Published on August 13th, 2012 | by Ben Gray0
Summary: Who cares about some rover on Mars when Ben’s flying around with rocket boots in Hybrid? Find out if he crashed in his review.
Hybrid poses an interesting solution to shooter innovation; by limiting player movement and changing map design to suit, they have essentially created an experience more tactical and unique than the gambling multiplayer-exclusive games that land on XBLA; either becoming instantly popular (Battlefield 1943) or left for dead (Nexuiz), with hardly anything in between. The rocky launch Hybrid received that caused all the servers to go down – not an ideal situation for a game that requires connection to these servers just to get past the start screen – and was then subsequently pulled from the Marketplace for a considerable number of hours, hasn’t given the game a good starting run in the race to remain spotlighted, but Hybrid tries to provides an experience that isn’t disposable, with the foundations of an online network built to last.
5th Cell’s latest is probably more true to the label “cover shooter” than anything else on the market; as besides from travelling to and from cover, you’ll be spending most of you playtime in the presumed safety of cover. From first glance it seems like a recipe for disaster, the restriction of player movement holding the game itself back, but it surprisingly works; at a smooth 60 frames per second, Hybrid is not only fast paced and frantic, but also quite tactical. The Gears of War-esque, dead end map design is used to an advantage as equipped abilities (namely teleport) help to overcome the immediate problems of campers. Unfortunately, the straightforward concept leads to some uninspiring map design due to the limitations of Hybrid’s gameplay, despite aesthetics differing widely between the game’s several maps. Upside-down cover, whilst a fun gimmick, reversely helps to highlight some irritating issues with the game’s controls; moving around cover can be frustrating especially in urgency, and the camera can prove a nightmare in close-quarters situations when at that angle.
Players are divided into two factions; Paladins and Variants, teams that they will likely stick with for most of their time spent on the game. You then proceed to pick continents and then countries to battle on, with “hotzones” highlighted as places with the most competition. Unfortunately, outside of these particular areas, matchmaking is non-existent, until hotzones are locked down for a particular faction and everyone moves onto the next one. At the end of each season, a side is declared the winner, the map resets and the next season begins – it’s certainly a clever way to pull players back, but is there any incentive besides a free helmet?
Speaking of helmets, Hybrid has a vast array of weapons, abilities and aesthetics to unlock throughout the game’s progression, and 5th Cell decided to controversially include purchasing these items optionally with MSP. It’s there for those who want it; otherwise it’s quite the grind to unlock the whole bunch. The game never forces you to fork out your cash for items or even suggests it, but you’ll certainly start to notice as you progress. Even experience boosts are available to purchase, which makes the game seem quite unlevelled. Notably, all of your purchases, game progression and save data is tied to your Xbox Live account; the game never asks you to choose a storage device, or even gives the option to. Good for hard drive space? Yes. Wanting to move to a different gamertag and keep your progression? Tough luck.
Hybrid boasts six game modes; Team Deathmatch, Overlord, Artefact, King of the Hill, Crazy Kings and Tactics; fancy names for modes you know and love. Whilst TDM and King of the Hill are fun and fast paced, game modes that act like CoD’s Search and Destroy; giving you one life a round and expecting you to arm an objective, are ridiculous in such quick matches like this with games lasting mere minutes because one side is usually eliminated before anyone even thinks to try and arm the bomb. Luckily, for those who just want to play game modes lacking any specific objectives, players can choose the playlist to do so, and it’s nice to have the option. Also pre-game, players can choose from bonus objectives with varying amounts of XP – if completed in the following match, they get the reward, if they don’t, there’s no loss.
One particular issue I did have with Hybrid is the way kill streaks are handled. One kill grants you a Stalker; a small robot that follows you around and provides additional fire. Three kills grant you a Warbringer; essentially a beefed-up Stalker that has a mind of its own. Five kills nets you a Preyon which homes in on a target fast and is an insta-kill – provided it is not destroyed en-route. It felt like if you had a good start, you would play nothing but great throughout the rest of the game thanks to the constant rewards streamed to you for a few mere kills, leaving players who are new and perhaps can’t perform quite as well to be tossed around, spending more time in the Deathcam than the game itself. Personally, whilst I have no problem with the rewards themselves, I did think that they could have been awarded for much more kills than they are, because to me, they’re disposable cheats.
5th Cell’s Hybrid is undoubtedly unique, there’s no question about it, and is built with enough content to keep players satisfied with their 1200MSP purchase. However, niggling problems such as the use of killstreaks, particular game modes and the slow unlock progression may deter players at an early stage. As with the other Summer of Arcade titles, it’s certainly worth downloading the free trial to see for yourself, the fluid fast-paced combat may entice some, but for me, the little problems collectively made my experience unenjoyable.