Hybrid is a very different direction for 5
Cell, who are known for creating the successful Scribblenauts series. The studio typically develops games for mobile and Nintendo platforms but this time they are jump-jetting to a whole new genre and platform with Hybrid, a third-person shooter for Xbox Live Arcade.
When I first got wind of Hybrid I was immediately drawn to the use of jet-packs. After reviewing Tribes: Ascend by Hi-Rez Studios earlier this year I was into jet-packs in a huge way. Tribes grabbed me with its fast paced surfing and expansive environments and I figured that Hybrid would bring a twist on the jet-pack shooter with its smaller environments and more close-quarters oriented combat. The twist on gameplay was fun at first but the more I played Hybrid I started to pick up on a few things that bug me.
On the surface, you may think that Hybrid shares a few similarities with a game like Tribes: Ascend but once you play a match you'll quickly realize that this is a very different experience. Like Tribes, Hybrid features jet-packs, custom loadouts, and two warring factions fighting for control of a fictional universe, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. Hybrid does have you flying around but you actually have very little freedom of movement. In Hybrid you move around the map by targeting and selecting cover points that take the form of chest high walls. Target a wall, press the A button and you'll fly over to the point you selected. There is some freedom of movement while airborne, the player can dodge or quickly retreat to their previous cover point at the touch of the button. This has essentially created a point and click like shooter experience. It wasn't bad, but I did miss some of the freedom of movement I’ve come to enjoy from most other shooters. Once in cover you can walk back and forth along the chest high wall but that is the only exercise your feet will get unless you count vaulting over the cover itself. While I found the restriction of movement to be a nice change at first, after a few matches I got frustrated with the lack of freedom. It was then that I took to the sky and spent my time flying around and never really going into cover. As long as you keep selecting new cover points to jet to your feet will never touch the ground. It may make you more vulnerable to enemy fire, but it's more fun than hiding behind chest high walls all the time.
This is my boomstick!
I did find a good amount of variety when it came to the game's available weapons but they didn't feel very well balanced to me. Since this is a close-quarters combat experience, shotguns are you best friend. I found the assault rifles pretty useless and the sniper rifles utterly pointless because no one was using them. If everyone is using shotguns and filling your face with buckshot from six inches away what's the point of having a long distance rifle at your disposal? I would have liked to have seen 5
Cell embrace this type of gameplay and just fill the game with a wide variety of shotguns and not even bother to include the assault rifles pistols or sniper rifles. If gamers want to play with shotguns I say let them because, despite the lack of balance, flying around nailing enemies in the face with a blast from your shotty was pretty darn fun.
I think that Hybrid was a solid effort on the part of 5
Cell to avoid being pigeon-holed by the industry. Their use of Valve's Source engine is excellent and their attempt at creating a persistent world where players have a stake in whether their faction wins or loses is commendable. However as a seasoned shooter player I am used to weapons being far more balanced and having a lot more freedom of movement. Hybrid also features a pretty lengthy matchmaking wait time. There are no servers which mean you need to find new opponents and new teammates with each match you play. This caused a lot of downtime between matches which I didn't enjoy. I like it when shooters only give a 30-45 second break between matches, this prevents you from losing all your momentum and staring at a loading screen for ten minutes. I would recommend Hybrid to anyone that is looking for an affordable third-person shooter experience but, if you're a fan of AAA shooters like those found in the Battlefield or Gears of War series you may find yourself disappointed.