Before Hybrid hit the virtual shelves on Xbox Live Arcade, I will openly admit I hadn’t seen much of it. I knew it was going to be a 3v3 team shooter and only playable online, but not much more than that. I do know that 5th Cell, the company responsible for the game, really went out on a limb creating this title; their normal track record is much different from this type of game. But hey, it’s the Summer of Arcade and it’s OK to branch out and try new things. I’m glad they did since there aren’t many games like this on XBLA, and what a jump too.
The world has been pretty much decimated. Sure, humans made strides and technology is very advanced due to Dark Matter (I think), but the world is presented in Hybrid is a post-apocalyptic hellhole. Australia is nothing but a freaking crater in the ocean. It’s crazy. The game breaks the world down into two factions – the Paladins, the remaining humans fighting to stay alive, and the Variants, an alien race. The Variants dropped in at some point and decimated part of the human population and what’s left is now fighting back. The key point of the game is the Dark Matter and both sides are fighting desperately for it. So it’s become a battle for dominance, survival, and Dark Matter – whichever side wins will control whatever is left of Earth. Seriously though, the only thing I can truly gather about the game is that the Variants came from space and started fighting and Dark Matter is involved somehow. That’s it, but at least for this game a convoluted story isn’t required. *UPDATE* After doing some serious research, I’ve found out that apparently a meteor hit Earth, brought a bacteria that mutated people (Variants), and then they fight the immune people (Paladins). Where was this in the game?
The first thing that actually caught my eye about the game were the graphics. Before playing the game, I hadn’t seen any images of it so I wasn’t sure what to expect. For this game though, they look great – crisp, clear, and a great addition to the overall package. They’re still probably my favorite part of the game once I got going, though I will say at any given point there is a lot going on on-screen, so it makes it difficult to really sit down and enjoy the graphics after the tutorial level, but they’re still there throughout the game. This is what you get when you utilize the Source Engine.
Beyond the awesome graphics and explosions though, the game is a third-person shooter at its core. It also adds elements of a cover system, but beyond the cover players cannot move anywhere else in the game. That doesn’t mean you can’t move though! You fly around using a jetpack, jumping from cover to cover, or jumping back in a retreat to the previous cover used. Then it’s pretty much just moving around at each cover spot, either switching to the other side or moving to the next part of cover in a grid. It’s actually pretty rigid now that I think about it – the only times you’re allowed “free” movement is when you’re flying.
This free movement pretty much consists of strafing and moving yourself up and down. That’s it, though you can aim and shoot while flying too. It just feels very restrictive. A good tactic I have found though in many matches is to keep moving, jumping from cover to cover, or skipping cover by selecting the next one mid-flight. Being quick to jump around is a great way to keep yourself in the thick of the action, but remember enemies who are stationary have a much easier time shooting you down. Granted, it’s also absolute crap when you’re flying up and shooting someone who is behind cover, only to land, still be shooting and suddenly drop dead because of whatever reason.
Hybrid also copies itself from some more recent games, like Call of Duty for example. Mid-fight there are killstreaks for players – 1, 3, and 5 kills for a Stalker, Warfighter, and Preyon respectively. The Stalker is a buddy-bot, staying next to the player and helping them in defense and attacking. The Warfighter is a beast of a bot that will fly around independently and shoot down whatever they see. The last, and most dangerous, is the Preyon that means instant kill for whatever it touches. It flies out from the player and attacks the nearest thing with a sword, so be sure to shoot that bitch bot down fast or you’ll end up on the wrong end of a slap-chop.
It also includes a leveling system, which at this point I’m pretty sure everyone knows how those work. You get xp for fights, leveling up, which grants you unlocks for the various items in the game. Aside from unlocking new weapons in the large variety of types, players also unlock perks for in-game use and new helmets to customize their look. Yay! The helmets are pretty neat though and some seem incredibly familiar from other games if you know what I mean.
The other part of the game are the wide variety of matches available to players. Standard team deathmatch games aside, there is a Tactics mode similar to Counter-Strike, a King of the Hill mode, Artifact (hold the item the longest), and Overlord (think Juggernaut from Halo). After playing these games, the xp earned from characters is exported to the overall map where each fight helps propel the action a little further. The world is broken down into the continents (the ones left), and from here they’re broken down into districts that players fight for. Fights are skirmishes in these sectors – each fight progresses to the Dark Matter field in that sector at a very slow pace. The first team to reach it gets the most of the material, and whoever gets too 100 units first overall (on either side) ends up winning the season. As of playing this right now, North America is hotly contested but most of the rest of the world isn’t seeing much action. Hot Zones are places in the middle of a huge firefight where players can earn bonus xp if they so choose. This aspect of the game feels a lot like Planetside (for those that did play it), and it’s awesome to see a constantly evolving map for the players keeping everything fresh.
Now I’m going to say the game is fun. Why? Because it honestly is. It’s a great 3v3 shooter with some arena type feeling to it. Players get to level up and feel accomplished for their achievements in the game. It’s fast-paced, easy to learn, and it can be incredibly fun. It’s also sometimes just too easy. Maybe it’s just me or it’s that I feel like I’m a total badass since I’ve played games like this before. But when it comes down to it – if I can go 18 kills and 3 deaths in my 4th game, that’s odd for me. I mean I’m not terribly great at some shooter games, though maybe it’s because I love the ability to jump around constantly, but who knows. Some people might feel disgusted at how simple the game can be, some may love the fact you can drop into any match and play quickly and get out. Assuming it loads at least.
The game, for being a downloadable title, takes forever to load. Literally. I could go wash my dog and my car, make and then eat a sandwich, and then come back to play. Ok, so maybe not ALL of those things, but I do feel like it’s an extreme amount of time for the game to load. I’ve played disc-based games that have taken shorter periods of time. It’s annoying sometimes, especially when you’re at the ready screen, sitting there looking at what you equip while the game slowly… oh so slowly loads. The other thing I’ve noticed are the random hiccups in the game. While it being an online game means lag can be expected from time to time, it generally runs smooth. Then suddenly BAM! A split second of intense lag that throws you around the map or you end up flying underneath everything. It’s an odd glitch that can pop up randomly and even affects the post-game somewhat. You’ll be watching your xp accumulate and suddenly the screen glitches back to the post-match results, or it locks up for a few on the map screen. These odd glitches can be a bit of an annoyance and in the middle of a fight they can easily mean death.
But like I said, Hybrid is a really fun game. If you have a couple of friends, it’s a great way for a group to play and just have fun. Granted, they may feel like they’re playing a loading screen simulator with some action gameplay in between, that’s beyond point. When a good match is found, a difficult one that challenges you, it turns Hybrid into a great game that actually requires teamwork and some planning on player’s parts. That also means that it’s a great Summer of Arcade title for those that have the free time to get a group together.Note: Hybrid was reviewed on Xbox 360. A digital copy of the game was purchased by SelectButton.