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Hypercharge: Unboxed is the relaxed shooter I'd have put hundreds of hours into back in the early 2000s

The one modern arena shooter that actually has a player base.

A toy soldier stands atop of a lot of broken toys, wielding a gun, holding a flag.
Image credit: VG247

Hypercharge: Unboxed has been around for a few years now, but its presence was limited to PC, where it had a small but dedicated following of players looking for quick retro blasts of classic FPS/TPS fun. After a timid Nintendo Switch release in 2020, it's finally made its way to Xbox, where it's performed remarkably well and gained a second life thanks to crossplay.

It's not often that we see such comeback stories pan out, especially when it comes to indie releases that focus on multiplayer modes. That's always a risky bet, but for Digital Cybercherries, it ultimately paid off. The secret? Doubling down on what made the game special in the first place.

Hypercharge is a game I've been watching from the sidelines for a while. Modern arena shooters that actually feel like the classics are a rare breed nowadays, as the genre has morphed into something else and has been mixed with MOBA mechanics to hell and back. It's true that Quake Champions continues to exist and have a community, but even the legendary series' latest entry couldn't escape the long shadow of bigger hero-based shooters. DOOM's (2016) competitive multiplayer modes were a solid but underrated take on the formula; as good as it felt, however, people never gave the MP component much attention. And of course, Epic Games' small Unreal Tournament reboot was scrapped once Fortnite took off.

With Quake remasters being a thing and boomer shooters becoming one of the most fruitful indie spaces in recent years, it's been a bit baffling not to see a proper heir to Quake's throne pop up while Bethesda and id Software figure out what's next for the franchise. Hypercharge doesn't fix this problem, but it sure does provide a solid alternative that isn't full of live-service trappings and forced hero mechanics.

Hypercharge PvP screenshot
Image credit: VG247

The basics are all there: You pick up weapons and components that are scattered around the levels. Controls are super easy to learn. Platforming is a key part of the action. So what's the main difference? It's a much slower game, making it beginner-friendly, but also lowering the skill ceiling quite a bit. This has, however, provided Hypercharge with another easy win: It plays great with a gamepad, about as well as mouse plus keyboard. Whether you're playing solo, co-op, or player-versus-player, it's not faster than a Serious Sam title.

On the matter of single-player and multiplayer: Hypercharge is filled to the brim with no-BS content and ways to play the game either alone, in local MP, or online, and crossplay has only enabled its community to grow stronger and tighter. Looking at the Steam player numbers, you'd think this is a dead game, but I haven't had to wait yet to find matches, and it's quick to jump in and out of lobbies, which, by the way, are permanent (Call of Duty really needs to sort that out).

Hypercharge traps screenshot
Image credit: VG247

Neither the single-player nor co-op experiences are memorable affairs, but that's kind of the whole point: Digital Cybercherries clearly set out to make a pure, lighthearted shooter for people who need a break from more complex games or have outright rejected where shooters have gone in modern times. Hypercharge isn't looking to entice you with battle passes, limited-time events, or an endless loop of progression. You jump in, shoot some things, maybe even build some defenses if you're playing PvE, and get some old-school rewards to make your toy soldier look fresh.

There's even a simple, Small Soldiers-ish story explaining all of what goes down in the single-player and co-op levels, told through lovely comic book cutscenes, which add to the 'love letter' feeling that permeates the entire game. It might be uncomplicated fun, but the devs are clearly passionate about what they were trying to assemble together here (just examine the pop culture winks scattered around the domestic levels), and the polish speaks for itself.

Hypercharge enemies screenshot
Image credit: VG247

During my time so far with Hypercharge: Unboxed, I've held the fort against giant (for toys) robots, mechs, and even killer beyblades (see above). I maybe played a bit through a couple of levels before swapping to online PvP, where I topped the scoreboard once or twice, reminding myself that I used to be pretty decent at classic Quake. Over the course of one hour, the fun-per-minute ratio while playing this game is quite high. I won't obsess over it or wonder where devs are taking things next, but that's why it works excellently in short bursts.

Sometimes, multiplayer video games have simply become too complicated to feel relaxing after a day or hard work, and that's where an indie darling like Hypercharge comes in. I know I'd have utterly loved this back when I was in high school. Now, my brain has rotted and needs more stimuli most of the time. That said, I'm always up to return to simpler times for a bit and frag like it's 2000 without worrying about XP bars and rewards.

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