The Road More Traveled: 5TH Cell’s Hybrid

Cowabunga! Washington-based Scribblenauts devs 5TH Cell probably could not have done a more complete 180 degrees in licensing Valve’s Source engine for their latest game, Hybrid. The just-announced game is unfortunately going to be released on the wrong platform – that is, as an XBLA exclusive, at least for the time being:

5TH Cell is proud to announce Hybrid, a revolutionary new video game available in 2011 exclusively for Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA). Hybrid is a pioneering third person shooter set in a devastated post apocalyptic world, giving players a completely new gameplay experience never seen before in the genre.1

Revolutionary, schmevolutionary, pioneering, schmioneering – so far, Hybrid files under “just another post-apocalyptic shooter.” As much flair for creativity as 5TH Cell have exhibited with their past track record, and as much as we love the Source engine, it is hard to compute exactly how 5TH Cell went from the “revolutionary” and “pioneering” Scribblenauts to this:

While some interesting mechanics seem to be in store for players, including wall-walking – the red Variant soldier walks upside down on the ceiling in the trailer above – the little dialogue in the trailer does not exactly get points for originality:

When I was little, my father used to say, “Son, god didn’t create money… man did. God didn’t create war… man did. God didn’t create hell… the Variants did.”

After all, the post-apocalyptic landscape has been utilized very often in video games as of late, as a visual metaphor of the basest kind, using the entirety of the external world to blatantly affect and reflect on the internal, resulting in the strength of the metaphor diminishing further with every use. This is also why players are beginning to tire of it – post-apocalypse it is no longer unique, it is ubiquitous, especially now that even the pioneers of the post-apoc genre are once again being remade for a new audience (Fallout).

Therefore, despite being an exciting announcement from a very well-esteemed team, thanks to its thematic constraints, it’s hard to be excited just yet. The same restraint applies to the project’s utilization of sci-fi (E.Y.E.), religious themes (Scivelation), warring factions (Nexuiz) and clashes between races (Half-Life, Halo etc). Throw in Afterfall for good measure. In a way, the simple fact that the teams are red versus blue for the NTH time just underlines all this.

This time around, we have a war between Paladin and Variant, with some humans sprinkled in-between. I don’t want to dig too deep into semantics, but as information is still extremely thin at this juncture, perhaps it bears mention how both factions’ names carry negative connotations; the word “paladin” is rather self-explanatory, and the word variant refers, in addition to exhibiting a range of variety (shapeshifting?), to difference, nonconformity and unacceptance – things that we have actually come to expect from the paladin classes in video games, anyway. From the looks of it, neither team is getting to be the good guys, even if the Paladin bunch are actually at least seemingly on the human side.

Hybrid’s teaser site is currently split into two selectable halves, each for the Paladins and the Variants; these halves are entered via futuristic-looking dogtags laying on a shattered family photo, perhaps hinting towards familial strife; taking this train of thought as far as possible, I could even envision an intergender war, men versus women! For each side, there is currently one journal entry to be read. On the Paladin side, the text is as follows:

Been so long, almost forgot how to write…

Few days ago our patrol was hit with a targeted EMP: Our weapons came out fine, but the pulse nearly fried my standard issue iRX logbook, been glitchy all day. Captain heard me yelling at it, took me inside his tent later and gave me a pen and this beat up notebook. Maybe he thought it was a joke, or just suckin’ up to the memory of my dad. Son of a hero, sometimes I don’t know what to think.

I thought we had an encounter today, but turned out to be some bums digging through the trash a few clicks outside our HQ. Always weird to see actual humans… They look at you, glassy eyed like they don’t know what you’re gonna do to ‘em. We just passed them by. Our Captain is pretty sure we’ve recruited all the able-bodied survivors in this city. Now it’s just a matter of kicking the Variants out… I wonder if we ever successfully removed the Variants from an occupied city?

I’ll just throw my backlog on my iRX later. For now I guess we’ll see how this pen and paper thing works out.2

On the Variant side, the journal reads:

I dreamt again.

There was a human voice, the same child, slightly older. He stood before me, hands around my leg and for a brief moment I felt… pity? The dream dissolved into a thousand other memories, none clear enough to survive my waking. I awoke, shaking.

I have personally killed a thousand or more Paladin… Wounded twice that many, yet an insignificant dream is about to shake me? Has the time arrived for me to confess this weakness to the Grand Marshal? If he deems me weak, I shall accept whatever the consequence.

Pity for a human?

They had a chance to stop this conflict, spare the innocent lives they so haughtily claim to protect. I wish these dreams would leave me, or at least materialize and face me on the battlefield. I would slay these nightmares without mercy; I would leave nothing in my past alive.
Perhaps there will be distraction on today’s hunt. I certainly need it.2

Stay tuned for more information - we’ll let you know if the game gets ever ported over to the PC at the very least!

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