You wouldn't think so to look at it, but Hybrid is a game with the same inventive spirit as developer 5th Cell's wordy puzzler Scribblenauts. Ignore the generic environments and the hackneyed marines-versus-extraterrestrials setup and you have a multiplayer cover shooter that likes to do things very differently. It's not wholly successful in achieving its goals, but it has a bloody good try at reinventing the wheel.
Yet at first, the effort doesn't feel worthwhile. A brisk tutorial reveals the basic controls to be both intuitive and oddly restrictive. That's because you can only move around by flying between cover points using a jetpack. Walking is limited to shuffling laterally when apparently magnetically attached to these waist-high walls, and you can vault over them, but that's your lot.
It takes a bit of getting used to. You can strafe, trigger a brief turbo and select a different cover point in mid-air, which makes you a little more manoeuvrable, and there's a retreat move that sees you jab B to zip back to the previous piece of cover. However, you can only use this once until you advance again - like a puzzle game where you're only allowed to undo a single mistake at a time. It's odd, and it feels at times like 5th Cell is trying to solve a problem that doesn't really exist.
Amalgam in the middle
But then it begins to click into place. Over the course of its snappy three-on-three matches, you'll begin to unravel the nuances of movement, the ideal abilities to equip, and how fantastic that burst-fire SMG is. In fact, you'll notice how punchy all the weapons are, and delight in deploying the drones you're awarded for killstreaks, particularly the screeching ninja-bot at five that homes in on opponents before knifing them to death.
Sure, the levels are all much of a muchness, and despite the variety of game modes, it can get samey. But the persistent online game - a fight for Dark Matter between Paladins (humans) and Valiants (aliens) - adds long-term appeal, and once you've mastered its quirks, it's an absolute blast in small doses. Pick a side and get involved.
A smart twist on a tired genre
- Loud weapons with satisfying feedback
- Refreshingly snappy and exciting matches
- Intriguing meta-game adds longevity
- First hour will put off many
- Repetitive and fairly shallow