Available to Download from Xbox Live Arcade
Hybrid isn’t a bad game, but it’s a glowing example of the fact that while fantastic games are often innovative, innovative games aren’t always fantastic. From 5th Cell, the team that bought you the even more inventive Scribblenauts and Drawn to Life, it’s a third-person, cover-based multiplayer shooter that takes a broom to the genre. Out go most of the tropes we’re used to from Gears of War and Ghost Recon. In come a whole wave of new mechanics based on jetpacks, magnetic boots and clever, partly-automated cover-swapping.
There is some sort of backstory featuring two factions – the alien Variants and human Paladins – and their quest for dark matter, but it’s really not that engaging or that important. What Hybrid delivers is a stream of short, three-on-three player matches in a range of recognisable variations – Team Deathmatch being the most common, but backed up by two King of the Hill modes, a sort of Capture The Flag Objective mode and a Tactics mode which works a bit like Counter Strike. The game’s matchmaking system wisely focusses on getting you into action as rapidly as possible, and it works.
Moving into Cover
Like Gears of War, Hybrid is all about cover: finding the right position, moving between positions, popping out to take pop-shots or blind-firing over the top. Where Hybrid moves away from the formula is in how you get from one position to another. Instead of moving your trooper with the left analogue stick, you aim at a point of cover and press A. Jetpacks engage and you fly there at speed. You can use the left-stick to strafe left and right, or even turn and select a new cover point as you fly, but otherwise movement is limited. Once in cover you can shift left and right, or press Y to vault if you’re attacked from behind.
Despite a solid tutorial, this takes a little getting used to, but within an hour of starting play you’ll have the basics down. You learn to strafe and use a left-stick-click boost function to attack enemy positions, and you discover how to chain jet-jumps together, or switch destination rapidly when needed. And Hybrid hasn’t adopted this approach with no good reason. Cover points appear not just on the floor, but on walls and even ceilings. The weird movement system makes these quicker and easier to get to.
Perks and Kill-Streaks
Nor is moving and shooting all there is to it. For a start, all troops can select a special ability, starting with a simple frag grenade or armour perk, and have a basic class, which gives you bonuses for armour, damage or abilities. What’s more, kill-streaks earn you the ability to summon one of three drones, with the easiest to get a slightly weedy floating droid and the hardest a kind of enemy-seeking robot ninja.