In just a few short weeks players on the downloadable arenas of Xbox Live will be able to experience Hybrid, the new title from Scribblenauts developer 5th Cell. While Hybrid borrows heavily from a wide variety of third person shooters, in terms of both its design and mechanics, it still manages to stand out because of its 3v3 set-up and its unique use of cover.
The easiest comparison to point to for Hybrid is Vanquish, last year’s futuristic, high-octane shooter from Platinum Games. Design-wise the game’s 10 arenas looks exactly like you would expect a futuristic shooter to look — varied color palette with pops of neon and some interesting geometry.
It’s on these battlefields that players will be competing in several different modes with two teammates, of either their choosing or random draw, with one goal in mind: win. Success isn’t just good for the immediate team, though, it also helps that individual’s larger faction achieve a bigger goal. See, in Hybrid the main goal, beyond just winning a single match, is taking over the entire world by controlling dark matter. Players will compete in various segments of the entire globe (save for Australia, Australia is no more) and try to secure them for their faction and thereby dominating the world.
It’s similar in scope to what Star Wars Galaxies was trying to do with its Empire vs. Republic concept, but the ramifications of a victorious battle feel much more impactful in Hybrid. It’s important to note that the faction chosen at the outset, whether that is the robotic-looking Variant or the more human Paladin, can only be changed for a price as 5th Cell wants players, and their friends, to commit towards a common goal, and use these 3v3 skirmishes to enact it.
And it’s, of course, those 3v3 matches that will decide whether or not Hybrid succeeds or fails in a market that is extremely flippant and afraid of new things. Luckily Hybrid isn’t a wholly new concept, it’s roots are very much steeped in the cover-based shooter genre, but it’s Hybrid‘s use of vertical, sideways, and traditional cover, and how one gets to that cover, is going to either make or break the title for a lot of gamers.
Combat, while still possible from a traditional cover-based shooter perspective, actually lives and breathes in the movement between cover. In Hybrid, moving between cover, even long distances, is automatic; the player simply selects where they want to travel and they’re off via jetpack. Along the way they can alter their trajectory, pick new cover, and even shoot at oncoming enemies, all with the press of a button or flick of the joystick. There’s no middle ground between cover, however, and very little melee interaction; it’s mostly shooting whilst in the air or shooting at an airborne enemy that makes up the combat, and it’s very refreshing.
The game also ticks of a lot of the boxes one would expect out of a multiplayer shooter: new and better weapons can be purchased through an in-game currency system, special abilities augment the strengths or weaknesses of the player, and kill streaks at various intervals provide a substantial advantage on the battlefield. Every element is essential to keeping the experience from becoming stale, and from my perspective it all works.
There’s still a lot more to be revealed about Hybrid, most of which should be saved for a review, but what was on display at Comic-Con felt like the perfect multiplayer shooter for a budget gamer. Hybrid takes an interesting concept, some common elements, and tries to give them enough of a spin to create the longevity needed to be successful in this crowded market. We’ll see if it pays off in August.
Are you interested in playing Hybrid? What would it take to get you invested in a downloadable multiplayer shooter?
Hybrid releases August 8, 2012 for XBLA.
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