- Craig H.
The first game in Microsoft’s “Game Feast” line-up is Hydrophobia. While the game may seem new to most gamers it has been in development for years. The game was originally slated to be a disc based release in March 2009, but was redesigned into an episodic downloadable title. In most cases this would seem like a downgrade in quality but the downloadable route fits the game better and is worth the asking price.
In Hydrophobia you play as Kate Wilson, a ship engineer, who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kate is aboard the Queen of the World, a city-sized ocean vessel, which is under attack by a group called the Malthusians. In the beginning, no explanation is given to Kate (or you) about why the ship is under attack besides the message “Save the World. Kill Yourself”. While trying to make your way to a safer location on the ship your elevator fails sending you deeper into the damaged ship. Luckily, you have your friend/fellow engineer, Scoot, who is feeding you data from a control room. Your security access has been completely wiped out and you must follow Scoot’s lead to hack your way back into the system and gain the access needed to get to the safer portions of the ship.
The HydroEngine the game uses for the water physics is amazing. Everyone should see this engine in action to truly appreciate what the physics engine can do. Throughout the game you will see weak points in the ship that you can shoot to flood the room, take out an enemy, or to just watch the water rush out. The water comes into play in almost every aspect of the game and is a huge plus in overall gameplay.
Graphically the game looks fantastic. The aforementioned HydroEngine handles the water physics beautifully and the rest of the presentation is right on par with it. The characters and environments are detailed and run smoothly the entire game.
Kate is not a soldier but she has loads of weapons and environmental hazards at her disposal. The game only has one weapon called the “LP4” but has several types of ammunition rounds that can be loaded into it to change its effect. The rounds can consist of explosive gel rounds, sonic rounds, semi-automatic rounds, rapid-fire rounds, and energy rounds. The LP4 may only be one weapon but it feels like an arsenal. Kate can also use LP4 to initiate different environmental hazards. By targeting these weak points on the ship Kate can drown, burn, electrocute, and explode the enemy. Shooting out a window and having the water rush out and topple an unsuspecting enemy is very satisfying.
The map in the game is hit or miss on its helpfulness. At times it’s hard to really see what level of the ship the objective is on. In one instance, Kate has to dive under water and make her way to the plaza level. When looking at the map it’s hard to tell if it’s two, three, or four levels below. One wrong turn and Kate will run out of air and have to begin her quest again. This is not a deal breaker but does provide unnecessary trial and error.
The voice acting has to be the most glaring issue of the package. Kate delivers the lines with little to no sense of urgency. The fact that the ship is sinking and taking on loads of water does not seem to be to instill the pure terror it should. Scoot, your friend and guide in the adventure, has to have one of the worst Scottish accents I have ever heard. The fact that the game consists of conversations between these two characters almost makes you want to mute the TV and just read the captions.
After finishing the game you can jump into a “Challenge Room”. This room is a 5 round survival game. Kate now has the ability to control water (no explanation is given as to why Kate can now control water) and is simply tasked with killing all the Malthusians in the room. Each round is timed and players must defeat all enemies in the room in order to move on to the next round. After completing the Challenge Room, either by successfully finishing all 5 rounds or by being killed, your score is added to an online leaderboard.
Overall, Hydrophobia is a good downloadable game that has fantastic water physics. When you start the game you don’t realize it’s going to be an episodic adventure and that makes the abrupt end a bit jarring. With only three “Acts” to play through and one Challenge Room it will not take very long to get everything out of this game. The game does have 200 unique collectibles to find and almost 50 medals to earn so replaying each of the 3 levels will be needed to collecting everything in the game.
- Extremely good water physics provided by the HydroEngine.
- Great gunplay with a single weapon feeling like an arsenal
- Reluctant hero who was in the “wrong place at the wrong time” has you rooting for her the entire episode
- Both land and water combat that work well
- Challenge Room is a great addition after completion of the campaign
- Online Leaderboards
- The voice acting is terrible
- Abrupt ending to the episode
- In game map can be frustrating to use
- Only 1 Challenge Room included