5th Cell made their name with fairly cutesy games like Drawn to Life and Scribblenauts. Both handheld games with a kid-friendly art style and gameplay that encouraged creativity. So when they revealed their first XBLA game and it turned out to be a third person shooter, we were certainly surprised.

What we weren’t surprised about was the fact they had decided to do things a bit differently. Drawn to Life was a fairly traditional action platformer but it stood out by letting players draw characters and objects that inhabited the world. Scribblenauts is a fairly simple puzzle game in theory but has endless possibilities thanks to players having the whole dictionary at hand to help them complete levels. It’s because of these unconventional takes on traditional game ideas that we fully expected 5th Cell to put their stamp on their third person shooter, Hybrid.

In Hybrid players do not have direct control over their characters movement, not in the traditional sense anyway. While the right stick does move your camera and onscreen aiming reticule, the left stick will only move you around while on cover. To move from cover to cover, you’ll have to point the camera at the cover you want to go to and hit A, at which point you can strafe among other things. It sounds like it might over-complicate things for no reason but in reality it takes third person shooter gameplay and makes it a bit more tactical.

We don’t want to get too bogged down on the minutia of controls and such. Instead we asked some of our writers who took part in the recent beta to tell us about their experience, check out what they had to say below. 

Going into Hybrid I was not expecting much. I’ve been let down by other shooters on the arcade and the things I had heard about this one were not getting me excited. I am glad to say that getting in some play time has changed my mind greatly. Hybrid reaches out and takes various elements from a lot of the big shooters out there and brings them together with a very unique cover and movement system, along with an interesting meta game that involves various countries around the world. For me, the meta game is what really brought me in. The idea of fighting to claim ownership over certain sections of the globe really had me interested, and playing more and more as I tried to acquire various parts of the globe for my faction. The gameplay itself is certainly fun, and flying around the maps is nice but it took me a long time to adjust to and I am still not quite sure if it’s a system I could ever really get used to.

I really can’t say anything negative about the game at this point. The matchmaking seemed a little rough, however I feel most of that is because of the nature of the beta. I really look forward to giving this one a try when it is released and to try to take over the world with my faction of choice!

Shawn Saris – Video Co-ordinator

Starting Hybrid wasn’t an easy task. I had to to sit through a long backstory, play the tutorial, then try to figure out the confusing overworld game before I got into the action. I still have no idea the meaning of the map or how the war worked; with the percentages on the areas of the map constantly going up, it felt as if the game would eventually reach a conclusion, which is odd for a multiplayer game. Being a beta, matchmaking was a pain. Sitting in a lobby for what felt like forever, I started to wish 5th Cell would just make Scribblenauts for Kinect instead of this.

But once I actually played a game, my mood changed. The game requires you to stay behind cover, so it feels more restricted than other shooters. The most freedom you get is strafing while under cover or flying in a straight line. With less freedom of movement, strategy becomes essential and every action feels more important. Map layouts are perfect for the gameplay, and ceiling cover adds an extra layer of cool. Customization options varied; some selections were much better than others (snipers were easily the best) and not everything had a clear explanation on how to use it (specifically grenades). The game sold me solely on the gameplay. After the beta, the game hasn’t convinced me for a full purchase, but Hybrid is definitely on my radar.

Nathan Bowring – Reporter

While I was excited to try out Hybrid, I was also pretty cautious. Changing such a fundamental part of an established genre is very risky but from my time with the beta I think 5th Cell have pulled it off. Movement has a unique and very satisfying flow in Hybrid, despite being restricted compared to other games there are still lots of options during combat. You are extremely vulnerable outside of cover, which makes every movement you make important. It leads to some surprisingly tense and often frantic firefights, a lot of which take place while soaring through the air.

Drones, robotic helpers you get by earning killstreaks, add an interesting dynamic to the battlefield. I personally found myself using them as a kind of distraction, waiting for enemy players to start attacking my drone before popping out of cover and taking a shot at them. I had a lot of fun with the beta and I am definitely looking forward to seeing how the finished product turns out.

Ross Adams – Podcast Producer

Hybrid sunk its teeth into me the second I started my first match. The tutorial set things up, with the unique control scheme and forcing you to be on the move constantly. Once in my first online match, flying around was a joy and the minute an enemy appeared, it turned into a flying gun show. We were trading shots until only one of us landed safely while the other waited to respawn. 5th Cell have created a multiplayer experience that’s just as fun to talk about and explain as it is to play and enjoy.

Perry Jackson – News Editor

Hybrid intrigued me, confused me, and ultimately was a big ball of theory and senselessness. For years moving on the ground has been integral to games where you also shoot at stuff. Sounds simple, yes? Well that’s why Hybrid is so ridiculous, not because it’s not simple, but because YOU CAN’T MOVE! Jumping from point to point turns Hybrid into this series of on-rails segments where you can fly around and dodge projectiles but you’re landing at point A or point B no matter what. Sure you can change to point C, then D, then back to B but you’ve gotta’ keep your head on a swivel if you plan to end your roller coaster with your head intact.

That said, Hybrid was fun, it was decidedly different and the differences work. Movement isn’t the only aspect of the game that’s unique! Normally I hate kill-streaks, but I thoroughly enjoy that all the kill streaks turn into AI-operated drones which can be killed. They’re also not really all that powerful unless you ignore them, and in fact if you don’t, you get free bots for your own personal use! Great system.

I like how Hybrid’s systems fuse together to provide a familiar (shooting, loadouts, different abilities) experience with plenty of twists that thoroughly permeate the gameplay. It’s easy to just add doodads to a shooter and call it different, Hybrid makes you play its differences, and you can feel it.

Todd Schlickbernd – Guide Co-ordinator

So those are some of our thoughts on Hybrid, if you took part in the beta let us know what you thought in the comments below. If you didn’t get to take part in the beta but this preview has you intrigued then you should be able to try the game out for yourself sometime this summer.