What? Another post-apocalyptic cover-based shooter? And it’s multiplayer-only? Haven’t we seen enough of these? Xbox gamers would be right in showing a little skeptitude towards the new shooter Hybrid from 5th Cell. At a quick glance it does appear to hit many of the cliché notes used by many other online shooters. However after taking a close look. Hybrid offers several new twists on the “Shoot people to level up” genre of gaming.
The thing that sets Hybrid apart from the rest of the pack is that players can’t directly control the movements of their character. Instead they select a point of cover and the character travels there automatically. While this might seem limiting, Hybrid has a few other features that make it fun to move around between these points of cover, most notably a jetpack!
Being set in a post-apocalyptic future, naturally robots and jetpacks exist. Point the crosshairs at a viable piece of cover, hit the “A” button and the character will rocket towards it even if the cover high up on a wall or on the ceiling. The exosuits that these futuristic soldiers wear are equipped with boots that can walk on walls and ceilings, so clever players can use this 3D playing space for interesting tactics not found in most other shooters.
As players rocket along towards their destinations, they can strafe side to side to help dodge enemy fire, and can also fire back while in the air. This can result in fun combat as players fire on each other while heading to the same location, or two soldiers repeatedly flying back and forth from the same pieces of cover trying to wear each other down.
Once actually in place behind cover, players can still strafe from side to side along that cover, and vault over to switch sides. There’s a “Blind Fire” feature for shooting with less accuracy while maintaining high defense. Flying characters are more easily hit without cover, so a large part of the game is trying to move from place to place without getting picked off by an entrenched enemy.
It’s viewed from the Third Person perspective which was once a rarity in online shooters, but has become quite common especially in the last year or so. This perspective definitely suites the gameplay, especially since levels leave players vulnerable from most directions, and it requires a great deal of situational awareness.
Players can choose from a large selection of guns, and can have two special powers selected. One power is an ability that has to be activated, while the other is always on. These abilities include simple bonuses to defense of damage, but they can also be neat things teleportation, or hacking enemy drones.
Yes, “Drones”. Every player can summon robotic drones as a reward for killing enemies. Make one kill and the reward is a simple hovering gun bot. Make three kills and a heavily armored killbot appears. Make five kills in a single streak and a robo-ninja appears to bring swift death to an unlucky enemy.
With everyone getting a bunch of robots, this helps populate the battlefield in the three versus three battles. That’s a limit imposed on every match, just three versus three. Maps are fairly small and the abundance of robots helps, but this is a strange configuration for a multiplayer-only game.
There are a handful of maps and game modes. The obligatory team deathmatch is there, along with a few variations on capturing strategic locations throughout the level. This gives it an acceptable amount of variety, but not a lot.
Hybrid also has no single-player experience aside from the brief tutorial. There’s an introduction that briefly talks about an apocalyptic events that destroyed most of the life on Earth, and the tutorial has the standard gruff sergeant character explaining that there’s a war on, but this setting is ever elaborated on within the game. Players just shoot the other team because they’re the other team.
Regardless of why the bad guys are bad, Hybrid uses their war premise to add some interesting new options. There’s an overworld map where the factions are warring over resources and players can choose which part of the world to fight their battles thereby waging imaginary fights for control of their home or any favorite region. Players’ will also develop certain skills depending on what part of the world they are fighting in and this forces them to explore the world.
Hybrid does get repetitive after a while with its limited game modes and fairly small number of maps. Despite the thrill of zooming through the levels on a jetpack and commanding a squad of robots, Hybrid will be a brief novelty or diversion for many gamers.