SDCC 2012 Hands-On Preview: Hybrid

5th Cell is known for breaking the typical mold in gaming, such as the hit Scribblenauts series on the DS and iOS. They’ve chosen to try to break the mold of yet another genre in gaming; this time, it’s the third-person shooter. Upon first glance, however, Hybrid looks like any other third-person shooter that relies on cover for strategic gameplay. The difference lies within the jetpacks.

Ah yes, how jetpacks seem to make everything better. At the very least, they open up your strategy from the typical pop-up-and-shoot.

Gameplay is based solely on online multiplayer. You can play in random matches like you would in other multiplayer games, but there is also a large multiplayer campaign. Players pick sides between the Variants and the Paladins as they battle all over the Earth to try to seize possession of dark matter, the most coveted power source. Whichever side controls the dark matter controls the world, hence the giant war.

Controlling each zone in the world map isn’t as simple as playing one long match and taking over the territory. Taking over a zone requires winning several matches and taking over pieces of the territory bit by bit. Territory is won by completing different match objectives and by tallying up the team’s points. At the end of each match, players will instantly see how much territory they have won or lost, and then they can plan their next strike.

There are five different match types that provide a nice variety:

  • Team Deathmatch – first team to 30 kills wins;
  • Artifact – first team to keep possession of the artifact for 210 seconds wins;
  • King of the Hill – first team to keep possession of the hill for 210 seconds wins;
  • Crazy King of the Hill – same rules except that the hill constantly moves; and
  • Overlord – players kill one another to absorb each other’s powers, and the first player to get to level 21 in powers absorbed wins.

While many of these matches make it fairly easy to drop in and out on your own without a set team, you really won’t be able to get very far in the overall campaign without your friends. Matches will require a fair bit of teamwork, therefore demanding that players keep in constant contact with one another. From my experience in playing horde-style games randomly without my friends, this rarely ever happens. As such, if you don’t have a set group of friends–at least one or two others–to regularly play with, it may make progressing through the game a little difficult.

The learning curve with the jetpacks and the controls is a little steep, but it only takes about one match of getting slaughtered repeatedly before you start to feel comfortable. But then again, since there is no AI, that’s about as close to mastering the controls as you’ll ever really get.

Hybrid will release on August 8, 2012, just in time for the slow Fall schedule.