Just when you think a genre has run its course, along comes a game that defies any preconceived notions. During this console generation's lifecycle, the shooter genre rose to astonishing prominence. After a long seven years, it is not unreasonable to expect innovations in such a tried genre to fade. Hybrid looks to be the game that bucks all wearisome expectations.
Developed by the talented group at 5TH Cell (the studio behind stellar Nintendo DS games like Lock's Quest, Drawn to Life, and Super Scribblenauts), Hybrid is an Xbox LIVE Arcade exclusive third-person shooter. Prior to playing the game, I asked how the team went from anyone-can-play fare like Scribblenauts to what many would consider a decidedly hardcore property with Hybrid. Their response was telling. 5TH Cell does not tie themselves down to only a single genre. Instead, they build their games around intriguing ideas. They focus on gameplay concepts that have not been done before and they run with them.
After playing Hybrid, I completely understand what they mean. Hybrid may be a 3-versus-3 game, but the story's war takes place in a massive and persistent online world with a cumulative meta-game to be detailed further later. Being a third-person shooter, certain gameplay mechanics will be familiar to anyone with experience with shooters. Before you begin, you choose weapon loadouts and a special ability.
With a whole host of weapons and latent ability combinations, the variety available in Hybrid is seemingly endless. In addition to your basic shotguns and sniper rifles, there are some excellent odd ones that shake things up. One gun called the Gambler, for instance, can one-shot kill any enemy. The downside is that it also has the chance to randomly backfire and one-shot kill its wielder.
Over time and by amounting kill streaks, certain abilities are made available. For example, you can activate helpful drones to aid you or execute a risky ability that causes your suit to self-destruct, taking out you and anyone in your blast radius (great for when the opposing team is clustered on the same platform). Really, finding the right blend to use in any of the assorted Hybrid maps and modes is part of the fun.
Where the game throws a curveball is in how the players move about the stage. Each stage is comprised of select platforms and barriers on which players can walk and take cover behind, respectively. Each soldier is equipped with a jetpack, so while you may move about freely on a single platform, the only way to travel between them is by flight. You aim your reticule at a platform until it turns blue, press A to fly to it and take cover behind a wall, Y to fly to it and take cover beyond the wall, or B to return mid-flight to the platform you just left. While flying, you can move about in all directions until your destination is reached, making for some intense mid-air firefights (on at least one stage, if you have the coordination, you can manage to never touch the ground).
Hybrid pulls off the seemingly contradictory quality of being immediately accessible and familiar while simultaneously jarring and new. The controls may sound confusing, and at first they are, but once you get the hang of it, Hybrid allows for combat verticality in the shooter genre that is unprecedented.
Writes for a few media outlets, does graphic design work for a few clients, as well as production work for a few studios (all poorly). Believes the best correlation between the words "twilight" and "sparkle" has less to do with vampires and more to do with a sarcastic pony.
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