We’ve seen bits and pieces of 5th Cell’s Hybrid over the last few game shows, talking with the producers about what would make them stray from Scribblenauts territory to give competitive shooting a try. But upon looking at the final product, you can’t help but enjoy some of the innovations that the team has put into the Xbox Live Arcade effort. Yeah, there’s limited movement, and the servers aren’t exactly the greatest in the world when it comes to the game’s launch window. But still, for those of you seeking something a little bit “different” in your online fragging affairs, well, here you go.
Though the plot isn’t really something worth writing home about in terms of originality, it does set the pace for the action to come. You’ve got two sides to this war – the Paladins (humans) and the Valiants (aliens), both of whom are battling to control territories around the Earth. This is usually settled in the form of a variety of gun battles, but with advantages and disadvantages.
The main disadvantage that some of you will notice right away is the lack of free movement. Yes, you can hide around cover and jet around from cover point to cover point, but running out in the open just isn’t happening here. Instead, you’ll have to think strategically, jetting forward to new cover points (or, in some situations, back one space) as you blast enemies and try and earn kill streaks. You can fire by leaning out into the open for more accurate shooting, or take your chances with blind fire, if you feel the cover is doing you good.
These kill streaks come with rewards. For each kill you earn, you can open up the opportunity to use a secondary robot to do your dirty work for you. One kill earns you a basic killing machine; three opens up a more intermediate one; and five gives you a homing missile-type robot that doesn’t let up until either it or its intended target is dead. These are nice little bonuses for each match, and they’re rather easy to activate, with just a tap of the D-pad.
Furthermore, Hybrid also comes with unlockable goods, including additional assault rifles and shotguns, grenades and supplementary weapons, and even customization goods for your armor. It’s hardly as varied as, say, Modern Warfare 3, but considering this is 5th Cell’s first real go-around with versus multiplayer, we’re willing to accept what it has to offer.
Hybrid’s gameplay takes some getting used to, especially if you’re used to hustling on foot all over the place. Its limited point-to-point jumping, with boosting and back-tracking thrown in as your only other options, may frustrate those who just want to reach their vantage point. However, after a few matches, you can see what 5th Cell has in mind for this game, and it clicks, in a way. What’s more, you’re not just limited to floor stuff, as you can totally grab cover on the sides and tops of walls as well, shooting from new perspectives. It’s pretty cool.
As for the online servers, they’re still a little iffy after launch, but the matches we got into were quick and rather painless, mind a minute of waiting time or so. There are various match types available as well, including variations of Capture the Flag and Deathmatch, so those familiar with this sort of game will fit right in.
As for presentation, Hybrid has shaped up rather well. Though most of the interior maps are limited, the action moves at a very fluid 60 frames per second, even when everything is completely frantic. What’s more, the soldiers and robots look great, and the explosions work well. The music could use a little more work, but the sound effects deliver enough punch that you probably won’t mind.
When it comes to multiplayer mayhem, Hybrid may not be the first choice to pop in your mind, due to its limitations in controls and a lacking storyline. However, 5th Cell has done better with it than you might think, and it’s certainly worth a try, especially if you’re tired of the same old run-around military shooter. This one actually requires a bit of thought. Who knew…?