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Hybrid Review

HybridWhat is the concept? Far too often competitive shooters suffer from the malaise of homogeneity.  Employing traditional run and gun conventions, the genre habitually delivers faint variations on a theme instead of offering comprehensive innovation. Developer 5th Cell (Lock’s Quest, Scribblenauts) hopes to remedy shooter stagnancy with Hybrid, a downloadable Xbox 360 title which offers a single innovative mechanic that’s potent enough to separate the title from its procession of ballistic-battling peers.

Shirking unrestricted movement across the expanses of each playfield, Hybrid’s system limits players to preset stretches of cover. While this might initially sound like a drawback, the small divergence allows for a radical change in both tempo and technique as the three-on-three clashes play out.  Players use an on-screen cursor to spot locations, with a press of the “A” button automatically propelling the combatant to the locale- all the while being able to engage an encroaching enemies. Once in position, participants are offered a bit of lateral movement, the opportunity to leap to the other side of cover, blind fire, as well as peek over their defensive position to target hostiles.

HybridThis system insures that players remain fluid, as each cover point can be assaulted from another, advantageous positions. In most shooters, it’s the player who knows every nuance of a map that will reign victorious. Yet, with Hybrid, the constrained number of control points as well as a tell-tale beacon showing enemy locations allow for novices to easily flank foes. Of course, there’s also a downside to the limited number of emplacements: although the game’s selection of ten maps present a pleasing variety of environmental motifs, there’s an undeniable uniformity of play across each locale. Whether there’s a Team Deathmatch competition in a weapons depot or a King of the Hill contest is set amidst an airfield, Hybrid’s fracases don’t feel radically different with players springing from point to point, eliminating as hostiles.

What are the game’s strengths? Beyond the core combat, Hybrid also supplies an interesting meta-game where players vie for control of regions across a world map. Echoing the territorial conquests of Risk, gamers choose either an alien or human faction, before they are prodded into capturing, maintaining, or overthrowing regions for escalating amounts of bonus experience. While it’s a promising concept and another method in which Hybrid courts players to return to the fray, there’s a scant amount of background- such as why Dark Matter is such a valued commodity and why Australia isn’t part of the conflict. As such, players have to have a bit self-motivation and imagination to derive enthusiasm from this component.

HybridMore intuitive is the title’s perk system, which rewards players with A.I. assistants after the first, third, and fifth kill. From the basic Stalker which peppers antagonist with light fire to the Preyon- a cybernetic she-devil which invokes the fury of an over-caffeinated Call of Duty player with her furious knife assault, the game’s bot help offset the three-player per side restriction.

Gratifyingly, the game’s aesthetics are consistently capable, with a spotless sixty frame-per-second output and an effective cacophony of weapon fire, explosions, and the tell-tale cry of an approaching Preyon. Hybrid’s arsenal of destruction is dependably rewarding, with punchy shotguns capable of decimating nearby foes and machine guns which unleash a load of lead into downrange opponents. Beyond a single offensive weapon, players also choose two extra abilities- from devastating grenades to temporary boosts which can augment a combat’s defenses or even increase the amount of XP earned in each match.

HybridWhat are the game’s weaknesses? Although Hybrid comes with a practice arena outfitted with dim-witted drones, the game lacks any type of engaging single player element. Given the game’s engaging mechanics, it would have been enjoyable to tackle bots, or have the title’s backstory conveyed through a short campaign. Considering the day-one launch woes which effectively made the game unplayable, some sort of offline component would help lessen the blow when Hybrid’s servers do dark. Currently, the game’s match-making and load times are woefully sluggish, this pauses of up to two minutes before entering a bout.

For traditionalists, the game’s proposal to bypass combat and earn exotic weapons and skills by spending Microsoft Points will seem dubious. Although the unlockable arms and aptitudes don’t give players a discernible advantage, these kinds of shortcuts seem more fitting in a free-to-play environment than a premium-priced downloadable title.

HybridIs it worth the money? By providing engrossing, accessible combat at a slick-smooth refresh rate, Hybrid certainly deserves the attention of action-game aficionados. Those fatigued by the formulaic fights offered by scores of military shooters should appreciate the title’s interpretation of combat, at least in the short term. A longer affair with Hybrid is dependent on the player’s interest in its meta-game and by the collection of a multitude of unlockables. Much like Super Scribblenauts offered a revision which significantly advanced 5th Cells’ creative ambitions, it would be great if the developer had a second chance, and allow Hybrid to build on its array of strengths.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

28 comments

  1. Is it back up? Yesterday my RSS feeder went wild with reports that the game was taken off Xbox live. I don’t think Joystiq or Kotaku mentioned it was back up.

    • Bad news gets more web hits than good news. That’s while you’ll see a report than a game was yanked, but hardly anything about a reinstatement.

      I’m curious if any one else knows about games being pulled from Xbox Live for not working. I just know some were pulling for legal issues.

    • It’s back up. Yep, the blog love to report a screw-up. It’s like printing money. Truth is, the game was only down for a few hours and not for everyone.

    • That’s why I don’t even read those sights. They love to take a quote and spin it to make it sound awful. Or report on bad news.

      I know IGN gets a bad rap, but at least they try to be pretty objective.

  2. ☠ Skullface ☠

    Online-only games on download services have a life expectancy of about 2 months Ive found. I bought Fat Princess and could literally see the drop off after two weeks.

    Same thing with Blacklight Tango Down, Nexuiz was dead on arrival.

  3. I tried the demo. I thought it was pretty fun and had no problems with servers or anything besides slowass matchmaking. Still it was lagfree when playing, so there’s that.

  4. Thanks, Deagle. I’ll try out the demo. I’m with you on the “shooters getting stale” boat. Everyone tries to copy CoD. I guess success will do that.

  5. I bought the game today and pretty much agree with the review. After a night of hardcore playing, there’s not a lot of stretchy, just getting moving and keep shooting. XD

  6. Besides the two things you mentioned (which really aren’t that important) the metagame thing is pretty self-explanatory. It tells you what the status of a territory is and you can help or not.

    • I know aliens and humans are fighting over a commodity, but what’s at stake? I didn’t feel the game conveyed that.

      • People have to fight with aliens. They’re like cats and dogs.

        Look what happened to the last game that showed them living together peacefully (E.T for 2600). We don’t need that to happen again.

  7. How are the servers now? Anyone?

    I don’t want to drop $15 on a game that’s going to be broken.

  8. I’m downloading the demo right now. It almost 2gb,that’s a good sign.

  9. Nice long review. Thanks for the info, man.

  10. I agree, there should be more single player. At least for $15.

  11. I tried the demo and I don’t really see any benefit from autopiloting from point to point. It makes the game boring. They should have autotargeting while you fly around instead.

  12. I’m glad they sorted out the problems because the game is pretty fun and does feel different from most shooters.

    After playing around in the practice arena, I’d love to see a campaign added. 5th Cell, if you’re reading this, I’d even pay $5 (but not more) for DLC if you make this happen.

  13. Good review. Covered everything I wanted to know about the game.

  14. I tried the demo and thought Hybrid had a cool idea, but it was totally average in execution. Maybe because the teams and maps were so small.

  15. Last Man Standing

    Good review, Deagle. You’re a man on a reviewing mission. How many games have you covered?

  16. Robert, you got a shout out on the CAGcast for your tweet on Hybrid.

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