Giant Bomb Review

16 Comments

Hybrid Review

4
  • XBGS

Hybrid's less-is-more approach somehow makes shooting other players on an Xbox feel sort of new again.

You'll spend an awful lot of your time doing this.

It probably shouldn't be a surprise that if anyone could actually do something fresh in the online shooter space at this point, it would be the people who made...Scribblenauts. Just when I thought I couldn't stand to play another multiplayer game with level progression and unlocks, along comes Hybrid with a less-is-more approach that subtracts freedom of movement and gains an increased importance on tactics and positioning as a result. You're still going to pull one trigger to aim at enemies and the other trigger to shoot them, but enough of the gameplay around that basic shooting feels original to make Hybrid worth checking out.

Except for the one key difference, Hybrid is like every other shooter on the market. Aim at guy, shoot guy. Occasionally activate your secondary ability to teleport, see enemies through walls, or heal nearby teammates. Check your kill-death ratio afterward and feel a deep sense of shame. And every few matches, gain a level that lets you unlock a new weapon, ability, passive buff, or helmet to use in subsequent matches. But it's that one difference--the inability to just run freely around the map--that gives Hybrid its unique identity. At all times you're stuck to one of only a handful of predefined cover points on a given map, and your only freedom of movement is to sidle back and forth behind the cover, flip over to the other side of it, or jetpack your way to one of the other cover points that you've got a direct line of sight to.

Since there's only a small number of places you, your teammates, and all your enemies can be at any one time, where you are in relation to where everyone else is becomes of extreme importance over the course of each match. Things like flanking an enemy position from two sides or circling around the back way to creep up on someone who isn't paying attention become regular matters of course. You also have to learn how to make the best use of your limited movement, by knowing when to do things like charge someone's position and wildly blind-fire at them from the other side of their own cover, or hit the retreat button and hurtle backwards to get away from someone who's about to kill you. The matches have a unique flow to them in an online-shooter context, especially since the three-versus-three match size is notably small.

Hybrid goes a step beyond the typical multiplayer-progression metagame with a second layer of between-match progress that takes every player's performance collectively into account. It's a persistent war spread across the entire world's geography, where you pick between multiple zones on every continent before you start matchmaking into a game. Winning matches in a particular zone advances your faction's progress in that zone, and the first team to hit 100 percent there earns double the points of the other side (who still has to hit 100 itself before a single point is awarded).

Knowing when to retreat is an important part of surviving most confrontations.

It was pretty exciting in the first few days of release to see my faction struggling to pull ahead of the other guys in the point totals, though it got a bit less exciting once they gained what looked like an unrecoverable lead over us. Lo and behold, my side ended up winning the first season after all, due to more strategically targeting low-traffic zones rather than focusing on a smaller number of high-value ones. It's a shame there's no sort of in-game bulletin board for members of a faction to coordinate their efforts, or at least a better at-a-glance way to highlight the most contentious zones; as it is, you have to drill way down on the map to see which areas you should focus on. But the persistent war is still a cool idea that gives you a reason to stick with the game for a relatively long period of time.

Actually, the very beginning of Hybrid's release was pretty much a complete disaster, as a server outage rendered the game completely unplayable on day one. That problem was fixed in a few hours, but it's worth noting that the same thing could theoretically happen again in the future. The matchmaking can also be pretty slow, and coupled with the long loading times, sometimes it feel like it takes forever to get into a match. (The game uses a neat trick of pitting you against "traitors" from your own faction when it can't pull a team full of enemies, at least.) Also, while every weapon and ability in the game is unlockable purely by leveling, and the leveling curve isn't any slower than any other game of this type, you can also spend real money to unlock whatever you want right away, or to give yourself an experience buff. That feels a little gross. It's made worse since the type of weapon or ability you unlock at each level is fixed, and there's no way to test out a weapon before you burn an unlock on it, which in a couple of cases led to me going for a weapon that sounded cool but which I immediately ended up hating. After you pick, say, a new shotgun, it's going to be several hours of leveling before you get a chance at another shotgun, unless you want to pay hard cash.

Hybrid's peripheral shortcomings are easy enough to ignore, though, since the core idea is so well executed. Even if you thought you couldn't prestige again to save your life, the game feels different enough from the pack to be worth your time. In the highly specific category of inexpensive downloadable multiplayer Xbox shooters, it's one of the best things going.

Brad Shoemaker on Google+
16 Comments
Posted by OllyOxenFree

Good stuff.

Posted by The_Nubster

I'm glad it turned out as well as it did. I wasn't really sold on the idea until the Quick Look, and it's good to hear that it stays strong.

Posted by zombie2011

I've been playing this game a lot, it's so much fun once you know how to navigate maps quickly.

Posted by Phatmac

The devs of scribblenauts made a shooter that is actually good. Someone pinch me.

Posted by Xeirus

@Phatmac said:

The devs of scribblenauts made a shooter that is actually good. Someone pinch me.

*pinch*

...and it's cheap! I'm so fucking sick of paying $60 for a lackluster game...

Posted by Stinky51012

Brad your reviews are killing me. If its on Xbox you are butt hurt over it.

Posted by SJSchmidt93

@Stinky51012 said:

Brad your reviews are killing me. If its on Xbox you are butt hurt over it.

It's 4 stars....

Posted by 234r2we232

I'm sure a lot of the features of this game are impressive if you don't bother to play any of the other persistent online multiplayer games it borrows them from.

Posted by Xeirus

@SJSchmidt93 said:

@Stinky51012 said:

Brad your reviews are killing me. If its on Xbox you are butt hurt over it.

It's 4 stars....

Don't worry he's just "butt hurt"

Posted by mercury228

I keep hearing you guys mention on the Bombcast  and in reviews about shooter fatigue. I do not quite understand fully what you mean because they are still fun in many  ways. Battlefield 3 on PC is a blast to play. Why are they not fatigued by other genres? Brad is a huge fan of Starcraft, and could you not say similar things about that game?  They did not reinvent the wheel, but its still a satisfying experience. I am playing CS: GO and it is great. Their is still room for familiar shooters, but their is room to grow. This game proves that their is, but I still want a military shooter in my gaming diet.

Posted by Lurkero

@mercury228 said:

I keep hearing you guys mention on the Bombcast and in reviews about shooter fatigue. I do not quite understand fully what you mean because they are still fun in many ways. Battlefield 3 on PC is a blast to play. Why are they not fatigued by other genres? Brad is a huge fan of Starcraft, and could you not say similar things about that game? They did not reinvent the wheel, but its still a satisfying experience. I am playing CS: GO and it is great. Their is still room for familiar shooters, but their is room to grow. This game proves that their is, but I still want a military shooter in my gaming diet.

I think the problem is that the Giantbomb crew plays so many games that they have to play every shooter that is released even if they are not initially interested. On top of that they can't just play for fun they have to play to professionally criticize. The luxury of playing only the games you like at only the times you want is somewhat lost for professional reviewers.

I got shooter fatigue so I stopped playing shooters. They get shooter fatigue and still have a review that needs to go up next week.

Posted by CptMorganCA

@Lurkero said:

@mercury228 said:

I keep hearing you guys mention on the Bombcast and in reviews about shooter fatigue. I do not quite understand fully what you mean because they are still fun in many ways. Battlefield 3 on PC is a blast to play. Why are they not fatigued by other genres? Brad is a huge fan of Starcraft, and could you not say similar things about that game? They did not reinvent the wheel, but its still a satisfying experience. I am playing CS: GO and it is great. Their is still room for familiar shooters, but their is room to grow. This game proves that their is, but I still want a military shooter in my gaming diet.

I think the problem is that the Giantbomb crew plays so many games that they have to play every shooter that is released even if they are not initially interested. On top of that they can't just play for fun they have to play to professionally criticize. The luxury of playing only the games you like at only the times you want is somewhat lost for professional reviewers.

I got shooter fatigue so I stopped playing shooters. They get shooter fatigue and still have a review that needs to go up next week.

This sums it up perfectly, if you ask me.

Posted by Geralt

I sure it's great in its own term but from what I saw on TNT last week...everybody look bored to death.

Posted by dropabombonit

Looks okay but not worth $15 to me

Posted by DanTheGamer32

@darpa: it's one of them games that are more fun to play than to watch really

Edited by jasondesante

Good review, been looking forward to this game for a while can't wait to play it.

I know this doesnt have much to do with this particular review, but take a look at all the previous reviews and count the amount of times xbox360 or xbla comes up compared to the other platforms. Its quite revealing. I used to think GB had biases, but I found evidence. Quite interesting. Used to complain about them never talking about free PSN+ stuff and thinking they were 360 fanboys (i hate using that term), but it is undeniably true. Good thing the bias doesn't affect this review. :D