Meanwhile, beyond the basic matches there’s a more complex, persistent meta-game. This involves persistent characters, with weapon and armour unlocks, not to mention new abilities, as you earn experience in game. However, it also means that your efforts are tied into an ongoing war, with the world divided into continents, those continents divided into regions, and specific regions giving additional XP bonuses to specific classes. To be honest, Hybrid doesn’t do a great job of explaining how all this works and we’re still a little mystified, but presumably all will make sense in the weeks to come.
That is, of course, if people keep coming back for that long. Hybrid is a blast in short doses. The rapid movement and hard-hitting weapons keep things moving fast, and matches are over so quickly that even a bad match with irritating players won’t keep you bogged down for more than a few minutes. In the best maps, where wall and ceiling mounted cover points mix things up, the action feels different in a good way. You can’t deny that Hybrid brings something new to the genre.
Being Different isn't Enough
Unfortunately, it’s just not that consistently exciting for that long. It’s hard to say why Hybrid doesn’t pack in the thrills of a great multiplayer shooter, but for all its innovation it doesn’t have the tension of a Call of Duty, the teamwork and scope of a Battlefield or even the hard-hitting, brutal combat of a Quake. It’s much faster than a Gears of War, but not actually so gruesomely entertaining, and Halo 3 and Halo: Reach are – minute-for-minute – more engaging. Most of all, it doesn’t have much variety. The art and design feel generic, the maps lack character, and one round of shifting from cover to cover, blasting troops and drones, begins to feel a lot like another. After a while, it was only the lure of new levels and unlocks that kept us coming back.
Meanwhile, smarter players are already working out that it’s easier to defend a cover point en-masse than it is to assault it. As a result, you’ll see a few games where two or three guys camp in one position, summoning drones and wiping out anyone who tries to take them on. While you can sort this out with flanking manoeuvres or a well-timed grenade, it’s still annoying, and shows that something about the balance is not quite right.
Kudos to 5th Cell and Hybrid for taking a conservative genre and giving it a whole new spin, but there’s something about Hybrid that doesn’t quite work. It’s fun in short doses, but where the dark matter-grabbing metagame is meant to boost long-term appeal, the actual minute-by-minute gameplay works against it. It’s cheap enough to reward your curiosity, but unlikely to inspire much devotion.