These days, it takes a lot to stand out in the shooter market, even in the download space. There have been multiple attempts to make something truly unique with titles like Black Light: Tango Down, Nexuiz (which I reviewed earlier this year) and Section 8: Prejudice. With titles like these clouding the downloadable shooter space, you have to punch through the clutter to get a dedicated audience. Well, Hybrid is trying to do just that with its new mechanics, pick-up-and-play nature, and choice of a new world to battle in. It has an almost equal number of strengths and weaknesses, but the new mechanics can only take you so far in this overcrowded space.
Hybrid’s biggest strength is that it has its own style. By that I mean it incorporates all the hallmarks of the traditional run-and-gun formula: a third person perspective and tons of cover, but mixes it up by not allowing direct control of your character. The concept that it introduces is Zero-G combat movement. To move your character, you are able to choose what set of cover you want, press the A button and off you go. You can strafe mid-air or boost to move more quickly, which is usually necessary to avoid enemy fire. You are able to move to any cover on the battlefield, even ones that are upside down or even on the side of a wall, and you stick to the cover like a fly on a wall. You can also retreat with another button press, but are only able to do this one location at a time, so the game almost forces you to continue to move in a forward direction.
Other than the unique movement style, most of the game is very run of the mill. You call in perks as you build kill streaks, calling in a small Stalker drones after a single kill to add support, then moving up to the Warbringer drone after three kills and then finally the player-seeking Preyons after five consecutive kills. This gives you a lot to worry about on the battlefield, and also where I find the game to become a little more frustrating. There is too much going on in these small matches that it makes it easy to allow an enemy sneak up on you and take you down in a matter of seconds without ever knowing how you died, or even from where.
Continuing with the run of the mill aspects of the game, each player gains levels, and is able to choose from a variety of load outs and abilities. New weapons and abilities are unlocked via progressing in levels, each of which gives you a specific section from which to choose a new perk. For instance, you might only be able to choose only a new shotgun. If you want to buy a weapon that is not on the list, like a sniper rifle, you can opt to purchase credits via micro transactions. Seemingly, someone could spend an extra ten to twenty dollars and pretty much buy every weapon and ability right from stage one.
Another one of the big hooks that the developers of Hybrid use is seasons. When you begin the game, you are able to choose a faction, either the Paladins or the Variants, which vary only in cosmetics. Once you choose your faction, you need to choose a battleground in which to fight. The map is divided into different sections, making the entire world map a persistent and ongoing battleground. The key to these zones is to fight until you get control of dark matter at the center, and then your faction controls the zone. The first team to complete one hundred zones wins the season, and then the game resets. I like the concept, I just hope the player base can sustain the game long enough to have seasons go rather quickly.
The shooting in Hybrid does feel very good, and each weapon has its own feeling and ferocity. There are some imbalances, but all in all it works from an actual moment to moment standpoint. There are a few game modes, mostly standard fare such as bomb the base, king of the hill and the always popular team death match. There are not a lot of different maps, and I played through most of the content pretty quickly. With the number of players in a match only three per side, things can go rather quickly. I found that the game has a pick-up-and-play feel, making for a lot of gameplay in a shot amount of time. As a final note and a definite plus to the game, everything runs at buttery-smooth 60 frames per second.
The game is pretty good looking. It goes for a futuristic, technology-focused style, with the drones looking similar to some we have seen before in other future-focused games. They take a few cues from the Halo games, but at the same time, they have a more cartoonish feel. Unfortunately, a lot of the players and environments will blend together.
The other main issue is some of the problems with the servers. While the game has been improved since its start, I still get booted from matches and have trouble connecting to the game itself. When disconnecting mid-game, all earned experience is lost. Hopefully 5th Cell will continue to work on the networking issues. Also, load times between matches actually take longer than the matches themselves at times.
All problems that I had aside, Hybrid is a decent game, in which a lot of people will likely sink a lot of time into. The concepts that it introduces such as the persistent world of seasons and cover to cover combat are clever, and the game can be fun at times, but I would play the 60 minute demo before dropping the fifteen dollars, considering there is nothing outrageously new being brought to the table.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.