Anti-gravity, mini "death bots," and Dark Matter? Okay, sounds good. From 5th Cell comes an online "stop and pop" third person shooter built around fast, yet calculated gameplay and an over arching mark of global competition. This entry into Xbox LIVE's Summer of Arcade shows that strong core shooter principles can still be the centerpiece of an IP, and has enough appeal to be a great opening act for the big budget AAA shooters to come later in the year.
Setting up your weapons and equipment is worth doing before you start jetting around and spraying rounds. The normal weapon types are here: assault rifles, shotguns, snipers, light machine guns, ect. Dependent on how you think your play style will be, you'll definitely want to pick something to suit your strat. Even though this is "just an Arcade game," there is noticeable difference in the classes. There are also a few individual guns that can "straddle the line" between types. The Burst Sniper rifle doesn't have the most range or damage amount in the group, but it does have a bigger clip and higher rate of fire. This made it a great compromise for me: someone who wants to keep moderate distance from enemies, but still wants to fire off a decent amount of rounds. There is no weapon customization to speak of, so don't expect to slap a red dot on the MR19 Battle Rifle or a grenade launcher to the LMG. I personally really like this meta-theme at play. Hybrid continually harks back to the days of basic shooting, strategic cover and movement, understanding of the map, ect. But it also makes some concessions to "newer" standards in the shooter landscape.
You can setup favorable gear in the Loadout screen as well. Abilities encompasses all the other "stuff" you take with you into a match. Enhancements offer "power ups" to your gat, such as High Impact Rounds. Team Support are temporary advantages utilized by the whole team, like the "x-ray vision" Satellite ability. Frag and the "sticky" Fusion grenades exist in Attack category while Defense features armor adding META Shields, and the like. One of the more interesting of all Abilities is the Drone Hack grenade. Which, when dispatched, will make the opposing sides "battle bots" turn on themselves. What are Drones, you say? We'll get to that shortly.
Once you've decided on where to go, and what to bring, it's time to fight! As I've touched on a little already, this title feels like an older multiplayer during matches. The base model weapons force you to chose good position against your opponents to set up favorable shot angles. And although there are "hit markers," the reticle is still quite "broad" in terms of where bullets might be going. So it will be up to you to take concentrated shots in bursts when the other guy peeks out from cover. I love this about Hybrid and is the main reason the game works. Other aspects are quite different from other frag fests, past and present. There is no walking/running to speak of. By scanning the battleground, you'll see a number of cover options. Pressing A while staring down one will ignite your jet packs and fly you over to it and sink right down behind the barricade. Going up on the left stick brings you to a firing position and pulling left trigger enables a "down sight" view. Y button allows vaulting over the wall, and hitting B will "retreat" and snaps you back to your previous nest. While flying, you're allowed a certain amount of "free control," to dodge oncoming fire, but the range is limited and your character will always go in a straight trajectory forward. I've heard some folks say this is a huge problem for them. The fact that they can't move about as they please is a limiting restriction to Hybrid. To counter that, I contend that the map design does not allow for the kind of freedom they want.
Just as unique as the movement system are the assorted arenas. Most feature a strict symmetrical design, and the others that don't still employ a very "balanced" asymmetrical persuasion. Gravity is also played with. Many spots feature cover installations that go along the "side" of the map or are upside-down. Learning to utilize these against cover areas facing opposite that are right side up can be very good for the ole K/D. Because of these layouts, there isn't extensive "floor space" that would even make running around possible. The jet packing wasn't a hasty decision. It's a plan that was carefully formulated as something to set this game apart. And the maps glorify the style of movement. The third trademark of this 5th Cell IP are the Kill Streak rewards in the form of Drones. After three, five, and seven consecutive frags, you are given a new robo-aid to your cause. Three enables a Stalker, a hover-bot that hangs at your side and will lob bullets of it's own at the enemy(s) you engage. A Warbringer is offered after five, which is a "smart Stalker" of sorts that will enact it's own flight path toward baddies. The last one at seven is a Preyon. Imagine a death ninja pixie. The little assassin screams out when launched, finds the nearest OpFor member, and beheads thee. Another negative offered against Hybrid is the 3v3 restriction on matches. Yes, six people in today's online landscape is small potatoes. But after the first few minutes, there is usually no shortage of things to shoot at with the addition of these mechanized side kicks that seem as though they escaped from an Aperture Laboratories facility.
The game modes are another positive for this title. Standard TDM is available along with several objective types. King of the Hill and Crazy King work as they do in every other instance. Artifact is an Oddball style game where the team in possession of the "artifact" for 220 seconds wins. And the Assault inspired Tactical features a offensive and defensive team in which the center-most cover platform acts as the bomb destination. But be extra careful, because this game type offers no respawns. The most (and largely only) disappointing portion of this title is the lack luster presentation. The big advertised "revolution" of Hybrid is the 60 frames-per-second clip of the graphics. Which, admittedly makes things look a lot crisper. But the design is really cookie-cutter in it's own respect. Sure, the game has distinct style, but the closet is limited and the motif becomes monotonous after a few hours. The audio isn't very good at all. I play all of my shooters wearing Astro a40s because of the surround/spacial recognition of sound. Hybrid is the first, anything, that has sounded bad in that headset. Imagine a Thanksgiving dinner plate will all dishes in one big, unorganized pile. Everything was just loud, uninteresting, unoriginal, with VERY little directional existence. This is quite a turn off, and is the worst part of the game. But hey, I think 5th Cell should be pretty happy with this downloadable project if that is the lone glaring weakness.
This is a really good addition to the Summer of Arcade. A fast paced, twitchy shooter with it's own ideas on how to deal with movement and kill streaks. Originality meets basic, but perfectly executed fragging principles in great gameplay harmony. Map design enhances the premises that makes the game unique, while the weapons and gear in this title are very effective tools of destruction. Although the Dark Matter "conflict" isn't made completely clear, it does afford for a pretty cool way to pick online lobbies (of sorts.) It's a real shame the presentation couldn't hold up its end of the bargain. This is a really good game that would be a nice compliment to any shooter fan's library. And for 1200 MS Points, it's hard to argue the price.