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Battle royale games—and shooters in general—are hard to do well. How do you add originality without distracting players? What balance of surprise and skill creates the most addictive game loop?
The multiplayer shooter market is oversaturated, and big-budget AAA titles like Valorant, Call of Duty, Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Overwatch continue to dominate the Twitch charts. How can a newcomer hope to break through?
While there are plenty of NFT and crypto-enabled games in the works, many don’t feel polished, exciting, or competitive enough to compete. But My Pet Hooligan (MPH) is one of the few titles that definitely stands a chance against the big guns, based on my time playing the current alpha test.
Rabbits vs. robots
Even with a relatively small team, AMGI Studios appears on track to make a big splash with its first shooter in MPH. The game doesn’t overcomplicate its lore, but still offers a cheeky premise: What if a species of sassy, bipedal rabbits were enslaved by an evil corporate tech overlord named MetaZuckBot? Yes, you read that right.
— Kate Irwin (@pixiekate13) July 3, 2023
In the early access version of the MPH world that I played via the Epic Games Store, it’s clear that there’s been a rebellion in Hooliland. Biohazardous green sludge oozes from a building, while guns and ammunition litter the brightly colored—yet unmistakably dystopian—urban landscape. There’s plenty of street art and rabbit sculptures, giving the world an immersive feel that’s full of funny jokes and Easter eggs.
Some games look gorgeous in marketing screenshots but leave a lot to be desired once that matches start (a.k.a. "bullshots"). MPH has the opposite effect—its character movement, animations, and weapon play make the game feel AAA-quality even in this early state.
Battle royale games like Fortnite and Apex Legends are so successful in part because of their unique and compelling takes on movement—and MPH is no different. In the early access version of MPH I played, I shot down evil ZuckBots in the litter-strewn park and tracked down a couple other real players across the map.
MPH blends player-versus-environment (PVE) with player-versus-player (PVP) gameplay. While this can be very hard to do well, I found the ZuckBots easy enough to kill—perhaps a little too easy at times.
But if the game’s map was filled with tons of other players, I imagine the ZuckBots could become challenging in key moments—like if you’re trying to hide behind a corner to reload, but the bots reveal your location to enemy Hooligans. There were also a few occasions where ZuckBots started attacking me in the middle of a 1v1 with another player.
As someone with thousands of hours logged in Apex Legends and Overwatch, I have to admit that My Pet Hooligan's gunplay was satisfying. I found my favorite loadout pretty quickly—a water pistol, a fully automated machine gun, and a plunger sniper rifle—and had an incredible amount of fun finding and taking out other Hooligan bunnies on the sprawling map.
There’s plenty of high ground to be had, too, and the bunnies’ ability to double-jump with a somersault—plus the myriad jump pads—made it easy to take the high ground.
I even one-shot-killed someone with the plunger rifle—a moment of true hilarity.
This game moves fast. Bunnies can run rapidly and skateboards help you zoom across the map. Players of fast-paced shooters will be naturals at this pace, but fans of games with less movement (i.e. Valorant) may feel less comfortable.
Despite only playing against a few others in a battle royale game that would normally have many more, I had a blast. It was the first “Web3” game where I felt immediately entertained... and had to make myself stop playing.
It’s an easy game to learn, but if your aim and movement aren’t strong, then you’ll struggle a bit. But the bunny head hitboxes are quite large, so it’s easier to land headshots on other players compared to other games.
MPH offers a wide variety of weapons for different play styles; think chainsaws, brass knuckles, samurai swords, flame throwers, and tons of guns. It was fun to test out the animations and impacts of different melee weapons, and it’ll be interesting to see which items become the “meta”—or the dominant competitive strategy—when the game fully launches.
The game’s developers will also have to see if the time-to-kill rate needs a tweak, as the game’s strongest guns can take out players extremely fast when used correctly. Even so, everything felt pretty smooth and seamless for an early access game.
Another element of MPH that I appreciated was just how interactive the game environment is. Almost everything on the map can be climbed, and most items can be shot into oblivion. Trucks will explode and do damage to anyone within the vicinity, for example, so don’t hide behind those for long. And if you have a gun that uses paintball bullets, then you can paint bullets across the city.
NFTs and crypto
While I didn’t buy any crypto or NFTs to play My Pet Hooligan, it’s worth mentioning that AMGI Studios is very crypto-friendly. AMGI sees NFTs and crypto as a big part of its vision for MPH, although the studio won’t be forcing either onto players at launch.
MPH is free-to-play and doesn’t require crypto or NFTs—but players can snag a unique bunny character Ethereum NFT to use as their in-game avatar if they so choose.
These Hooligan NFTs can also be staked for synthetic carrots, or S-KARROTS, which AMGI Studios says can be converted to its ERC-20 token KARROTS in the future. In addition to the Hooligan bunny NFTs, AMGI has also released ZuckBot NFTs that can be claimed by Hooligan holders and will grant holders access to additional game content.
MPH also has its version of loot boxes called ZuckBoxes, which can be “burned” or effectively destroyed to reveal virtual loot. And Hooligan NFT owners can download 3D files of their characters to use them for their own art or with facial recognition software, so that they can become their Hooligan online both in and out of the game.
Small rabbits, big potential
Overall, I was genuinely impressed with My Pet Hooligan. It’s not reinventing the battle royale formula, but it is one of the best new shooters I’ve played in a while.
Many multiplayer games may struggle to attract enough players to fill a single lobby without a hefty marketing budget and a rock-solid community. But My Pet Hooligan stands out as one of the very few titles that could make a major splash in the gaming space—as long as AMGI continues to add fresh content that expands upon its colorful world.