Point Review: Hybrid (360)

October 2nd, 2012 by

Developer: 5th Cell
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Genre: Online third-person shooter
Players: 1 (2-6 online)
Console: Xbox 360 (XBLA)
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Progress: Reached Level 10 (Sergeant)

5th Cell is known mostly for their very ambitious Scribblenauts games, but in an uncharacteristic move they decided to try their hand at making a Source engine shooter for the Xbox 360.  Does Hybrid end up being a unique and valuable take on its genre like 5th Cell’s Run Roo Run iOS game or does it end up just missing the mark like too many of their other titles?  Read on to find out what we thought of 5th Cell’s apocalyptic shooter.

  • There’s a bit of a story to the game, but not much.
  • It’s the year 2031, an asteroid crashed into Earth killing most people and splitting the remnants into two factions: the infected Variants and the immune Paladins.  
  • The Variants and Paladins are now fighting over some kind of resource and you choose which faction you want to play as (faction choice is mostly just for looks as the characters all function in precisely the same manner).

  • The game, which is multiplayer-only with the exception of a small tutorial, plays like a very watered-down cover shooter in the vein of Gears of War or Army of Two.  I mean very watered-down, as in if Gears of War multiplayer was Coca-Cola, Hybrid would maybe look like flat Sprite.
  • Unlike other third-person shooters, Hybrid‘s gimmick is that you can only travel (at relatively slow speeds) from cover to cover, there is no other movement aside from slinking around behind walls and jet-packing your way to the next wall.  (Some of these walls are technically upside-down, but it effects gameplay so little that it hardly matters)
  • There are kill streak rewards, but they’re not customizable, so you’ll always see the same three types of unlockable kill streak reward bots flying around and it gets rather bland.
  • One of the game’s worst features is that you get essentially one “free” unlock per weapon and item category and then slowly earn others as you level-up, but there is a micro-transaction-based money system (whose credits can only be earned through an additional purchase on top of the game’s 1200 Microsoft Points price) to unlock the extra stuff that they otherwise withhold from you.  This kind of mechanic is expected in free-to-play games, but should NEVER be an integral part of a game that already has a decently high price point.

  • With the advent of multiplayer-centric games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare/Black Ops, Halo 3, and Gears of War, many advancements have been made in the fields of matchmaking, team communication, experience/levelling, and level design.  Hybrid employs almost none of these advancements.
  • It was a very rare occurrence for me while attempting to play the game both before the game’s official launch and in the following weeks, to be able to get into a match, even using the most wide-open settings (playing in a “Hot Zone” with no match-making preferences), to have to wait less than two minutes for a game to be found.  You could say it takes longer than the approximately 10-15 seconds it takes in games like Modern Warfare 3 because there are less people playing Hybrid, but this should have been a consideration made by the devs when making a multiplayer-only game!
  • With battles at most 3 vs 3, most maps are quite small and uninspired, boiling down to just a fairly simple often mirrored array of cover locations. 
  • The 3 v 3 size cap also makes it so that you more or less have to stay glued to your teammates, for better or worse being a lone gunner (one of my favourite things) doesn’t work too well in Hybrid.

  • The graphics are so average they’re essentially below average.
  • Repetitive environments, weapon effects, and character models combined with bland art direction make this game nothing to look at.

  • Even less memorable/interesting than the graphics. 
  • Move along, nothing to see here.

  • Being a multiplayer-only game, there is very little in Hybrid that can’t be classified as Usagi Factor-related.  That being said, when a game only consists of what could be termed “replay” value, it can get stale quickly if measures decent aren’t taken to combat this.  Hybrid‘s levelling system, where you level both your character and your primary special equipment choice (more XP, greater bullet damage, etc.) and challenge system (get 5 assists in the next match, etc.) are not deep or long-lasting enough to keep most players’ attentions for long.
  • When it takes such a long time to get into games, there’s no way for your player to stick out or be customized in any way to the point that they feel unique, and you more or less feel like you’re playing the same match on the same few levels repeatedly all of the innate Usagi Factor in the world cannot save you from tedium.

5th Cell took a big risk in breaking out of their developmental comfort zone to try and innovate the multiplayer 3rd person shooter genre and it largely didn’t pay off.  The features that they deem revolutionary just feel decidedly gimmicky in practice, and their ignorance of years of development in areas like matchmaking and levelling in online shooters only serves to further bog down the experience as a whole.  If you’re completely finished playing games like Gears of War 3 and are positively dying for some more multiplayer 3rd person shooter action on the Xbox 360, Hybrid may be your only choice, but we’d suggest trying out other shooter games like Borderlands 2 or more worthwhile XBLA experiences like Fez before resorting to playing 5th Cell’s latest game that unfortunately just misses the mark.

 Rated 6.1


A review copy of this game was provided to us by its publisher.