The Xbox 360 is filled with shooters. The console has basically made its bones on this genre. You have first-person powerhouses such as Halo and Call of Duty leading the way, while in the third-person realm, Gears of War became an instant hit almost overnight. So to introduce a new title into one of these genres, it must come with something rather new to impress gamers. 5th Cell's Hybrid does bring something new to the table, but it just isn't enough.
In the intro, it tells players about invaders that come from another world and quickly take over the planet and are given the ominous message from a woman that "we are going to send them back", but after that you are told to pick sides between warring factions; the Paladins and the Variants. It is no longer about getting alien invaders off the Earth, but controlling the resource of Dark Matter. Hybrid's very flimsy story sounds like the creators wanted to make one story, but quickly decided to change it into another.
Hybrid definitely looks impressive. The futuristic backdrops with each location are clean and crisp with no texture pop-ins once the fast-paced action begins. Also, there is no frame rate drop when areas start to become populated when an entire team is in one area and firefights start to become hectic.
Hybrid's combat is definitely on a global scale, but you are merely playing a small role in the overall scheme of things. Each battle, no matter what mode you play, will always be 3-on-3 matches. These make for very fast gameplay sessions that don't go on forever and they fit perfectly with map layouts. The maps are all pretty enclosed and very feverous skirmishes begin and end rather quickly. In most shooters that I play, I have to spend half of the time traveling around a map looking for at least one person to shoot at and Hybrid's layout has pretty much eliminated that inconvenience.
And traveling around the map is one of Hybrid's slick features. The game's movement style is as simple as pointing and clicking from cover-to-cover. By highlighting and pressing the A button, your character will jump jet to the next cover and stick to it. Players pretty much have little control once in the air and can instead focus all their attention to shooting at other targets. 5th Cell has laser-focused so intensely on combat, that they have streamlined even movement.
With shooting indeed being a dominating force in the game, Hybrid is really spot-on with the shooting mechanics. Even at long range, mid range weapons like assault rifles and light machine guns will be able to find their targets. Shooting pretty much encompasses every facet of the gameplay. Close-quarters-combat is just blind firing over cover at an opponent on the opposite side of a wall and that method is by far one of the most accurate I have ever seen utilized in any other shooter and quickly becomes the best way to actually score kills in matches. And Hybrid definitely encourages players to kill fast and kill often with their kill streak rewards. It's a small reward to get one kill and unleash a Stalker drone that follows you from cover to cover and acts like a mini turret. It's a pleasure when you score three kills in a row to unleash a Warbringer that hovers around the arena seeking out targets and by the time you score five kills in a row, your opponents will be dreading you when you unleash a Pryon robot that lets loose a horrifying screech as it careens towards an enemy and kills them with one hit.
Also present is a robust customization system that will have completionist trying to unlock everything on the list. With each level gained, a new category unlocks for your character be it either a new piece of armor or a new gun. For instance, at level 12, I was given the prompt to unlock a new shotgun for free. Once I make my selection, everything else in the category gets locked down again and if I wanted to unlock a new shotgun, I have to wait to level up again, but the game itself chooses which category unlocks with each level; be it a new gun or perhaps a new helmet for my character this time. However, Hybrid also has a micro transaction system where players can purchase credits with Microsoft Points. You can then use these credits to unlock weapons instantly rather than leveling up. People may see this as cheating, but it is actually a fair system. The guns the players can purchase are all in-game guns, so spending these credits doesn't unlock some tier of "superguns" that can only be gotten by spending money. You can eventually get all these guns by simply playing and leveling up. Every gun you can ever select in a category is up for grabs once it becomes unlocked, so it is solely up to a player's preference which gun they want and like any gun, it has its strengths and weaknesses in battle.
After Hybrid's impressive movement system, there really isn't anything new the game showcases for itself. You still have your standard Team Death matches, King of the Hill and even defend/defuse the bomb matches that appear in other games. This is a huge problem for Hybrid's lasting appeal because it is just so bland after awhile, that it won't keep players hooked in it. These gameplay modes aren't anything new and it really doesn't evolve into anything more than just a more fast-paced stop-and-pop shooter. Yes, you are fighting for control over territory, but you aren't doing anything else that makes it feel like these sorties are really important. Even if a territory is claimed first by your opponent, it doesn't lock down. You can still continue playing in it, so the consequences aren't that steep. The only time a place locks down is when your own team reaches the reactor first, so it begs the question how fights are still going on in the region when once faction can't get back into it.
Hybrid is a fun shooter. It favors fast-paced shooting action over most other multiplayer shooters, but with the flimsy story and no real gameplay modes that make it stick out among others, you may not return to it as frequently as other well-established titles.