And knowing is half the battle!
Despite its shaky launch, complete with server issues that prevented players from even launching the game, Hybrid is finally here. As it is the fourth game in the Summer of Arcade lineup and a departure from anything 5th Cell has developed in the past, there's a lot riding on the shoulders of this third-person shooter.
Can Hybrid prove itself a competent multiplayer shooter on the highly competitive Xbox Live service? Can 5th Cell show their prowess outside the light-hearted Scribblenauts series? Can a strictly cover-based shooter stand up to the likes of Gears of War and Call of Duty?
Hybrid drops players into a war-torn… well, everything. Whether you choose to align yourself—permanently, unless you want to pay to switch factions—with the human Paladins or the alien Variants, you'll be playing the same game and fighting over resources around the world.
Once you've selected your team and played through the brief tutorial, you'll choose a territory to defend or attack. Enemy-held territories can provide pressure on the opposing force, but I tended to defend my homeland in the Southwest of America. Choosing to battle in a hot-zone provides unique rewards, but they're also the most sought after, so players have to expect heavy resistance.
In addition to choosing your territory, the map screen also opens up into a shop where you can use credits to buy unique armor pieces, new weapons, abilities, and boosters, including XP boosts of varying lengths.
Frankly, the world map is my favorite part of Hybrid as a unique addition to the competitive multiplayer shooter that makes every match a strategic decision, even if you never see the payoff from your endeavors. Activision and the Call of Duty developers would be fools not to rip this off at their earliest convenience.
It turns the faceless player-soldiers into emotional investments. Every time you die on the battlefield, you're giving up ground. Every kill you notch on your rifle is more food, water, and supplies for little Timmy back home.
The map means little once you get in-game. This, of course, is where Hybrid falters. Even a high-profile release schedule like the Summer of Arcade couldn't make up for the rocky launch Hybrid's had. I've sat at loading screens waiting for a lobby to populate with other players for lengths of time up to 30 minutes.
This is the risk in developing any downloadable shooter and this is the risk in spending money on any downloadable shooter. Eventually, any community will dry up, but having server issues on day one is never a good sign. I'm not counting it against Hybrid as a game, but I am trying to warn you as you consider purchasing.
That said, once you do get into a match, Hybrid offers a unique twist on the cover-based shooter, one that I never really thought would work as well as it does. Players are locked to cover, meaning you can't fly around with your jetpack all willy-nilly.
Using the right stick, players designate a position they want to move to and then hit the A button. The player character takes off on a track, but that doesn't mean you can't dodge, weave, and sprint your way to the next position.
This means every motion out of cover is a risk, making vantage points and defendable positions a key commodity on the battlefield. Flanking and coordinated movements also become emphasized strategies across Hybrid's game modes.
This isn't Gears of War. You will not run up to each other and start shotgunning like crazy as you both Matrix dodge and roll. This isn't Call of Duty either. Camping will get you flanked and ganked. Running right out in the middle of the map will get you sniped.
Hybrid's weapons vary between shotguns, pistols, assault rifles, and sniper rifles, all of which feel fine and shoot as you'd expect them to. Abilities and perks also differentiate players, but I found that they really matter little if you can't get the movement mechanic down quickly.
Maintaining the dominant position on the battlefield means more kills, and more kills means more killstreak rewards, including the passive Stalker, aggressive Warbringer, and the nearly-guranteed-to-kill Preyon Hunter. Without these bonuses adding to your team's firepower, you will NOT win.
If multiplayer shooters aren't your thing, you simply won't enjoy Hybrid. There's nothing to the game outside of multiplayer. I guess that rules out any Silver-tier Xbox Live members as well. What Hybrid does to separate itself from other games is commendable, but it might not appeal to everyone. At its best, players will find themselves caught up in Hybrid's universe. At its worst, players will… not be able to find a match.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to spill some Variant blood in Colorado.