Hybrid Hands-On Preview

5th Cell has built a solid reputation for games on the backs of family-friendly portable titles. First came Lock’s Quest, then Drawn to Life, and finally the insanely popular Scribblenauts. Now, however, the studio is turning its attention to the Xbox 360 with Hybrid, a cover-based third-person shooter for Xbox Live Arcade. I spent some time in the closed beta late last week, and while this game won’t revolutionize the shooter genre, 5th Cell proves once again that it knows how to make fun games.

Being an online-focused third-person shooter, there’s not much in terms of story here. The central conflict revolves around a Hadron Supercollider implosion that leveled Australia, produced pockets of dark matter throughout the world, stopped time, and merged an alternate reality with our own. This merge created a new species, called the Variant, who have waged war against humans, represented by a group known as the Paladins. The two sides fight to control the dark matter, as each believes that controlling dark matter is paramount to restoring time’s natural flow.

Calling Hybrid a cover-based shooter is a big understatement, as 90 percent of the action takes place behind something. Players can target other points of cover and activate jet packs to automatically fly over to them. Cover can be found on floors, ceilings, and walls, so be prepared to fight upside down and sideways. Hybrid allows for strafing during flight and lateral movement behind cover, but other than that there’s no free movement at all. While that many sound limiting, the concept isn’t a problem when everyone has the same limitations.

Because of the constant cover approach, controlling Hybrid is a bit different than other shooters. The A button will activate the jet pack and initiate travel between cover. The Y button will vault the avatar over a wall, allowing positions to be taken on both sides of the structure. The only thing that remains the same is shooting, which uses the triggers for popping out of cover (left trigger) and shooting (right trigger) just like every other shooter.

The killstreak system may be the most interesting part of the game, as the frequency of perks adds a strategic element to combat. One kill earns a Stalker drone that follows the character around the map mimicking every action, essentially granting double firepower. Three kills grants access to the Warbringer drone, a heavy artillery machine that acts independently of the activator. The top prize, the Preyon, comes at five straight kills, and this drone immediately seeks out an enemy and, as long as it isn’t destroyed on approach, scores an instant kill for the summoner.  In a three-on-three battle, that makes for 18 possible drones on the battlefield at any given time, which makes for some hectic warfare.

5th Cell is taking some ambitious steps with Hybrid, venturing onto a home console for the first time in its history, and using a constant-cover system that creates a battlefield where strategy plays just as much a part of victory as firepower. It’s not enough to know where the enemy is; players will need to figure out which cover to escape to if need be, even if it’s on the ceiling. 5th Cell looks to be creating another winner in Hybrid, but gamers won’t find out for sure until the game launches this summer.


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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