Hybrid Hands-on Preview -- Nowhere to Run, Everywhere to FlyBy Miguel Concepcion - Posted May 04, 2012
Now here's a different take on the third-person, cover-based, action genre. Hybrid is an unusual futuristic shooter, because the maps feature very little ground area to walk on. The very limited spaces in and around the cover points are the only places where you can move on your feet. All other times that you're mobile, you're flying.
It's actually not flying in the freest sense. You actually have to point your camera to the next destination before going airborne, namely another cover spot. Not that any of this is a bad thing; in fact, Hybrid’s gameplay takes very little time to get used to, and we’ve enjoyed what we’ve played so far.
Whereas a less ambitious studio could have settled for a game that featured just the cover-based combat, developer 5th Cell ups the ante by setting these matches within a global conflict based on Earth. It’s a world war consisting of two conflicting groups, the Variants and the Paladins, and they’re fighting over a resource called Dark Matter. A given country can have several territories to fight over. It's a long world war where a single win doesn't translate into a fully occupied region.
As it is a persistent world, I can already can see the built-in addiction factor to this world domination design. It’s a community-defined landscape, one that can drastically change after you spend just mere hours away from the game. While you can pick your side when you create your profile, the game will also make a faction suggestion to help balance things out, along with an XP boost for accepting their recommendation.
You play out these conflicts over a series of familiar and not-so familiar modes. Two set-ups that are available in the beta are Team Deathmatch and King of the Hill. A third mode that’ll surely be a crowd favorite is Overlord, a mode where players race in level progression. All players start at Level 1, and you level up by pulling off kills, ending when a player gets to Level 22.
Every pre-battle lobby is not only the place for you to set-up your loadouts; it’s also the chance to view your buddies’ loadouts, helpful if you want to ensure that your weapon set complements or reinforces theirs. On top of loadouts, Hybrid will offer an adequate amount of end-of-round bonuses and XP for all participants. It should also be noted that the XP you earn will also contribute toward your faction’s progress.
The jetpack is such an integral part of Hybrid that you can use it as much as you like without being concerned about overheating. What does need periodic cool downs are the mid-air speed boosts. Boosts can be helpful in avoiding gunfire from an opponent who thinks he has a bead on you. You can also change your path in mid-flight, as long as you can point the camera to another cover point.
Any visible point of cover is fair game, even the ones on the ceiling and the sides of walls. There’s clearly the opportunity to take advantage of newcomers who don't realize that you can fly to these areas; experienced Hybrid players will be unloading an assault rifle while being upside down. The folks behind Namco Bandai's Inversion could learn a thing or two from this anti-gravity component to Hybrid.
Not that any shooter fan needs additional incentive to pull off killstreaks, but 5th Cell has come up with some very useful rewards for players who are on a roll. Early killstreak rewards include drones that add a lot of helpful firepower against any target in your sights The top bonus you can receive is a female mech ninja who randomly picks an enemy target for a high percentage kill.
If you happen to be that target, you'll know; she lets out a long shriek a few seconds before she's within striking distance (the Big Sister from BioShock 2 comes to mind). With any luck, you'll have enough time to swing your camera around, spot her, and choose to either take her down or retreat to your second to last cover spot.
With that latter option, there's actually no shame in escaping such a fatal attack. In fact, the game makes it easy for you to jump back to the previous cover spot, since 5th Cell dedicated a button on the controller for just that very action. Note that you can only use the jump-back technique once every time you reach a new cover point; you can't just keep hitting the button to leap to each and every prior spot you've landed on.
Flying or not, you can shoot at all times in Hybrid. When you consider the scope of its multiplayer-only set up, plus its 60 frames per second performance, you're looking at possibly one of the most hectic and positively chaotic shooters you'll find on Xbox Live Arcade this summer.
As with most any multiplayer-centric games, Hybrid is having a consumer-assisted beta to iron out the major bugs. It’s currently a closed beta, one that you can still register at right here.