'Hybrid' Is a Uniquely Stressful Experience

Hybrid replaces the tactical pacing of a cover-based shooter with the relentless pacing of a first-person shooter.


Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Rated: Teen
Players: 1
Price: $15.00
Platforms: XBLA
Developer: 5th Cell
Release Date: 2012-08-08

Hybrid is a third-person cover-based shooter unlike any other third-person cover-based shooter. There’s still cover and there’s still shooting, but your movement is severely limited. It’s a clever approach to the genre, bolstered by good mechanics, but the community’s desire to min/max the progression to a singularity makes Hybrid a uniquely stressful experience.

You can only move from one piece of cover to another. You can’t stand up and walk around. Aim where you want to go and hit a button, and your soldier flies there automatically. You can switch directions midair but you have to be flying towards cover; you have to always be moving.

That’s an important lesson to learn in Hybrid. The levels are small and most of them are designed as tight loops, so if you’re not constantly pushing forward, you risk getting flanked. Since movement is mostly automated, everything is sped up. In this way, it replaces the tactical pacing of a normal cover-based shooter with the relentless pacing of a normal first-person shooter. Cover is both irrelevant and necessary at the same time. It serves as a protective wall, but also a dead end when you’re flanked and surrounded, which will happen often thanks to the looping levels. Your average lifespan will be less than thirty seconds, so despite its appearance, Hybrid plays more like Call of Duty than Gears of War.

This isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it creates an awkward learning curve as you fight against the mental equivalent of muscle memory. Thankfully, the intuitive controls ease you into the experience. This is by far the most polished downloadable shooter that I’ve ever played.

Hybrid has the typical assortment of guns, but unlike other shooters, each variation of each weapon feels just different enough to justify its existence. The universe of Hybrid is stylishly sci-fi, so it’s not forced to pad out its armory with repetitive weapons just for the sake of realism. Everything that’s here is here for a reason.

The same goes for your abilities. It might be hard at first to switch the frag grenade ability for something else considering how essential grenades are in most cover-based shooters, but the pain is worth the effort. Defensive abilities like the Meta Shield and Support abilities like Satellite (which reveals the location of your opponents) will feel just as indispensable once you start using them. They each encourage a subtly different style of play, which keeps the general gameplay feeling fresh. It’s impressive how well balanced everything is…up to a point.

Hybrid prides itself on stripping away the controls that we’ve come to expect from shooters, but a certain amount of nuance and unpredictability gets stripped away as well. It’s easy to min/max your loadout since there are fewer factors that the player has to consider, and the progression system doesn’t help. As you rank up, you earn unlock credits that can only be used with certain types of guns. This system is somewhat limiting since it prevents players from unlocking any weapon from the beginning, but it offers enough player freedom that it took the community less that 24 hours to discover and latch onto the most devastating gun/ability combination in the game.

It’s a curious thing to watch a single playstyle slowly kill off all others -- like natural selection in action. By the time I stopped playing to write the review, the shotgun/teleport combination had become so pervasive that I was forced to accept it or be left behind with the rest of the dead bodies. The frustrating thing about this combination is that it turns the shotgun into a deadly weapon up close and from long range since the player now has the ability to close any amount of distance in an instant. Hybrid has so many interesting abilities and guns, it’s sad to see a single loadout become the communal default.

There’s an interesting meta-game atop all the shooting. At the very start of the game, you have to pick a side in a global war over dark matter. You’ll then fight in zones all across the world in a race to see who can acquire 100 dark matter first. The more you win in a zone, the closer you get to the dark matter at its center. Once a side claims victory in a zone, it’s time to move on to another until someone reaches 100 units. After one side wins, the war begins again. It’s a great concept; a war lasts about a week, which is long enough to feel like a genuine struggle but short enough to ensure that you won’t lose interest in the outcome. Unfortunately the whole system is very poorly explained. It’s not a complicated system, but it does get bizarre when you start playing with a squad, since everyone can enter different zones but still play in the same match.

Hybrid has a lot of hooks to keep you playing.At the end of each round, you’ll see no less than three different meters increase, and the persistent war encourages you to login daily, if only to see how your side is progressing. There’s also enough variety in the modes, maps, and guns to remain compelling for a good long while, despite the min/maxing obsessed players.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.