Hybrid sounds like a strange beast on paper with its very different control restrictions and one that really needs to stand out in order to rise above so many games of the same genre. Not an easy feat if you really think about it. Nonetheless developer 5th Cell – famous for the super colourful and ever imaginative Scribblenauts series has managed to make a game that while on the surface may seem like just your average generic shooter, slowly reveals itself to be a unexpectedly decent online experience.
Hybrid’s three-on-three matches pit two teams of alien and human gunman against each other as they battle across a small number of bleak futuristic battlefields. In typical shooter fashion you’ll find a number of perks, grenades and different gun types all unlockable via levelling up your war hero with experience earned from playing matches. You can unlock new gear, team up with friends, play the game’s equivalent of deathmatch, king of the hill and so on. So far it all sounds very standard stuff and to honest if it weren’t for one key thing this would have been a very disappointing game. That key thing however is the way in which matches play out.
Instead of running around stages freely, fire fights, a majority of the time take place behind cover. Moving to a different location is done by simply selecting another area of cover on which your gunner will automatically start jetpacking over – there’s no dawdling about when making a move however, only allowing you to boost, shoot and dodge as you move toward your target. This makes for some rather interesting moments as every move you make feels like a daredevil dash you pray is free from enemy bullets. Standoffs are often common as you try to outwit your opponents and gain the better locations giving you a clearer shot of the enemy. It’s this unique idea that helps Hybrid, an otherwise generic looking sci-fi shooter from getting lost in the huge number of attempts out there. Of course all the typical traits of a cover-based shooter make an appearance too though – you can still pop up for better aiming, shift along cover and leap over to opposite sides, but it’s this new gameplay design that requires you to rethink how you play and how you attack and defend.
As you kill enemies you’ll start to build a kill streak (much like the Call of Duty series) that will allow you to summon AI controlled flying drones that aid you during battle. These guys stick by your side and come in three flavours gradually increasing in power the more kills you manage to rack up. The Stalker and Warbringer for example are handy at providing covering fire while the fearful Preyon hunts down a target and kills them with its sword in one swift manoeuvre. Destroying these devices also adds to your kill streak meaning signalling a new droid is never more than a few moments away as you take out one of the many guardians. It helps create a sense of mayhem that adds to the excitement of battles as you not only take on the opposing gunners, but their robot pals too.
Individual matches offer quick bursts of action, but also have a much larger role to play in the game’s ongoing world battle. Upon first starting the game you’ll be given the chance to select between one of two factions. This will be the team you score points for in each match you play. Every section of the game’s world map allows you to shoot it out against the opposition online and every match you play earns points toward your team allowing them to level up their base in that area. All this is in order to capture territories and earn dark matter orbs that in turn take your worldwide team one step closer to winning the overall war. As I write this review a “season” has already begun with the race to one hundred dark matter orbs ongoing. Once finished everything gets reset and the battle commences once again. It’s a neat idea and one that will definitely provide incentive to keep playing on and helping your team.
In terms of presentation, Hybrid feels flat. We’ve seen a number of different interpretations of the future and this hardly stands out from the crowd featuring okay character designs, run-of-the-mill weaponry and stages that all feel too similar to one another. It’s not that the art design is bad in the Hybrid, it’s just that it’s so boring and unexciting. Another problem I had was with the time it takes to get into a match. Going through the game’s menus and selecting where to play, what stage to play on and then waiting for said stage to load isn’t exactly the speediest of processes and does tend to make the whole experience drag a little.
Hybrid takes a big risk by restricting player movement and focusing so heavily on cover, yet it’s a risk that manages to pay off. What the game lacks in personality and originality of setting, it makes up for in delivering a fun shooter that dares to try something new with a genre that has long since started to become too cluttered and samey. While it may not be the best we’ve seen from 5th Cell, it’s still a decent addition to the Summer of Arcade roster and a futuristic war worth checking out.