Hydrophobia takes place in a future after a prophesied flood that resulted in the destruction of most of the human civilization. It is the first in a planned trilogy.
Players take the role of Kate Wilson, who is a security engineer aboard a city-sized ocean liner dubbed " The Queen of the World." When Malthusian terrorists threaten to destroy the floating city and its inhabitants, Kate Wilson is forced to fend for herself in a fight for survival in the guts of this enormous vessel while fighting her own fear of drowning.
The game is set in a dystopian future. During the 18th century, a historian called Malthus predicted that as years went by, the population growth will increase to the point where it becomes a global problem. Despite many other historians saying that he was wrong, what he predicted came true in the 21st century. Because the world was too occupied with global warming, the population grew to a point where it became a global crisis. At the same time, Neo-Malthusians began to appear with their own solution against overpopulation, which can be summed up by their motto "Save the world, kill yourself."
Instead of doing what the Malthusians wanted, a company called Nano Cell created a giant boat called the Queen of the World. This giant ship equipped with its own train, apartments and security system houses millions of people. The boat has some internal problems, however, starting with people smugglers who try to hack into the ship's system and smuggle people for money across the ship's borders. The game starts during the ship's 10 year Anniversary party ("The party of the century').
The game's opening shots are weird. First you see someone walking away from the camera, laughing before the screen goes white. Then it switches to an underwater scene, in a cave where a floating corpse floats towards the camera. Suddenly, it's revealed that all this was a nightmare dreamed by Kate Wilson, the game's main character. She had fallen asleep on her sofa in front of the TV. Although she has the night off to party, Kate, one of the ship's engineers, monitors the security system for any bugs despite her friend Scoot telling her to relax.
She decides to go and get some air. She steps into the elevator but suddenly communications stop and the elevator is sent plummeting down the shaft. Kate survives thanks to the brakes and realizes that the ship is under attack. Bombs have been placed everywhere and the ship is taking water, which is a problem since Katie can't handle being around water. Scoot helps her find her way around the giant ship and she soon discovers that the Malthusians are behind the attack, committing human genocide. Katie must fight her way to survival if she doesn't want to drown or be killed by the terrorists.
As Kate continues her fight through the sinking ship, she discovers that not everything is what it seems. She discovers that the terrorists are guarding the engine room, as though they intended to keep the boat running. Another weird thing is that security, lead by Chief Billingham, has yet to pose any type of opposition to the terrorists. Kate decides to take things into her own hands and blows up the engines as well as turning off the fuel. The terrorists are also setting up land mines around the loading bay so no one can escape. Kate deduces that the Malthusians are taking the ship hostage, possibly for money since the world's richest and smartest are on the ship. She also suspects that there is a bigger scheme behind all this.
Hydrophobia is a third person platformer with cover based shooting. You play as Kate, a tech engineer on the city-sized ocean liner, the “Queen of the World”. The game starts with the ship coming under terrorist attack during the ships ten year anniversary, and has you traverse the environment during the first act. During this act, you navigate obstacles and explosions and save the Chief of Security. The second act introduces the games only usable weapon (LP4 Security Pistol) to the player, and introduces combat with the Malthusians. The third act has you backtracking through large amounts of the game, battling increasingly armoured Malthusians until you reach the abrupt ending. Certain features within the environment can be destroyed, such as barrels, gas leaks, small hull breaches and electrical boxes. These objects all have a metallic red shimmer effect.
As the game is set on a ship that is being attacked by terrorists, there are large areas of the ship that are flooding. The interactions of water within the environment make up one of the biggest game play features. The water moves realistically, pouring out of rooms when doors are open or when the glass holding it back is smashed, allowing for large waves to sweep across the rooms, pushing both the player and NPCs and occasionally knocking them over. Flaming oil floats on water, so waves can be used to push this into enemies. It will also conduct electricity and drown incapacitated Malthusians. Kate suffers from hydrophobia and when she swims she starts to have audio hallucinations and the screen will blur slightly. Although she has aquaphobic she is an extremely competent swimmer and able to hold her breath for a long time. When swimming you press B to dive, Y to ascend and A to swim faster. While underwater Kate can still use the LP4 and the MAVI, and interact with objects. During the game there are sections of underwater combat.
The game features some extensive platforming sections, mainly during the first two acts. Kate jumps by pressing the direction you wish to jump with the left stick and A simultaneously. She can climb on pipes (mostly coloured red), some broken elements of the environment and hang of ledges. She can also climb ladders, but you have to press X to “use” them as Kate will not automatically grab them, like other aspects of the environment. Kate can drop down from one ledge to a lower one by pressing B. There are poles that Kate will automatically grab onto if she jumps towards them. Once hanging from them if you push forward on the left stick she will start swinging and you can press A to make her then jump forward. Like Uncharted, you can aim Kate with the left stick while she is hanging and she will position her body to show where she will jump.
The game has a points system for online leader-boards. These are gained hacking a console, finding objects and documents, destroying objects (such as barrels) and killing Malthusians. The more creatively you kill a Malthusian, the more points are awarded. There are five catergories in which points are rewarded in combat, and these are displayed using icons on the HUD. These are killing someone by shooting them, drowning , electrocution, burning and explosions (such as shooting the barrels). These can be combined by creatively killing someone using multiple methods, such as electrocuting some and then shooting them while there being shocked. By scoring points in quick succession, you can start a combo which gives you a points multiplier. The scores combined across all 3 acts.
There are also collectables to be found during the game. There are two categories, objects (of which there are 17) and documents (of which there are 55). There are also 47 medals to be won within the game. These are gained by either gameplay progress or by completing optional challenges.
The MAVI (Mobile Automated Visual Interface)
Being a tech engineer, Kate has access to the MAVI. Pressing down on the d-pad switches the game to a first person view, where Kate hold the MAVI in front of her face. The view is similar to the “ Detective Mode” in Batman: Arkham Asylum, highlighting the outline of the environment, interactive objects and hidden text, written by the Malthusians, which you can scan by pressing X. These make up a large amounts of the documents which provide more back story and are required to find all the collectables. You sometimes find frequency keys on dead Malthusians. These allow you to view Cipher's that are hidden around the environment, scan them into the MAVI and then use them to unlock encrypted doors.
During the game you find upgrades for the MAVI, the first of which is the Hacking Module. This allows certain computer terminals to be hacked by playing a mini game, where using both sticks you match wave frequencies and amplitudes, using the left and right stick. You have to do this multiple times (usually four) within a time limit of thirty seconds to hack the terminal. There is also a CCTV hijack module which allows you to hijack a CCTV camera (by pressing X when looking through the MAVI at it from afar). You can then cycle through the feeds of CCTV cameras that are linked to the same system, allowing you to spy on the Malthusians and remotely open some doors by pointing the camera at them and pressing X. This is sometimes required to progress in the game, but can be also used to release water into a room, killing or knocking over any Malthusians inside.
The Life Protector 4 (LP4) Security Pistol is found at the beginning of Act 2 and only comes with sonic rounds initially, but more ammo types are found while progressing though the game. Sonic rounds are infinite and take several shots to incapacitate a Malthusian, or can be used to push items, such as explosive barrels, around the environment. By charging up the sonic rounds (by holding down the Right trigger) the sonic rounds can incapacitate Malthusians in a single shot, or cause environmental damage, such as causing barrels to explode barrels and smashing windows. By repeatedly shooting a Malthusian with sonic rounds you can kill them and there is also a chance they will drown when incapacitated under water. To change the ammo type you hold right on the d-pad and select it with the right-stick.
In total there are five ammo types for the LP4:
- Sonic Rounds - As described above.
- Gel Rounds - A highly explosive gel that sticks to most objects. It can be remotely detonated with RB or automatically explodes after ten seconds. Multiple gel rounds can be used at once, and will all explode together using RB.
- Semi Automatic – allows use of the LP4 as standard pistol. A single shot will destroy elements of the environment that shimmer with a single hit. They can also kill Malthusians with a single headshot. There are 6 rounds in a magazine, and Kate will automatically reload.
- Energy Rounds – A super-charged micro-capacitor which releases a lethal dose of electrical energy to all objects in a fixed radius. The effective radius is increased in water. When shot, it does not instantly release the charge. It can be set off with RB or automatically after ten seconds. A shot directly at a Malthusian will knock them over. It also has a limited range when shot. Unlike all other rounds, these can not be used to cause damage to the environment.
- Rapid Fire – allows use of the LP4 of a sub-machine gun. A single shot will destroy elements of the environment that shimmer with a single hit. They can also kill Malthusians with a single headshot, however it is greatly inaccurate and doing this is a lot more difficult than with any other round. There are 30 rounds in a magazine, and Kate will automatically reload.
Ammo for the LP4 is either found in the environment, or on deceased enemies. If they have an item on them their corpse will glow orange. All ammo has to be picked up by pressing X. All ammo types work underwater.
The Malthusians are equipped with machine guns and shotguns, which the player cannot pick up.
Hydrophobia is built upon two proprietary technologies developed by Dark Energy Digital. InfiniteWorlds is capable of procedurally generating meshes and textures, which is the reason behind why the game is only 1GB. It's also a productivity boost for the developers since it is a unified package built for the purpose.
Hydro Engine is what drives the fluid simulation, where you will never see the same fluid behavior twice. HydroEngine is described as the first true fluid simulator for games.
The game features two avatar awards.
A little storm of craziness has followed the games release and reviews, mainly around Deborah Jones - the creative director of Dark Energy Digital - and her reaction to the poor reviews of the game.
Edge published a review of the game stating:
"The bugs that inhabit the waters of Hydrophobia are another concern. Ranging from fatal scenery clipping to an awkward inventory display that implies a lack of ammunition until a weapon is equipped, it indicates a title either unfinished, unpolished or simply unprepared for a world of digitally delivered games..."
To which Deborah Jones the creative director of Dark Energy Digital stated:
"Clearly, they haven’t played the game"
"We’re extremely frustrated by the review. We’ve got reviews that are absolutely outstanding that say they love the product... If they don’t do the review properly, they shouldn’t do a review at all."
Which Edge responded stating they had played the game to completion along with bonus content.
Another case of this was with Jim Sterling of Destructoid.com Tweeted:
"Just beat Hydrophobia. I'm so relieved I won't even make fun of how awful the "ending" was."
A tweet which Deborah Jones the creative director of Dark Energy Digital saw and called Samit Sarker - the site's sports writer - and demanded the phone number of Jim Sterling.
Samit claimed that Deborah was pushy and demanding, stating Jim was playing the game wrong and she needed to fix that. After the first call, Samit claimed Deborah called her only an hour later. Deborah also e-mailed Jim with much of the same things she told Samit.
Nearly 3 months after its release the game received a massive title update that made several changes to the game, the title update was called Hydrophobia Pure. The developers stated that they listened to the multiple criticisms the game received from critics and made a complete overhaul on the controls and camera. In addition to this they made several graphical and gameplay changes as well as dropping the price from 1200 to 800 Microsoft points. A list of changes can be found here.
PC System Requirements
- OS: Windows XP / Windows Vista / Windows 7 with latest Service Pack
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo, AMD Athlon X2
- Memory: 2 GB
- Graphics: NVidia 8600GT with 512MB RAM or Radeon HD 3650 with 512MB RAM
- DirectX®: DirectX® 9.0c
- Hard Drive: 8 GB
- Sound: DirectX Compatible Sound Card
The term hydrophobia can be a bit of a misnomer for some, as it is an outmoded, or no longer accepted, term used to describe the disease of rabies. It was said that those affected by the fatal, end-stage madness of the disease were often afraid of running water, thus the term hydrophobia. Later it was suggested that this fear was due to the motion of the water, and not so much the water itself.