Hyper Gunsport is a local-multiplayer sports game set in a future where all guns and all weapons have been banned for anything except the world’s favourite game: Gunsport. In fact, the world is so enamoured with Gunsport that any and all disputes are settled on the gun-court. Forget bragging rights – international trade routes and even the moon are up for grabs. But really that’s all set dressing for a game about a sport that sounds dangerous, yet is instead more like a match of skeet-shooting volleyball. 

A Gunsport team has two members: a goal keeper with a two-shot shotgun and a striker with a one-shot pistol. The striker can move and jump while the keeper can’t. There are three goals either side and the lower the goal, the harder to score and the higher the points. Each of the seven teams have brought their own specialised weaponry (Bubble gum blasters, yo-yo cannons, you name it). These Special Attacks charge up with skillful play, like when you and your teammate perform a Focus Attack by shooting the ball together. This has a great effect where time slows for a moment, only for the ball to burst across the screen, leaving your opponents floundering. But that’s pretty much it, there’s different game modes and each stage has a gimmick but the draw is: enjoy a little sports action with someone else. 

Hyper Gunsport's Angkor Wat
Hyper Gunsport’s Angkor Wat

Hyper Gunsport wants to feel like a classic fighting game (but a non-violent one). It wants to be played on an arcade cabinet while people are just hanging out. The type of elbow-to-elbow that has been dwindling ever since online multiplayer came in. And they’re rarer still now that the pandemic has starved them out. The closest thing in recent memory is It Takes Two, which was released almost two years ago and even that had online multiplayer.

That being said, it certainly plays better with others in the room. Because although it includes single-player tournaments with cute stories, you’re basically just playing endless rounds of versus mode by yourself. On the other hand, when you’ve got a team together you can enjoy the pleasure of playing a real sport like volleyball or tennis with your friends without having to worry about skill levels or each other’s fitness or any other roadblocks. It’s perfect for this, especially with all the accessibility settings. One of the game’s big strengths is how extensively customisable the accessibility is. New players can dip their toes into the game by turning on aim assist, move assist or turning down game speed. For higher visual contrast, you can replace the glittering backgrounds with a black wall. Hyper Gunsport doesn’t want to exclude anyone.

Scrapyard versus UWSD in Hyper Gunsport
Scrapyard versus UWSD in Hyper Gunsport

And the PlayStation 5 version is the definitive version for all this camaraderie. They’ve added haptic feedback, adaptive triggers and upped the resolution. The controller rumbles when you’ve reloaded a shot and the triggers fight back when you’re out of bullets. Instead of flicking an eye over to your gun’s floating bullet count, you keep your eye on the ball while your controller sends the signals to your hands. And with the higher resolution, Hyper Gunsport can be enjoyed on a big screen where the detailed environments import a real vibrance to the room.

This vibrant aesthetic is somewhere between Street Fighter II and Lethal League, with a dash of inspiration from the film Akira. Every country in the world is now sporting neon signage but not so much that they don’t have their own style. Neo Moscow is snowy, mechanised and brimming with overall-clad onlookers. The Congo stage is a river cruise through a lush rainforest dotted with coffee shops and tourists. Each stage has had a lot of love put into their design and they’re all crowned with their own 80’s synth pop theme song. These themes are all charmingly inspired by the stage’s local music. Latinx Punk, New Jack Swing, and Russian Choir all make an appearance and keen-eared listeners will enjoy how far the rabbit hole goes. A good soundtrack goes a long way for a sports game and Hyper Gunsport’s big end credits song, Neon Moonlight, is the pinnacle of this; it’s endlessly catchy, upbeat and fun.

It’s just a shame that the song isn’t featured more prominently, which could be said of Hyper Gunsport in general, because it’s fun but little known – and the story behind its development is a little unbelievable. Last week, I chatted to Hyper Gunsport‘s director, Brandon Sheffield, and he let me in on the highlights of the rocky development: it was on-and-off work for nine years and across five publishers. Cancelled, uncancelled, bought and sold. Gunsport released in 2020 as a Stadia-exclusive to such success that they began work on Hyper Gunsport. Then when they were one month out from launch, Stadia went bust. Now Gunsport has been lost to that sinking ship and Hyper Gunsport hasn’t made any headlines. 

But of course, this doesn’t change what Hyper Gunsport is: a fun sports game to play with friends. That’s what Hyper Gunsport is for, but maybe knowing the backstory gives you a better appreciation for the game, as an underdog story where a handful of people were pushed about on the waves of indie game publishing. Maybe it’s important as a primer, because it really is just the work of a small team; they haven’t bitten off more than they could chew, they’ve drilled down on the core gameplay and made the game they’ve wanted to play. So don’t expect much more than that, it’s gun volleyball with a light story, great stages and a bumping soundtrack; it’s Street Fighter II not Street Fighter V

Hyper gunsport neo tokyo
Hyper Gunsport’s Neo Tokyo

Branden played Hyper Gunsport on PlayStation 5 with a key provided by the publisher. Hyper Gunsport is also available on Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

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