History shows that one way to annoy the gaming public is to keep giving them the same thing and telling them it's different. That's probably why it's easy to find forums and boards rife with people lamenting about the same things in first- and third-person shooters. Tutorial. Duck and cover. Fire. Shoot bad guys. Hop over cover. Run to next cover. Shoot more. Game Informer magazine even put out a funnier-if-it-weren't-so-true flowchart outlining the predictability of modern shooters.
Enter 5th Cell's Hybrid, which attempts to alter the perspective of tactical third-person shooter action by concentrating on a concept the designers call "combat-focused movement." As in many tactical shooters, you must still move point to point, but what 5th Cell hopes set Hybrid apart is how it grants the player free range of motion and plenty of chances to enjoy it while casting storms of bullets at each other online.
Or to put it shortly — jetpacks.
The demo we played at E3 pitted teams of heavily armored and customizable warriors in three-on-three battles across what will be 10 maps and six different playing modes. No matter what mode you play in, everyone has the ability to fly around on jetpacks and launch themselves toward any kind of cover that is highlighted. You'll find plenty of cover at ground level, but you can also launch yourself at cover that's upside down or on the walls. The perspective will change, but your ability to shoot at enemies flying en route to cover (which can make for some truly bitchin' mid-air confrontations) remains constant. As you roll up the kills, you start getting perks, such as the ability to cast a floating battle drone to rain fire on anyone who gets near it.
The game's ridiculous pace, which may have been augmented by the fact I was fighting against dev team members who'd been throwing games all day and wanted some payback, reminded me a lot of Vanquish from Platinum Games. The system was very easy to pick up: Simply point at a piece of cover and press the A button to launch yourself to it, or B to start flying backward. Once you get there, you can hop on either side of the wall/cover, depending on where enemy fire is hitting you. The directional pad triggers the perks. Before playing, you can customize what kind of armor and loadout you have.
There's going to be a bit of a learning curve for shooter fans, but an average Joe like myself was able to rack up some healthy kill streaks and perks by the second game. By the third game, most experienced shooter players would probably be able to execute everything as if the system were second nature.
Hybrid is expected to hit Xbox Live as part the Summer of Arcade program this year.
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