When 5th Cell, the creators of Super Scribblenauts and Lock’s Quest, announced they would be making Hybrid, a third-person shooter for XBLA and PSN, responses were quizzical. With 5th Cell’s reputation for turning genres on their head, Hybrid would surely be weird.
At GDC ’11 in San Francisco, 5th Cell let journalists go hands-on with the game. At first glance, the story of two factions battling in a futuristic world war with aliens sound fairly standard, but once the gameplay breaks down, it’s clear the game is more than your average sci-fi adventure. There are two gameplay modes. One is a persistent world strategy mode that seems to indicate that the two factions will be battling in various areas on Earth.
The other half of core gameplay is entirely shooter-based. Players will modify their super-soldiers with different guns, modifiers, and special abilities that are unlocked as their characters progress. Leveling up is fairly standard convention for modern shooters, but the special abilities range from stealing health to gaining extra points. Hybrid is a 3v3 shooter, but each unit can summon a Stalker, Warbringer, or Preyon. Stalkers follow your unit for double damage, Warbringers act as massive turrets, and Preyons assassinate nearby enemies.
These elements alone would make for an enjoyable shooter, but the game gets more bizarre. Instead of controlling characters directly, units move from cover to cover once players select a nearby barrier or wall. Tap A, and your soldier will run there. Players can shoot while units continue to move forward. Selecting cover can be done on the fly, and players can press X to switch to different sides of the barrier.
Units can jump to higher and lower barriers by “jump jetting.” Jump jets are rechargeable, so you can’t order your soldiers around willy-nilly. Players can hide against walls and ceilings, popping shots from unexpected places. Setting up a turret from upside-down or sniping from an unexpected spot make for more satisfying strategies and interesting situations.
Hybrid is very unique. The control scheme makes the game feel like an RTS/on-rails third-person shooter in which players can dictate where they want their soldiers to go. In the ten minutes they were given, most games journalists at GDC were trying to figure out how to control the game, so gameplay isn't terribly intuitive. The game is so cover-focused that just moving around felt complicated. With Hybrid coming out later this year, 5th Cell has plenty of time to make sure the game is as tight as possible; in the meantime, Hybrid has style on its side.