Hybrid is a brilliant cover-based third-person shooter that relies on flight as your primary means of transportation. The overarching story and fun, quick online matches pull the experience together wonderfully, making it ones of the most unique takes on the genre in years.
- Cover-based flight system works extremely well
- Quick rank progression makes each match matter
- Standardized killstreaks level the playing field
- Long load times can kill the mood
- Microtransactions in a $15 game feels kind of dirty
It might be said often, but Hybrid is truly unlike anything you’ve played before. It isn’t your typical third-person shooter, but that shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. If anything, it’s a step forward in the evolution of a genre often criticized for its lack of innovation. It doesn’t have that one thing that makes it unique, it’s filled with them, and that’s what sets it apart from the dozens of shooters released this year.
Flying has never felt so good
Getting rid of ground combat completely, Hybrid is a 3v3 cover-based third-person shooter that relies on movement between cover, rather than free-movement. In fact, free-movement is removed almost entirely. Using your jetpack, you’ll fly between cover points on the map as your primary form of movement. You’re able to navigate in the air slightly, but that’s more side-to-side movement to avoid fire while you’re mobile, rather than full control.
Once in cover, you can move around it freely, moving on side-to-side or switching to the other side if you’re flaked by enemies. This movement style manages to breath new life into the somewhat tired shooter genre, making movement just as vital as combat. You have to time things properly or you’ll end up getting killed while moving to new cover, it’s something that you’ll think through, though it’s easy to get the hang of after the first few rounds.
I was surprised at how much of the combat actually takes place out of cover, considering how much of an emphasis is put on it. Though you fly slower while firing, it’s often necessary to soften up your enemies with a few shots before landing, or at least have them take cover and stop shooting you. You’ll occasionally run into other players trying to move to your cover as you’re moving toward their’s but it’s actually a good thing, as you can return to your previous cover mid-flight with one button press, putting you on the offensive to finish the job. It’s all part of a strategy that evolves as you play.
Paladins or Variants? It’s up to you.
Hybrid’s setup for the multiplayer scenarios is interesting, as it forces players to choose a side in the conflict between Paladins and Variants as they both attempt to control the world’s resources. Instead of just choosing your match type and loading up a game, you are taken to a world map where you must choose what area of the world you want to fight for. Each country has a certain number of resources that can be extracted from it, as both teams fight for control of the country’s core, and once those resources are fully in control of one team, it becomes their’s and the battle moves to the next area.
It’s a really neat idea but it often made it much more difficult to find a match, especially if you were looking anywhere outside of the Hotzones, which generally have the most players fighting for control. It wasn’t uncommon for me to find myself waiting for minutes at a time for a match to be found, then wait even longer for it to actually load and start up. You have to do it every time too, as you are kicked back out to the main territory screen after every match; there aren’t really persistent lobbies. That can be incredibly frustrating if you’re trying to get in a few quick games, as you’ll often spend as much time waiting as you do playing.
You get an XP! And You get an XP! YOU ALL GET XPS!!
As you progress, you’ll earn XP at an alarming rate. It’s not uncommon to rank up an entire level after a single match. You get XP for everything that you do, with variations based on the match goal that you chose at the start of the match. At the start of each match, you’re given anywhere from two to four match goals that you can choose from. They all have different requirements, but also different rewards, such as ‘Kill 7 enemies with a certain weapon’ and you’ll get 700xp as a bonus. Match goals are an interesting way to incentivize players to work as a team or focus on a different aspect of the gameplay than they normally do.
Leveling up isn’t only useful for showing off to your friends though, you’ll also earn unlocks pretty steadily as your rank grows. This isn’t your typical unlock progression though, as you’ll earn unlocks for a specific weapon class only. That means that if you earn a Pistol unlock, you can obviously only choose a pistol, but thankfully, you can choose any pistol, so you aren’t relegated to choosing lower power weapons. It’s really nice to be able to choose any weapon you like in that weapon class, though it’s more to fit in with their option to purchase any of these unlocks using Microsoft Points than encourage varying weapons.
Hybrid doesn’t get rid of killstreaks either and keeps them easily obtainable for all players. If you manage to kill multiple enemies in a row without dying, you’ll earn killstreaks that can help turn the game in your favor. The 1-kill and 3-kill streaks spawn bots that help attack other players and shield you from incoming fire. They’re relatively easy to take down with a spray of bullets, but the 5-kill bot moves swiftly toward your enemies, killing them instantly. It’s nearly impossible to shoot down before it kills you or a teammate. This can get out of hand pretty quickly though if everyone on a single team is on a streak, as the bots quickly overwhelm the other team.
Does it all pull together?
In a crowded market, it’s extremely refreshing to see a developer trying something that’s so completely different from everything else out there. The cover-based flight combat is a brilliant idea that fits in perfectly with the overall tone of the game. Despite a launch day filled with broken servers, Hybrid has managed to pull together a vibrant online community that’s constantly fighting over the world’s resources, I can only hope that it will stay that way.