earlier, the attachments you find during your runs are almost never exciting. If you could make significant upgrades to your toolkit or weapons outside of runs, that would be great. Unfortunately, the only thing you can spend coin on besides new character classes are equally uninteresting attachments to be added into the loot pool. There’s rarely a significant sense of unique progression inside or outside of runs, and that makes it hard to ever feel motivated to keep playing after you die.
Maybe that stuff wouldn’t matter if the core combat were better polished, but that part of the game is just as much of a dissapointment. Enemy and environment designs are meant to keep you constantly running and strafing, which is admittedly pretty enjoyable. Unfortunately, your pea-shooter gun makes it impossible to do significant damage to your enemies as you constantly strafe around them, making combat encounters more of a headache than they need to be.
At the very least, Hypergun has some decent presentation value. The levels and enemies are rendered in a bright, Tron-esque sci-fi neon style that’s always fun to look at, and each level shakes up the design theme of the rooms and enemies you encounter. The head-bopping electronic music blasting in the background as you traverse the levels also helps add fuel to the breakneck speed of the game. Unfortunately, pretty sights and sounds can’t make up for the weak experience of actually playing the game.
There’s still plenty of potential left in the rogue-lite and I doubt these kinds of games will be going away anytime soon. As video games grow and evolve, we’ll come to remember the select few roguelikes that truly shook up the genre and presented a polished, ultra-satisfying product. Hypergun will not be one of those games.
Version tested: PC – Coming soon to consoles