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warning: political rant
This game is often criticized for its sorta hackneyed delivery of the "war is bad" theme and for making the player feel bad about actions they have no control over. But honestly, if you ask me, an American military shooter game that literally yells at and antagonizes its own player for liking American military shooter games is pretty cool and based, actually.
Like, I don't know man. I remember being a teenage gamer in America in 2012. I remember playing Call of Duty. I remember Call of Duty being "that game that all the boys play when they get together." I remember how, when the media talked about video game violence, they were pretty much specifically talking about Call of Duty (or sometimes GTA or Mortal Kombat or something). Regardless, American war shooters were all the rage and you couldn't escape talking about them, whether in praise or derision, whenever any topic concerning video games would come up.
One thing I don't remember hearing that much about though, and maybe this is just my experience, is how weird it was that all these shooting games were very obviously military fucking propaganda. Support for the military industrial complex is so incredibly ingrained within American society that the media will literally talk about how dangerous video game violence is to the youth without ever even entertaining the notion about how that violence glorifies modern imperialism or how it contributes to manufacturing the perceived necessity of foreign invasions. Game critique was so criminally underdeveloped that the only retort that gamers could come up with to "Do video games cause violence?" was "Actually, video games don't cause violence." Any further nuance about how this very specific glorification of military violence could, in fact, serve the interests of the state via its utility as recruiting material for impressionable young boys, needless to say, did not quite make it into the critical minds of teenage gamer bros at the time. So honestly, when Spec Ops: The Line came out and took an admittedly blunt hammer at issues like war hero worship and needless military intervention that even now, as a nation, we're still really bad at talking about, I actually found it refreshing.
I could ramble about politics for hours, and I haven't even really talked about the game at all...but honestly, so much has already been written about this game that I would literally just be making the same points other people have already made, but worse. Ultimately, the point is that Spec Ops: The Line hates you for liking Call of Duty and that's kind of awesome, in my opinion.

Hyper Demon is basically just Doom Eternal for people who liked Eternal’s shift towards being a ‘game-y game’ but didn’t like how it executed its mechanics.
Both games try to combine Ninja Gaiden’s high difficulty and hyper aggressive enemy design with fps combat, creating stylish action games focused on RAW EFFICIENCY - killing enemies faster than they can kill you. Whereas Eternal took influence from MMO combat with cooldown management, infinitely replenishing resources, frequent healing, and damage rotations - Hyper Demon takes influence from minimalist arcade games, focusing on simple tactical trade-offs, routing, and long term risk/reward with a small but multi-faceted toolset.
An easy example is by looking at the first enemy you meet in the game - a Spawner (don’t know the official names, sorry). You can instantly kill the Spawner with a long-range laser, kill it with a melee attack to grant an instant speed boost, or kill it with your daggers to drop an item box.
If it drops an item box, you have 3 options -
1. Destroy the box with a laser to spawn a large swarm of homing daggers, automatically killing any nearby enemies
2. Destroy the box with a dash for a speed boost
3. Destroy the box with your daggers to spawn GEMS
Anyone familiar with Ninja Gaiden’s essence system knows exactly how this works. Pick up the essence gems to level up your weapons (HD does this automatically, no need to buy things from a menu) or destroy the essence to charge up a UT high damage super attack (in this case a big-ass laser beam). You’re balancing the short-term value of laser attacks vs the long-term value of powering up your weapons. And it’s not like you can stockpile these lasers - just like NG, you either use it or lose it.
BUT THEN, you have to consider aiming the laser directly at an enemy vs aiming the laser at the ground, splitting the shot to stun multiple enemies simultaneously.
The other enemies are also interesting to fight against! Larvae are trivial if shot from afar but function as jump pads if you dash into them, giving you a reason to get close. Spider enemies are annoying because they absorb any essence you leave on the ground, but if you deliberately leave them alive for long enough, they‘ll spawn explosive canisters that can be shot to decimate waves of enemies (and the explosions are bigger if you use a laser). There are also Snakes which are mostly harmless, but if you leave them alive for too long, they’ll block access to slow-mo power-ups by surrounding them with impenetrable steel tails (and the power-ups themselves can be sacrificed in place of Essence if you want to shoot a fat laser). Enemies spawn in large groups, so you always have to consider ‘What enemy should I keep alive? Who’s my biggest priority right now?’ There are even more enemy types in the game, but those will be a surprise for anyone who can survive for more than 2 minutes (much harder than it sounds!).
I’m not gonna list every decision you make in a run (I haven’t even talked about all of the movement options like bunny-hopping, fakes, or shotgun jumping) or go over its commitment to fairness (great sound design + spherical projection provide near perfect information) but hopefully you can see how every interaction is about making a deliberate trade-off that can subtly snowball over the course of a run. Routing what enemies you want to kill and how you want to kill them has a lot of depth! And this is all tied together with a simple scoring system where you lose points every second but regain points anytime you kill an enemy, forcing you to play as aggressively as possible if you want to maintain a high score. I’m absolutely in love with this game, and can see myself chasing high scores for the rest of the year. If Eternal rubbed you the wrong way (or you just want an alternative to Ultrakill’s Cyber Grind), then I highly recommend Hyper Demon!!!

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