I have a varied history with shooters. I absolutely adored Rise of the Triad and Counter-Strike, and spent my fair share of time playing some of the other standards of the genre, but even so, I never once considered myself a real fan of the genre as a whole. Over the past few years, this has shifted somewhat, and I now find a shooter as one of my favorite games of this generation, much to my surprise. I also find myself sincerely enjoying Halo’s multiplayer, which has been a long and highly resisted road. While I still don’t primarily identify as a fan of shooters, they do have their own place in my pantheon of gaming, and I seem to have started anticipating unique takes on the genre. In more than one way, Hybrid is one such unique take.
Before I go into the things that Hybrid does right, I want to get one of the things that Hybrid does wrong out of the way:
Hybrid is an online only team shooter. This is something that PC players are definitely used to, with MMO’s being exactly that, and it’s nothing unheard of in the console space, but it is still very odd duck. This product becomes useless as soon as the servers experience uptime issues, which is less unlikely than you might think. On the day of launch, the title’s servers went down, forcing Microsoft to pull it from the market until the servers could be restored, many, many hours later. An ignominious launch, and an ill omen for the title’s long-term effectiveness. Additionally, the longevity of an online only title is directly tied to the strength of its online userbase. While a title with offline capabilities will never lose its basic ability to be played, a game like Hybrid, without a community, is no longer playable.
That being said, there could be an argument to support Hybrid’s online only nature: the persistent world war. Due to a complication with a large hadron collider, a dimensional rift has opened on Earth, and an army of Variants (aliens, to give you some context) has invaded. The remaining armies of Earth, the Paladins, are attempting to reclaim their territory. Most of the world is broken up into smaller districts, and each of these districts is in constant flux as each side of the war earns victories. This world war is persistent, and constantly changing as players around the world battle it out in 3v3 team combat. To ensure some level of value and meaning to team selection during the persistent world war, you can select your team when you install the game, change it once for free, and change it again for a tidy sum of MSP. The goal is to pick a side and stick to it, seeing your war through to the end. Eventually, once a side has won the global war, the world resets, and the war begins anew.
As you play, you are not just fighting for your team, or your faction, but for your own improvement. XP based side objectives in each battle (Kill 5 opponents, etc.) help boost your leveling, while basic action does the same. You unlock weapons and abilities by working your way through the game, which brings us to the second thing that, in my opinion, Hybrid does wrong: MSP in-game purchases. With Hybrid, if you want to be top of the pop, but don’t want to actually put any effort into it, you just need to toss some MSP at your screen to unlock the same weapons and abilities that others will work for and earn. Allowing MSP in-game purchases completely undermines the XP based leveling system, and devalues the effort and time that other players have put into the game.
The game looks fine, and runs at a smooth, locked 60FPS. There’s nothing visually unique or stand-out about the character/level design, but it is based on solid sci-fi shooter convention. The combat is very fluid, and is movement based to a certain extent. You won’t find yourself running from spot to spot, but simply selecting a destination cover and flying there. You can control your flight, to a certain extent, by strafing mid-air, and can engage in combat while in transit. You are also able to readjust your target destination while mid-flight. It’s a fun game to play.
Hybrid is the fourth entry in this year’s XBLA Summer of Arcade promotion, and comes in at 1200MSP. For an online-only game with an expiration date, 1200MSP may be a bit much if you look at it in the long-term. The community may not stick, and if it does, it may range from sparse to robust, with no guarantees. If you can look at it as a shorter-term investment (with long and short term being relative), you can definitely get some great gameplay out of the title while the community is strong at launch. If only it included an offline play mode that was not tied in to the persistent world war, it would be a much easier game to support.
- Smooth and fluid motion based combat
- Fascinating perpetual world-war game world (this is what bumps the rating from Average to Good)
- Locked 60FPS graphics look sharp
- Online-only gamestyle (coupled with launch day server issues) severely limits game’s effectiveness
- MSP-enabled in-game purchases undermine XP-based leveling
To see where this review score falls in our scoring range, please read our review scale guidelines.