Developer 5th Cell has embarked on a very ambitious venture in regards to their Summer of Xbox LIVE Arcade release, Hybrid
, by switching their style from a game such as Scribblenauts
, and focusing their attention to a third-person cover-based multiplayer game.What's all the fuss over Dark Matter?
After an asteroid plummeted to the earth and left the world in complete chaos, two factions rose from the debris and began an all-out global conflict for the rare and precious matter. There are the Varients, those infected by the alien bacteria, and the Paladin, who are immune to the unknown pathogen. Upon starting up the game, a brief cinematic plays that explains the entire reason why the war rages on. You are then prompted to login to the server and choose one of the factions. Once you have decided as who you wish to do battle, the tutorial explaining combat, movement and cover will begin; this is then followed by a practice arena where you can take your newly aquired skills and do battle against drones, bots, and test your basic abilities in movement and cover.Where should we do battle?
Once you have taken out your aggression on some drones, it is now time to head to the world map where you will choose the country and region in which to do battle.
Each zone will provide XP for a specific Specialization. For example, unlike most games where you will level up the specialization by using it in various degrees from kills to helping out fellow squadmates, Hybrid
takes a very different approach in where you have to play in a certain zone, or other zones that will give you the XP for the Specialization in order for it to level up. There are five Tiers to each Specialization. In the case of the Assassin Specialization, you will start at 10% extra bullet damage and for each Tier you move up, the bullet damage and percentage bonus will increase. Another benefit to certain zones are "Hot Zones" that give either faction a 150 XP bonus, a great way to help level up and unlock new items.
Zones also have another key factor in the grand scheme of the Dark Matter war. Each zone requires the factions to aquire 25 pieces of Dark Matter before the zone becomes locked and the battle is over for that region. In a season each faction must procure 100 total pieces of Dark Matter to become victorious. Once a faction is crowned, the war resets and begins again, as do all of your hard earned specialization perks.That's a pretty spiffy jetpack you have there
Now that you have chosen where you want to engage in this futuristic conflict, what steps are you going to take to win? Hybrid
has added what are known as "micro-transactions" and, at the end of the day, they really don't affect the game that much. By being able to purchase "Token Packages" with a price range from 100 Tokens for 80 MSP, 600 Tokens for 400 MSP or 1400 tokens for 800 MSP, gamers can instantly get a leg up on some of the competition by buying everything from a 3-day XP Boost Pack, a new shotgun or a swanky new helmet for a little added customization. However, it will not make or break the game, or supply fellow combatants with an unfair advantage.
You will begin with access to standard weapons such as an assault rifle, a heavy pistol, shotgun and sniper rifle. Your starting weapons, abilities and specializations pack enough punch to handle even higher ranked gamers, which should quell any fear of being a lowly level 5 facing off against a established level 40. Over the course of leveling up you will unlock everything that you can purchase early on; all you have to do is play and it will be unlocked. Hybrid
does not shy away from giving you a decent arsenal to choose from either; a total of 21 weapons can be unlocked throughout your progression within the game.
Each weapon can be used to better a situation. Whether you want to rush in with a shotgun, or strategically move from cover to cover with a stealth approach and a sniper rifle, the options are readily available. Furthermore, you will also have a few drones at your disposal - three to be exact - and you will unlock them through accumulated kills. You will still maintain a killstreak even after you die, which seemingly makes them abundant to say the least. Hybrid
in no way makes these "kill streaks" over-powered by making them easy to achieve, because on the opposite side of the coin, they are easy to defeat. As an example, after five kills, the Phylon jets through the battlefield and tenderizes the unlucky target; even she can be countered with a well-timed Hack Grenade.
The range of weapons and customization is truly nothing new to the genre, yet it is well delivered and respectfully adds an ample amount of playability and variation in combat. Whether you unlock the weapons and abilities gradually or purchase tokens outright, it does not sway the game in anyone's favour. I believe I can flyHybrid
isn't a new concept at first glance. You have a cover system, firefights, jetpacks, specializations, and abilities, which are common in most shooters. Where Hybrid
shines is how it specializes and relies on cover-specific combat. Being able to fly from cover to cover, vault over cover, or post-up behind cover is the real element of Hybrid
. At first, you may find the controls to be unfamiliar, and trying to evade enemies while strafing and directing yourself to cover can be unresponsive. Even when you are in cover you may find that, until you are used to maneuvering properly, the controls can be a little clunky and dying becomes natural. Have no fear though, once you grasp even a little bit of an understanding of the game's movement, you will be propelling yourself through the maps blasting every drone and enemy in your way.
To accompany the well-designed movement is the weaponry and, for an XBLA title, it can hold fort with the juggernauts of the shooting genre. The guns are responsive and balanced and are better represented by near perfect hit detection. It is not often that you will feel as though you were robbed by lag compensation, a horrible host, or dreaded hit markers. You can also add special abilities, such as Venom to your ammo, to inflict damage even after you are dead, or siphon your enemies' health little by little with every bullet that hits. The abilities are balanced as well, and if you feel as though something isn't working for that particular match, then before you deploy you can change your loadout and head back into the battle.The king of the castle
Variety is the spice of life, and that statement is true for Hybrid
. Before you start a match you have the option of two things: pick a mission and a game mode. Missions are objectives you can complete to gain a little extra experience and they can differ depending on the weapons you have unlocked or abilities you have. If you choose 'Wet Blanket', then your objective for that match is to get two buzz-kills by ending an enemy's killstreak; accomplish your mission and you'll receive 800 XP for your hard work.
Now that you have chosen your mission, what game mode will you play? There are a few from which to choose. A couple will be very familiar to shooter fans, while others are unique to Hybrid
. If you don't have any preference for matchmaking, you don't have to choose one and it will place you into an available lobby. Playlists that are available to you are Team Deathmatch only, Mercenaries or Objective. If you choose the Mercenaries playlist, you will have the option to play Team Deathmatch, Overlord or Artifact. Overlord is a level based game mode where the objective is to reach the rank of Overlord level 21 in order to win the match. With each rank increase, the damage that your team can inflict increases too. The game mode can be relatively fast-paced where the Overlord changes hands frequently, or the game can be an easy affair as the Overlord moves to the back of the map and waits for the ranks to increase.
Artifact is a game mode in which two teams try to aquire and hold the artifact until either the time runs out or the Artifact score is reached. For gamers that love to focus primarily on objectives, the aptly titled playlist will fit your play style. Featuring game modes like King of the Hill, Artifact, Crazy Kings and Tactics, this playlist is for the objective player at heart. Crazy Kings is a variation of King of the Hill, where two teams race to capture the objective, however the "king zone" switches every 35 seconds, which makes for an intense match. Tactics is a no-respawn game mode that has one team plant the bomb and the other defuse, until the team with four victories wins the best of a seven-round match.The way he just perished was...beautifulHybrid
sports a smooth 60fps, 1080p visual experience that doesn't suffer from screen tearing or jittery visuals. The maps are small, well designed and easy to maneuver through. The backgrounds, even though appealing, are not the focus of Hybrid
; the action is far too frantic to be concerned with watching a fighter jet soar off into the distance. The game features seven playable maps. However, at times, it will seem like you are only playing on two or three maps and, at the game's core, they are not truly different from one another. A lack of originality could hinder some who desire a variety of maps, yet it honestly isn't a large factor when comparing it to the gameplay and competitive nature the game offers.
The sound is on par with most games and it really doesn't make or break the game. When in combat, your drones will make little comments, players usually grunt when hopping over cover, and the narrator has limited speech aside from the tutorial. The music is boisterous and full, yet it is only supplied during your menu sequences and doesn't leave much to be desired. With Hybrid
solely being a multiplayer shooter, music is not a real focal point. Nonetheless, the sound during combat is one key component to make for a solid shooter. The guns sound as they should, explosions are noticible yet not overbearing, and the positioning of enemies or allies is well done and easy to adjust to, letting you easily aquire where the main firefight is located.Achievement unlocked
For a multiplayer shooter, some may dread the achievements associated with Hybrid
and, if you aren't a completionist and don't mind a slow grind, then you may want to err on the side of caution. For such a good game, achievements may break it for you, especially achievements like Get ALL the Tiers
. Even though it is obtainable, it does not take away from the fact that it is a grind.
Like previously mentioned, specializations level up depending on what zone you do battle in. It would not be an issue if they leveled up by use. However, this requires an ample amount of playtime and patience to achieve. If not a lot of people are in that specific region, then you may be stuck waiting to be placed into an active lobby. One major drawback, though, is if you purchase the game and the season is almost complete; all of the time that you spent increasing a specializations tier will be reset at the beginning of a new season. With other achievements ranging from reaching level 50 for a fifth time to winning a season, this could be an issue for some because once the season ends, everything aside from rank is reset. If you missed out on winning the season, or switching factions at the last minute, then you will have to wait to complete an entire season again. Most of the other achievements unlock over time, or take a little bit of luck combined with skill and ability unlocks, while others pertain to playing a certain game mode.The Dark Matter runneth overHybrid
at its core is a welcome asset to a saturated shooter genre. The combat is frantic, fun and intense. The cover system and gameplay mechanics are a learning curve, yet they are easily understood after a few times playing through matches. The lack of map variety doesn't change the face of the game too much, yet it does leave some orginality to be desired.
Playing the game at a lavish 60fps accompanied by some excellent sound makes this Xbox LIVE Arcade game a beautiful addition, yet add some long matchmaking times and long running achievements and it may cause some concern for those who want to get in on the Hybrid
action. All in all, this game is a solid and ambitious work for 5th Cell that delievers where it matters; the action and replayability meets the expectations of a 1200 MSP price tag.The reviewer spent roughly 10 hours playing this game, journeyed through every game mode, has reached level 30 and grabbed a few achievements along the way.