+Interesting new mechanics
+Lots of hectic battles
-Gameplay can get boring
-Drones can become distracting
-Confusing and unexplained plot
-Depends on multiplayer servers
Final score: 7.5 / 10
A working Xbox 360 with an online connection
Developer 5th Cell has gotten fans used to complex puzzle games, like those in the Scribblenauts series, so the announcement of Hybrid, a multiplayer-only, sci-fi third-person shooter, has definitely surprised a lot of loyal fans.
The game has now been released for the Xbox 360, via the Xbox Live Arcade, and it’s definitely looking like an interesting take on the old shooter genre, thanks to special mechanics like a jetpack that’s used to fly from cover to cover, or the unique drones that can be deployed after racking up enough kills.
Is Hybrid taking the third-person shooter genre in a novel direction or does it fail to meet expectations? Let’s find out.
Prepare your drone ...
... and start flying
Story-wise, Hybrid is as bare bone as possible. Earth is invaded by aliens called Variants who wage war over Dark Matter across the planet’s territory against the human Paladins. You don’t find this out from the beginning, however, as you’re just shown orbs of dark matter and quickly tasked with joining one of the factions, without knowing what they represent.
Gameplay is also standard for a third-person shooter, as cover is once again essential. However, while games like Gears of War take pride in offering mobility once in cover, Hybrid actually restricts the player’s movements.
Sure, you can move from left to right or jump onto the other side, but actually moving on the battlefield isn’t done by using your legs. Instead, Hybrid players must employ their jetpacks.
You start the match in cover and must simply point your crosshair to another bit of cover and jetpack to it. You need to be careful though, as you’ll be an easy target. Luckily, you can dodge bullets by strafing and even employ an afterburner to get to your destination faster.
Hybrid also stands out thanks to its drone mechanic. Basically, once you start racking up kills, you get to summon various drones. For one kill, you get to call in the Stalker, a small drone that floats besides you and shoots at enemies in your line of sight. For three kills, you get to summon the beefier Warbringer, which is a much bigger drone designed to withstand punishment and to eliminate groups of foes.
Last but not least, for five kills, you get to call in the Preyon, a drone modeled after a female ninja that lets out a terrifying scream and almost instantly kills your unlucky target. You can try to kill the deadly drone but its speed, coupled with its powerful attack, makes it almost unbeatable.
These two mechanics do make Hybrid stand out from other third-person shooters but, in the end, they still feel like gimmicks that only restrict players, in the case of the jetpack, or add unnecessary distractions, in the case of the drones.
You can select quite a few things in regard to your character, from your starting weapon, to your special ability (like grenades, extra armor, or the power to see through walls), and a specialization (ranging from bonus standard armor to increased XP gain). Other items can be unlocked as you progress through the game or, in case you want a quicker way to get good gear, by buying in-game credits with Microsoft Points.
Matches take place in districts from all over the world. These start at regular levels but, once more and more matches are fought inside them, one of the two factions begins assuming control of its resources. Once a side reaches 100%, a new district is unlocked and fighting begins anew.
This doesn’t mean that maps vary, however, as they’re mostly the same and become quite boring after a while. They usually have a central area with cover on all sides and different opposing spawn points. This promotes hectic action that can get quite confusing, especially once players start summoning their drones.
Multiplayer Seeing as how Hybrid is a multiplayer-only game, you’re dependent on its servers to actually start it up. This already caused some issues slightly after the game’s launch, when those who just bought it couldn’t even get it to load. Once you do start the game and get through the tutorial, you’re then dependent on players who are online and want to play with you.
The basic procedure is to check out the world map, find a district that’s currently in play and then filter for existing matches by game type, ranging from Team Deathmatch, to King of the Hill, Overlord, Artifact, Crazy Kings, or Tactics.
All these variations offer an extensive online experience but, sadly, most players will prefer starting Team Deathmatch servers, so you’ll usually be forced to play with five other people in the game’s tight and bland maps.
The action is hectic and you’ll certainly have some fun at first, but the lack of variety and the fact that you’ll sometimes wait a long time before you find a server does diminish Hybrid’s appeal.
Choose your district ...
... and enter combat
Hybrid is a decent shooter that tries to bring new elements to the old genre. Sadly, both the jetpack and the drone mechanics don’t herald any massive breakthroughs. What’s more, the multiplayer-only action is reliant on its user base which, as of yet, isn’t that big and mostly wants to play standard sessions of Team Deathmatch, instead of more interesting modes.
What’s more, while gameplay is relatively good, it doesn’t really justify a 1200 MS Points price tag, so you might want to put off getting the game at least until more people join its user base.