In an apocalyptic future, join either the humanoid Paladins or the invading Variants and battle it out in 3-on-3 mini-matches over the Earth’s continents in an effort to gather a resource known as Dark Matter and win the overall war. Summer of Arcade continues with the release of Hybrid, a multiplayer-only arena shooter from developer 5th Cell and published by Microsoft Studios. After a couple of hiccups when the game first launched, the servers are now up and running beautifully and you owe it to yourself to check this out if you’re into multiplayer shooters.
Before jumping into the fray with accomplished gamers, I strongly suggest you go through the Battle Tutorial (it’s easy and you get an achievement for it) and spend some time in the Practice Arena where there are enough drones and targets for you to get a feel for the game. The action is fast and furious in this one, so be prepared.
Controls and movement are similar to other third-person shooter games that limit your movement from available cover to available cover. Without complete freedom of movement, you must move from cover point to cover point. Highlight an appropriate place to take cover, then press A to fly there. While in flight, you can still strafe, aim weapons and fire (but it slows you down). You automatically take cover when you arrive. The B button lets you automatically retreat to your previous cover spot, in case you managed to fly into an enemy ambush (press it again to go right back to where you were, allowing you to draw the enemies out). This aerial shooting can become tricky; keep an eye out for your enemies!
Abilities and Drones
Each character also has a special Ability, activated by pressing RB. For instance, if you have the Ability to throw grenades (and who doesn’t want that?) you see the path your grenade will take. Move the path around (it works just like a golf game), then throw your grenade and watch the baddies go boom.
Drones are a unique feature of the game. After one kill, you earn a Stalker Drone which will help you by shooting your enemies. Three kills in a row earns you a more powerful Warbringer drone, and five kills grants you the heat-seeking missile Preyon. Use these drones for kills to earn achievements.
Specialization and Side Missions
This is where it gets interesting. Each district has a specialized base which you can level up during play with five tiers of performance boosts available in each specialization:
- Strategist (increased experience points)
- Armored (better defense)
- Assassin (increased weapon damage)
- Spec Ops (decreases cooldowns on Abiilities)
- Commander (increases both armor and weapon damage for deployed Drones).
Also, make sure to check out the side missions listed before battle. As you fight through the area and complete side missions, your character acquires experience points for new weapons and other goodies. Performing well in the various missions gives you more outfitting options in the Armory and a higher rank.
Gameplay and the Armory
Hybrid is a persistent online world constantly at war with all Xbox LIVE players worldwide on the same server. When you Login, you’re asked which faction you want to join: Variants or Paladins. You start off at the first rank then must choose the continent and the district in which you want to fight. As you move around the districts, you can see whether the battle is going well, poorly or even near victory. Pay attention to the gameplay tips you’ll see on the arena loading screens; they can be mighty helpful.
To get to the Dark Matter, engage in a series of small battles across ten different game maps and seven game modes. The first team to reach the goal gets two Dark Matter samples, the second team gets only one sample. The first faction overall to reach 100 Dark Matter wins the overall Season, and the world map is reset but you maintain all the perks and ranks you’ve acquired. Post-battle, visit the Armory to deck yourself out in Helmets, or choose new Weapons (submachine guns, shotguns, heavy pistols, sniper rifles, light machine guns, assault rifles and more are all featured), select different Abilities, and even do other things in the Extras category. For instance, you can buy XP boosts with what you have, or even append a Clan tag to your player name (a feature that should please many shooter clans out there). And thus another Season starts.
It’s a tactical shooter game (your individual team-based 3-on-3 battles) mixed with a strategic meta-game (all players of your faction worldwide are helping determine the outcome of a Season). While you’re playing with everyone else in the whole world, you can also organize Squads to keep you and your friends together.
One of the nice features includes the ability to vote on which map to play (Airfield seems to be my favorite). Eventually you’ll deploy and then watch out! The action is highly chaotic. Keep moving! Move from cover point to cover point and seek out the enemy. Soften them up with grenades or just go in guns a-blazing. Don’t forget to use your drones because they can absorb some enemy fire while you’re sneaking up on them from behind.
After the battle, check out a couple of robust statistics pages on your performance (let’s just say my K/D ratio is laughable) and how much experience you’ve acquired. Then jump right back into the action for another battle. You can keep going like this all night long.
The End Result
Hybrid adds a frenetic multiplayer shooter with unique gameplay elements to the Summer of Arcade lineup. Its gameplay and features should spark an active community where Squads of friends spring up and take the battle to the masses as either Variant or Paladin clans. If you want a quick blast of fun, be sure to download the demo or the full game today.