On the surface Hybrid may appear to be a generic third person shooter but as you begin to peel back the layers it reveals itself as a unique and innovative shooter unlike anything available on Xbox Live Arcade.
At first glance you’ve played this game dozens of times before. The futuristic setting with generic factions and weapons has been a staple of third person shooters for years. Even the art direction and presentation of Hybrid is reminiscent of other games from the genre.
Hybrid was built by the minds at 5th Cell, the same guys behind Scribblenauts. While it may look generic, the mechanics and gameplay are anything but. The big differentiator between Hybrid and other third person shooters is that control is taken away from the player. Instead of being able to move around the level freely, Hybrid confines your movements to strafing left and right while behind cover.
To navigate through the rest of the level, your character can use a jetpack to move directly to other fortified positions to cover. The character will automatically make a bee-line for the selected cover, giving the player free reign to shoot at foes and dodge incoming fire on route. The player can also select a new piece of cover in mid air causing the character to auto adjust on the fly.
The game really begins to get interesting once those areas to cover behind appear on the walls and ceilings of a level. This leads to many jet pack fueled mid-air battles as players are flying around the map. Taking away some control from the player has allowed 5th Cell to create an almost choreographed combat mechanic.
Situational awareness is key in Hybrid as the direction of enemies is constantly changing forcing the player to adjust which side of the position they take cover behind. Luckily the amount of players per match is rather small, with 3 vs. 3 being the standard match size. Additional players would cause multiplayer matches to become absolutely ridiculous, especially when kill streaks are so prevalent.
In addition to simply firing at your opponent, robotic drones are awarded after every kill. One kill will get you a stalker robot who sits right next to you and fires at the targets you do. After two kills you are awarded the war bringer robot which is essentially a flying tank with a lot of fire power. Three kills will give you a robotic katana wielding ninja who can insta-kill any opponent. These robotic drones help to create the fast paced craziness of Hybrid multiplayer.
The robotic drones, along with the flying, covered based nature of Hybrid helps to freshen up the otherwise tried and true multiplayer game modes. While the mechanics are innovative it does fall back upon familiar game modes like team deathmatch, capture the flag and objective based games.
As with other contemporary multiplayer games, Hybrid also offers a progression level up system. The progression system is actually much faster than in other games, making the player feel like they are actually accomplishing something. There are tons of unlockable weapons and cosmetics as well as game changing perks and abilities. Each player is allowed one passive perk and one cool down ability. These range from XP modifiers, damage enhancers and shields to the ability to teleport and self destruct.
Hybrid is an online only multiplayer shooter with no campaign to speak of. Online matches do contribute towards a world wide meta-game. Each match earns points towards the player’s faction in a territory and level up the faction’s base in that region. This continues until one faction dominates and conquers the majority of the world, winning the current season of Hybrid multiplayer. The season will then reset and the battle will start anew.
The only place where Hybrid stutters is the length of time it can take to get into a match. Even though there is only up to six players per match, it can take quite some time for the game to start. The result is some lengthy loading screens. There is also a small micro transaction system for upgrades that may rub some people the wrong way.
Hybrid is a great shooter not just for Xbox Live Arcade but for the third person shooter genre as a whole. It literally turns the concept of player control on its head with an innovative cover and movement mechanic that creates a unique multiplayer experience. The meta-game that encompasses Hybrid gives a direction or purpose to the multiplayer as opposed to the over stimulated action addiction of other shooters. It may take a bit of getting used to, but once you get it Hybrid can be a whole lot of fun.
This review is based on a downloadable copy of the 360 version of Hybrid.