– Scott Ellison
Our Score: 4 / 5 – Awesome
In an ambitious leap for 5th Cell from handhelds and mobile devices to consoles comes a futuristic third-person cover-based shooter. While that perhaps sounds uninteresting or displeasing, the concept of how you actually mobilize yourself from cover to cover and movement in general might surprise you. Equipped with a jetpack, you take cover and can move on that plane and can jump from cover to cover putting yourself in danger of being hit if timed wrong. Surfaces aren’t always normal orientation, sometimes you’ll take cover on walls sideways or on the ceiling being upsidedown.
There’s a war going on. And it involves the clean, pristine Variants and the militaristic Paladins. The Variants have seemingly begun to invade this unnamed planet. Now both factions are vying for control over Dark Matter that arrived with the Variants. And that’s about all the story you get in Hybrid. From there the story plays out from gameplay interactions. Logging into the game for the first time, you are posed with a choice – a commitment. Which faction do you choose: Variant or Paladin? The choice itself doesn’t matter, as both camps play exactly the same – just are aesthetically different in character and weapon design. There was an incentive for joining the Variants and was able to go straight to Level 5 if I joined the Variants. Paladins did not offer any bonuses for joining.
Should you decide you want to play for the other team for a change, you can. There is an option dug deep into the Extras to swap, and once done you can’t go back. At least, not until the next “season” starts, which the developers have stated should be around two weeks – depending on the players. So ultimately around every two weeks you can swap factions to unlock items and gear. While participating for one faction or the other, the friends list you see is a bit deceptive. If you’re a Paladin, you won’t see your friends who are Variants, and vice versa.
The World Map allows you to drop into an area and contest for control for your faction. Owning it brings bonuses to the faction over time. To get to the Dark Matter, tiers and many battles must be completed. The first faction there gets 2 Dark Matter, the second team to reach it only gets 1 Dark Matter. The map will designate “Hot Spots” to which your faction is working towards the center. If you jump in to assist, you will earn and additional 150XP just for being there.
Persistence is almost a requirement in any game with multiplayer. It provides the carrot on the stick to keep the progression and motivation going. Hybrid follows that trend, but with style and grace. As with each new rank you can unlock a weapon from a category it designates. There are about 4-5 weapons per category: Shotgun, Heavy Pistol, SMG, Assault Rifle, and Sniper Rifle. Only two special weapons fill out that category, and are highly effective. An unchangeable secondary weapon is a pistol, so don’t go looking for a way to swap it out. You can change the look of your character only through new helmets, including bonuses like “Steve” from Minecraft as an unlockable Helmet at Level 20 for either side or a Paper Bag of Shame. This is all done outside of battle in the Armory
At anytime in the game, you can change your loadout to something more effective. There are no set rules, just swap out primary weapon, ability, and specialization. Abilities range from popping a temporary shield to absorb damage to a syphon which with each hit from your weapon will take that enemy’s health from their life bar (which does regenerate if left alone). Specializations can be upgraded through play and boost XP gains, buff damage, or increase armor. Though specializations reset after each season – so don’t get too attached to the benefits of the upgrades.
The game is pretty generous when you get your first kill, as it’ll start a Kill Streak allowing you to release the first of three drones, known as a Stalker to release to help fight by your side. The next drone is much tougher and does more damage, the Warbringer. The last drone is a one-time use robotic assassin known as the Seeker that releases a shrill as it hones in on its target and dissects it.
Music is subtle throughout the game but synthesized keyboard and beats in menus and at the start of games helps evoke the futuristic setting you’re placed in. The Source Engine works real hard here, producing top-notch visuals at 60fps, just unfortunately the loading times get a bit long in the tooth. Weapons sound good and different while packing a punch from your bass.
Hybrid being an online-only game has a lot going against it, as there is no singleplayer to fall back on. Though, a singleplayer story given the gameplay would be either too easy or boring. The game is incredibly well-designed, thought out and has unique mechanics worthy of your time and money to invest in such a quick and easy multiplayer game that has strong competitive ties and unending goals to achieve.
A review code was provided by PR for review purposes
5th Cell’s latest game is a third person team shooter with cover based mechanics. There’s a twist though, you don’t have free movement. You pick cover to jump to and can move anytime you want. Since you’re wearing a jet pack to jump cover to cover you can press in the left stick to essentially sprint and get you to cover faster. You can use the left stick as you’re moving to new cover to raise your lower yourself. Raising yourself puts you in danger of dying or a chance to finish off the enemy before you land. You can even choose new cover as you’re moving to the old cover.
Hybrid is an online multiplayer game, there’s no singleplayer here. That’s not to say there’s a lack of story, there’s two warring factions in this post-apocalyptic world, the Variants vs the Paladins. It has the typical controls of left trigger to aim and right to shoot. There’s upgrades, ranks, load outs and a ton of fun here – 5th Cell knows how to make a game. I only saw one mode in my time with the game, where you capture and control points from the enemy. But I’m told there’s up to 10 maps and modes when the game releases. Oh and it’s worth noting we were playing against the Devs and in my demo I had the most kills and won the round.
Hybrid will be part of the Summer of Arcade on XBLA.