From Scribblenauts developer 5th Cell comes a third-person shooter that turns the genre on its head and utilises probably the most widely used object in their most well-known title – a jetpack.
Hybrid is a third-person shooter developed specifically for XBLA and at a cool 60 frames per second, whizzing about on a jetpack looks pretty sweet. 5th Cell’s new title is an online only multiplayer experience centred around a war between humans and an invading alien force; so far, so familiar, but the twist lies in the gameplay itself.
5th Cell have disposed of the traditional formula that is burrowed in like a tick in most third-person shooter titles, as Hybrid features combat focused movement, which means no running over terrain. By targeting visible cover and hitting the A button, your jetpack will do the hard work whilst you leisurely scope out the map en route. If you find yourself the object of more attention than a thanksgiving float as you’re flying along, you can hit the B button to initiate a hasty retreat to your last point of cover or hold down the right stick for a boost of speed to spur you onwards.
Whilst removing ground movement altogether may seem limiting, it complements the fast paced nature of the game perfectly. While airborne, you can aim, shoot, retreat, boost, strafe in any direction and even change your landing spot. The maps have been scaled down accordingly, supporting six players in a 3v3 matches that last between 5-10 minutes. The supercharged speed is maintained by a spawn in time of a second or two, although the opportunity to change your load out is always presented before you’re thrown back into the fray.
The loadout combinations themselves accommodate a multitude of play styles, equipping you with two weapons, an ability (with the inevitable cool down), such as a grenade or armour boost and a specialisation which is essentially a buff. As you progress, you will be notified when unlocks become available but in another refreshing move, when that time comes, you can unlock any weapon in associated category. For example, if you’ve unlocked a pistol, it’s entirely up to you which pistol you choose to unlock out of the available selection. There are no restrictions or XP costs associated with the process. However, you can opt to buy your desired equipment outright with real world moolah – an option which may be not be appreciated by all – but that decision is at your discretion.
The real fun begins when you start earning your kill streaks and calling in your bots; things begin to get a little crowded and a lot crazy. There are three bots in total relating to a one-kill streak, a three-kill streak and a five-kill streak. The first bot is a simple drone that can be taken out relatively quickly. The second, dubbed Warbringer, is much larger and intimidating – think the disembodied head of ED209 inexorably drawing in for the kill. The third bot is called the predator and descends upon its prey with a blood-curding shriek before the insta-kill. Upon your demise, it’s worth noting that the bots stick around carrying out your bidding by peppering the enemy with bullets until destroyed.
Beneath all of this, a persistent world war is raging across the globe. Each continent is full of dark matter hotspots – the resource the Paladins and Variants are fighting for – and each failure or success is reflected on a worldwide level. The race is on to reach the dark matter first and end the season victorious. You could always play dirty and swap sides if things look grim but you can only do so once per season, so you’d better be damn sure you want to be a turncoat, because there’s no going back.
Hybrid has raised the bar for multiplayer XBLA games and stepped away from the generic tendencies of the genre to set itself apart in the market. Matches are fast paced in compact environments and are over fairly quickly, allowing you to dip in and out of the hotspots or log on for quick match without eating up significant chunks of your day. The learning curve is just as fast and the ability to experiment with your loadout helps the process immensely.
If you’re a fan of third person shooters and are looking for something a bit more innovative amongst the sea of choices, then Hybrid is for you.