Hybrid Review: Complicated simplicity
Hybrid features more streamlined shooter experience that ends up making the game more tiresome than fun.
Hybrid is indeed an odd game. When I heard the developers of Scribblenauts was making a shooter for XBLA, I immediately had my doubts. How will a developer that isn’t known for shooters going to make a title that gamers will truly want to keep playing, instead of loading up Call of Duty.
Hybrid is essentially a cover based shooter, but with a dab of Halo presentation. The biggest difference between Hybrid and other cover based shooters is the simplicity of the mechanics. Instead of having robust levels, dozens of weapons and more game play types than you will ever play, players receive a streamlined and simplistic title.
The weirdest part of Hybrid is, in fact, the cover system. The only way I can describe Hybrid’s cover system is “point and click.” Each map is equipped with a dozen or so cover areas, and the only way to actually move is to go directly from cover to cover. Apparently in the future, floors were something that just had to go, and people have to transport via jetpack. Players go from cover to cover simply by placing their reticule over the cover they wish to move to, and press the A button. Once in cover you can move from left to right, or switch what side of the cover you are on. Not actually having to manually travel from cover to cover will throw players for a loop at first. Trying to reprogram your brain to not move is no easy task.
Once you have the controls down you will find that Hybrid is a game that focuses on combat. This design screams for players to focus on brute force, instead of trying to sneak around or be strategic. The robots, which can be summoned to help you after a successful kill streak, are designed as a way for the payer to take less damage, and offer more brute force when you charge an opponent. While the frame rate (which performs at 60 frames per second) keeps the action fast paced, the simplistic cover system doesn’t really allow for sneak attacks.
The problem with Hybrid is that it can get boring very quickly. There is almost no strategy to Hybrid. Since you can’t freely move around you are forced to sit in cover until you see an opponent, then you must race to them and pray you get the first shot. Most firefights consist of a game of quick draw; whoever sees their opponent first will usually win. Sometimes if you are quick enough or have a nice little army of robot aids, you can kill your opponent first, but there is usually another opponent right around the corner to finish you off.
Map design can also be an issue, depending on your game type. Hybrid offers the standard game play types such as death match, king of the hill and assault, but there isn’t anything special or new when it comes to new types of matches. Some maps work really well with death match and the cover that is available works well to keep players far apart. Try playing King of the Hill on the same map and suddenly the expanded distance between cover becomes a huge issue. Again the game breaks down to a quick draw, and whoever gets to the cover first will most likely keep it for its entirety of points before it switches.
The only thing that might, but probably won’t, keep players on Hybrid is the progression system. The mechanics of the progression are similar to many other shooters, as it offers players a leveling system which unlocks new things. Unlocks include new weapons and perks which aid you in your quest to annihilate the enemy. The problem with this is that most of the weapons are far too similar, and the perks really don’t seem to make much difference. An example of this is a perk which gives the player more armor, but it seems that the same amount of damage is required to meet your demise, whether you have the perk or not.
In a world where a new shooter seems to release every week, Hybrid becomes lost, very fast. I commend 5th Cell for trying to some new things in this genre, but they essentially removed free movement in favor of focused combat. When you try to focus on a single mechanic, the small things that make that mechanic essential need to be perfect. Things like weapon balance, progression, and map design are all a mess in Hybrid. I’m sure some of these things will be fixed in the future, but it seems that the basic design of Hybrid is just no good, and that is something that just can’t be patched.