We still have a lot of questions about 5th Cell's downloadable online shooter Hybrid. Luckily, 5th Cell's Jeremiah Slaczka was willing to answer them for us. You can read our latest preview of Hybrid in the May issue of Game Informer, but if you're looking for more insight on the creative shooter, here's our unabridged interview.

Can you give us a breakdown of the world of Hybrid? 

Well, the world that Hybrid takes place in has also changed quite a bit. In 2032, a Large Hadron Supercollider imploded, completely obliterating Australia. The world was sent into turmoil; pockets of dark matter appeared all across the world. An alternate reality collided with our own, leading to the emergence of a humanoid species known as the Variant. As time became stuck, replaying itself in a constant loop, chaos ensued and war broke out worldwide between the Variants and a group of humans known as the Paladins. Both believing that control of Dark Matter to be the key, they battle to return time to its natural flow.

How many maps will there be?

There will be 10 unique maps all with distinct themes and art.

How do the Paladin and Variant factions differ? Will they have different weapons or abilities? 

The Paladins and Variants are only superficially different. We wanted to create a competitive yet fair online environment with a level playing field, regardless of which side you choose. Apart from their appearance and background, we purposefully have made the two factions very similar.

Will players switch between which faction they play as, or stick with one side the entire time? 

You won’t be able to change factions on the fly. There are restrictions put in place to help players associate and become loyal to their teams, as well prevent them from abandoning ship when their faction falls behind. 

Will you unlock weapons and abilities for just the faction you’re playing as, or both at the same time?

There are faction-specific weapons, but eventually, no matter which side you play on, you can unlock all weapons and abilities from both sides. Regardless of which side you choose, you’ll get to experience the entire game.

You mentioned in our previous interview that players can summon AI squad units. Will there be a lot of AI enemies in battles? 

The units are called Drones. They are killstreak rewards based off how many kills you get in a row before you die. You don’t have to use them immediately and are maintained even after death. 

There are three different types: Stalker, Warbringer, and Preyon. The Stalker, awarded after just one kill, follows you around the map and replicates your actions. The Warbringer, awarded after three straight kills, is a heavily armored, floating turret that operates completely autonomously. Finally, the Preyon, awarded after five [kills in a row] acts like a heat-seeking missile. She will deal a one-hit kill if she’s not taken out before reaching her target. 

Do AI squad units work on a timer, or stick around until they die? Does killing AI units factor into the battle/score, or is it strictly PvP? 

All units are continuously on the map until they are killed, meaning there could be up to 18 drones up at once, in addition to the six players. Drone kills will factor into the overall score, but they are recorded separately from player kills.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Hybrid is that there will be a persistent online world war. Is this meant to be one never-ending battle, or will one side win periodically and reset the world? Will there be story tie-ins to how each faction is performing?

There are “epochs” which have time frames completely determined by the player’s actions. There is no set time or period in which the war officially ends, but it is up to the players to be the catalyst that forces time to eventually reconstruct and a new epoch to begin. It could take anywhere from two to four weeks for this to happen, depending on the skill of the players. 

Each battle helps push your faction closer toward the collection of Dark Matter – the ultimate goal being to collect more than the opposing team. There are story tie-ins, but we can’t say more than this just yet.

Another surprising aspect of Hybrid is its control scheme, which has players place waypoints that their characters automatically travel between. How does this affect the game flow? Is gameplay more strategy oriented? Or does not having to worry about movement create more action? 

What we are doing with Hybrid is marrying a familiar experience, shooters, with something completely unique. If you’ve ever played a shooter, you will immediately notice many familiar facets of the genre – but we’ve combined that with the completely new style of movement for a distinct experience. 

Movement is something that’s never been touched before, so we thought it would bring and awesome new dynamic to the game. You focus more on the combat because you’re not worried about where you’re going next or how to stay out of the line of fire. Moves are very deliberate, but you still feel a unique sense of freedom in your ability to place more focus on the actual combat.

Who do you think will perform better in Hybrid, strategy- or action-oriented gamers?

Although in many ways Hybrid is strategy based, action-oriented gamers will definitely perform better. Hybrid is, at its core, a fast-paced shooter. 

Hybrid’s multiplayer matches are limited to 3 vs. 3 conflicts. Did you experiment with larger matches? What makes the smaller size the right fit for Hybrid?

No. We always knew that 3 vs. 3 would be the right combo for Hybrid. 

XBLA games typically have a smaller audience than retail titles do. Since this is a multiplayer-only title, we wanted to make sure that the matchmaking system would have no problems. Additionally, we really wanted to give it an arcade-style feeling of “get in, have fun, get out,” without having to invest hours in a single session. With 3 vs. 3 matches we could make the maps smaller, and the game faster paced. And with the addition of up to 18 Drones on the field, it can actually make for a much bigger game than you would anticipate.

Expect more information on Hybrid as we approach its Summer release. In the meantime, you can sign up for the beta now at www.whatishybrid.com