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You'd never recognize 5th Cell's newest game. The company that brought you Scribblenauts and Drawn to Life are taking decidedly different steps with their latest title. When designer Jeremiah Slaczka introduced Hybrid to journalists at GDC, there were more than a few questions to ask.
One of them was not "What sets your shooter apart from the rest?"
This particular inquisition came from a journalist who walked into the presentation about 15 minutes late. From the outset, Hybrid doesn't appear to be anything like other shooters playable across Xbox Live. While the downloadable game utilizes typical third person shooter mechanics and a cover system that looks just like Gears of War, you'll hardly feel comfortable in your first match.
In fact, my first attempt at Hybrid felt like turning a door knob with my arms full of boxes.
The left stick doesn't control movement like you'd expect. Instead, you'll highlight positions behind cover that you want your character to move to. The A button will trigger movement between the position you currently occupy and the one you want to move to. While in transit, you can cancel the position change with the B button. While behind cover, you can switch positions on the same side with X or flip sides with Y.
Holding the left trigger will let you aim precisely and you'll fire off shots with the right trigger. That's all quite standard. How and when you decide to fire your gun depends much more on your positioning than your reaction times. Ultimately, the focus on precise movement means jockeying for position isn't relegated to objective points. The entire battlefield is about obtaining the best vantage point.
Hybrid's online multiplayer is relegated to 3 on 3 combat skirmishes. That might seem like a prohibitively low number of players, but an entirely different system of killstreak rewards can turn arenas into full 12 on 12 matches. Instead of getting air strikes or missile targeting systems, players can summon associate combatants to their side. I call them associates because they don't really have minds of their own.
For each kill, you'll get one point to spend on friendly combatants. A single point can be used to summon a drone who follows you around and mimics your movement. Two points will summon a heavily armed combatant with a mounted machine gun. That unit does not move but will provide cover while you obtain the better position in the field. Three points opens up the option to summon a female assassin who vaults over cover to instantly kill enemies.
Even though these two systems alone would set Hybrid apart from most shooters, and all shooters in the downloadable space, I was more interested in a persistent meta-game 5th Cell is overlaying the multiplayer shoot outs with. With my knowledge limited to what's presented in the trailer above, we'll all have to keep watching to see what 5th Cell has up its sleeve to innovate the third person shooter genre.