What happens when you mix passive-aggressive office post-it notes and an attempt to build the gun that will save humanity from an alien menace? HYPERGUN, the latest FPS roguelite in a scene becoming increasingly crowded with FPS roguelites, attempts to answer this pertinent question.
You play as any number of cogs in a typical corporate office machine, from the new intern to the joint’s security guard. Your job? Brave a simulation designed to test a number of ever-changing components that combine to form a gun – the gun – that will save your species. It’s a sleek-looking affair from the very beginning, and the ability to explore your office space in search of gossip and dev notes is a welcome introduction.
At first pass, HYPERGUN seems pretty convincing. It has the crisp, neon-tinged look of a tongue-in-cheek sci-fi title like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. The enemies, a number of skeletal and alien humanoids that snipe, crush, and slice their way in your general direction, are colorful (if a little generic). Even the title art, which is proudly displayed in the central hub of the office, has a sheen that draws the eye and exudes a professional polish. Picking up an upgrade gives your gun a unique appearance, most of which stack to hilarious visual effect. Unfortunately, as soon as player start using their other senses, things become a little less presentable.
Since you’ll be spending a majority of your time with HYPERGUN blasting aliens with the gun equivalent of Darwin’s theory of natural selection, you’d expect it to feel pretty powerful. You’d want it to really kick, and you’d want to quake at the sheer power of humanity’s final, ultimate gun resting delicately in your simulated palms. This isn’t quite the case.
In reality, the HYPERGUN is nothing more than a peashooter. And when I say peashooter, I mean it might as well be shooting literal peas at speeds unimpressive enough to disappoint even the most vehement anti-hit-scan classic shooter enthusiast. It feels inaccurate, it lacks any real punch, and most offensive of all: it sounds absolutely pitiful. This isn’t helped by the fact that many components that presumably upgrade the HYPERGUN’s strength are silencers, making each shot sound as quaint as a kitten’s paws upon freshly polished linoleum.
It’s not only the HYPERGUN that sounds underwhelming; the sound design as a whole is borderline nonexistent. Enemies make almost no sound as they chase you across each room, meaning if you stop moving for even a second (pro-tip: don’t) they’ll have their scythes in you before you can say “where’s the SFX slider.” By the way: if you use the SFX slider, lowering it doesn’t affect the sound of bullet impact on enemies, so enjoy that. One boss in particular makes a sound so horrendous, so loud, and so ear-grating on every impact, that I muted my volume before my neighbors could get me evicted on a noise complaint.
Sound separation is also poor, meaning enemies across the room taking fire damage from abundantly-placed fire turrets sound nearly as close as those you’re blasting in the face at arm’s length. It’s just an amateurish job, and if Serious Sam taught us anything it’s that hearing an enemy before seeing them is essential for twitch shooters. On the upside, the music is very well done and by far one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game; it was hard not to get lost in a groove while skating around a room popping (simulated) alien scum left and right.
The ever-familiar FPS-roguelite structure is present here, with little done to improve (or detract) from what’s essentially a working formula. Each level is broken up into a series of rooms, some containing chests and upgrades and others being optional challenge rooms for a chance at extra loot. There are shops where the player can exchange “bits”, the game’s currency, allowing the purchase of health, shields, ammo, and other upgrades.
Finally, there are Hyper Coins, which serve the game’s permanent progression system. Using these unlocks further gun components and classes such as “Security” and “Human Resources,” each with their own unique abilities. While the abilities are fun and varied enough to make classes unique, there aren’t any class-specific weapon upgrades, meaning the Lawyer’s shotgun will get the same upgrades as the Intern’s SMG, leading to some unwanted homogeneity.
Each floor leads up to a boss fight, which, in theory, should test the player’s skill and allow them a chance to use the upgrades they’ve accumulated to obliterate a massive enemy. HYPERGUN‘s bosses are instead typical damage-sponge enemies with insanely large health pools and predictable attacks which are easily avoidable on subsequent playthroughs. Each fight essentially devolves into stumbling backwards while trying not to fall into pits or run into walls.
Most of the game’s difficulty comes from its tendency to get excited. Hyper, if you will. Levels 1 and 2 go smoothly enough, and the ever-changing aesthetic is refreshing. On Level 3, “The Jungle,” HYPERGUN can’t contain itself anymore. It’s been dying to show the player how many enemies it takes to tank their frame-rate and dammit it’s going to show you. Enemies, mostly familiar with the exception of a few which are introduced over the course of a playthrough, begin pouring from portals across each room. There is no escape.
Enemies are never-ending, their health scales, and over the course of the game I actually felt I was getting weaker due to the insane amount of effort it took to kill grunts I was previously chewing through painlessly. My stupid-but-hilarious looking gun wasn’t getting the job done, and the secondary items I had collected could only do so much. In the end, I usually lost runs due to a battle of attrition, slowly getting peeled away by one or two silent and wayward enemies that clipped me as I got stuck on a piece of level geometry.
HYPERGUN isn’t frustrating for any genuine sense of difficulty, but because it fumbles game-feel and sports some obscenely long runs, averaging about an hour and a half for a full clear with no option to save and quit. Waves of overly tanky enemies and a gun that feels like a water pistol doesn’t make me feel like an unstoppable intern with a chip on my shoulder, it makes me feel like I’m wasting my time. While the aesthetics and music are fantastic, limp-wristed gunplay and hordes of tanky enemies make HYPERGUN a familiar and frustrating experience.
This review is based on the PC version of the game. A copy was provided to us by NVYVE Studios.