All Jetpacks, all the time.
5th Cell’s new XBLA shooter, Hybrid, got off to a bit of a rocky start, experiencing server downtime on launch day and the subsequent pulling of the title from Xbox Live. Never fear, later in the day Microsoft and 5th Cell had rectified whatever the issue was and all was made right again. Once I was actually able to fire up Hybrid, and get into a game, it didn’t take long to see that this game is the definition of Arcade Shooter. Hybrid takes a few chances, and not all of them work out, but it delivers on fun.
I don’t say this very often, but there are no single player modes available in Hybrid.
Hybrid is a third person shooter that does things a little differently than you’re used to. This, online-only, team game presents itself as a global war for territory domination and resource superiority between two factions. The resource in question is Dark Matter and 5th Cell presents the battle as a meta game that has you choose a section of the globe to fight in, before you start matchmaking. Some areas become designated as ‘Hot Zones’ and will earn you bonus experience for competing there and each battle your chosen faction wins, in a given territory, pushes you closer to the contested sample of Dark Matter in that region. Once one faction gathers 100 units of Dark Matter the world will reset.
The idea of the battle for earth is sort of interesting, but it has no real bearing on things once you enter a match. You may be interested in your factions overall progress, but there is little else about the persistent world to keep you interested. The basic nature of this setup also carries over into the maps. Due to the way you move around in Hybrid, which I’ll get into later, each map isn’t very different from the next in terms of gameplay. In fact, the maps aren’t very aesthetically different from each other either.
Fortunately, the gameplay in Hybrid is a much different story. 5th Cell has mixed some new elements in with the tried and true third person shooter formula for some explosive results. Matches are quick, chaotic and a lot of fun. Kill streaks will earn you access to three different types of drones to fight alongside of you and when six players all have a drone or two tagging along, things can get out of hand pretty quickly.
Movement presents the most noticeable difference between Hybrid and other first person shooters. Each map consists of a series of cover points that are constructed out of low walls, which can be vaulted over with ease if an attack comes from another direction. To move around the map, players do not run. Yes, you read that correctly, instead you’ll point your reticle at the piece of cover you want to move to and your character will automatically jetpack over to it. You can control you movement along the path, by dodging up or down, and side to side, but you will end up where you wanted to go either way.
This loss of freedom to run around might turn some of you off at first, but I came to enjoy the freedom it gave to me to aim wherever I want and shoot down opponents while knowing I’m going to be safely delivered to my destination. You can also adjust your destination, mid-flight, by targeting a new piece of cover and hitting A and you can retreat to your last cover by hitting B. Hybrid takes movement in a shooter, dumps it on its head, and makes you learn new strategies. This is going to scare some people off, but those who stick around will come to enjoy it.
Drones also play a big part in Hybrid and you’ll have access to three, based on how high a kill streak you’re currently on. The Stalker is a small unit with short range that will guard you against close quarters attacks; the Warbringer is a bigger, tougher drone that will chase enemies; and the Preyon is a robot Ninja looking thing that will hunt down and assassinate your opponents from long range unless they can shoot it down with speed. Killing enemy drones will net a good amount of experience compared to an enemy kill and, if you’re good enough, you can carry around all three at once.
I really had fun with the fast paced nature of Hybrid and, though the maps all tend to feel very similar, the battlefields never really allow for camping or sniping, two things that really get on my nerves when playing shooters.
Hybrid literally changes the third person shooter game. It takes you out of your comfort zone and asks you to learn a whole new way to play a multiplayer shooter. The persistent world aspect isn’t as interesting as it could have been, and the maps get old fairly quickly, but Hybrid is what an arcade shooter should be; fun.