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As evilenger mentioned in his review, I was sorta looking forward to Hybrid, the upcoming cover-based shooter exclusive to Xbox Live. Innovation in competitive multiplayer games has stalled, and 5th Cell looked like they were doing interesting things to revitalize and refresh online multiplayer gaming.
After spending about an hour with this game however, I’ve come to the conclusion that innovation isn’t always a good thing.
Story and Presentation
Set in the future, the world of Hybrid sees two factions – the Variants and the Paladins – fighting for control of the planet. Upon registration, players select one of the two factions and wage war to prevent the other from taking over the planet.
The first thing you’ll notice is the slick but somewhat dated space-marine presentation. Colours are bright and vibrant against a dark background, and menu selections respond with “futuristic” bleeps and bloop sounds.
You’re initially presenting with a world map, broken into smaller colour-coded regions. Each region is basically a battleground, and the map displays the percentage of control each faction has over these battlefields. Basically, there’s a larger meta-game of risk going on with two factions, and your successes and failures directly impact what’s going on in a greater scale.
Pretty cool concept, and 5th Cell should receive kudos for integrating another layer into their shooter.
Speaking of the shooter – well, it’s… underwhelming. The cover-to-cover mechanic is a cool concept, but in practice it turns your third-person cover shooter into a quasi-rail based shooter. In a nutshell, you can select a piece of cover to move to, press a button, and your character automatically jetpacks towards it. While in the air, you’re free to move up, down, left, right, or retreat back to your previous cover. You can also aim and shoot while “on the fly”.
While innovative, you soon realize that there’s very little freedom of movement – you basically fly from cover to cover hoping not to get shot up too much. When you’re on the ground, you can strafe back and forth behind cover, or mantle over it, similar to Gears of War. That’s about it. What this means is that you and your team is better off just camping behind cover, trying to take out any unprotected, flying enemies. Once gamers realize this, games will eventually devolve into campfests, with each side taking potshots at each other using sniper rifles or machine guns.
One of the selling points in the launch trailer was the number of weapons and abilities – however, you’ll soon realize that players will tend to favour long-range, high ROF weapons over guns like the SMG or shotgun. I don’t even think there’s a movement advantage with these weapons, so there’s no incentive to equipping them unless you want to die.
- Really cool meta-game
- Smooth gameplay and controls
- Good tutorial
- Relatively polished presentation
- Inability to directly control movement, aside from strafing within cover or during flight
- Imbalanced weapon selection and gameplay mechanics means that most of the players will be using semi-auto sniper rifles or high ROF machine guns
- Once you select a faction, you’re pretty much stuck with your decision (could be changed in the final game)
- Maps are pretty small, and spawn points are random – you can be spawned right behind or in front of enemies
- Overpowered and easy to acquire killstreaks (I’m looking at you, Preyon drone!)
- Only 3 on 3 multiplayer
- Confusing Overlord game type
The Old Guy in me Says
It’s a shame when good concepts don’t fully pan out. I was hoping for a multiplayer game that had the fast-and-furious feel of Sega’s Vanquish mixed with the Tribes or Halo type of gameplay. Instead, I came away feeling like I played a shooting gallery game mixed with rail shooting elements.
The world-map metagame was an unexpected surprise, but it’s a lot of flash over substance. It would have been cool to see another layer to this – like a turret-defense type of mechanic added when you capture a territory. As it stands, it’s just a cool way to show wins and losses between the two factions.
Is it worth 1200 Microsoft Points? I’d hate to say it, but no. I had a lot more fun with Gotham City Impostors – a game that has more legs than Hybrid does.
I do give kudos to 5th Cell for thinking out of the box, and wish them well in all their future projects. There are gamers out there who are dying for more innovative games to play. Unfortunately, its hard to justify paying for and spending time on an underwhelming game with an interesting new concept.