Review: Hydrophobia

Hydrophobia, a downloadable Xbox 360 survival adventure title, claims to have some of the most realistic water physics video games have ever seen. But does the title wade into the deep in or is it just shallow?

Hydrophobia (which does not mean "fear of water" - aquaphobia does) is the first of several planned digital instalments. The game follows Kate Wilson as she makes her way through city-sized ship called the Queen of the World that has been overrun by terrorists. Players must swim and shoot their way through the vessel to save their comrades.

Ideal Players

Not chuffed if you can't see where you're going? Don't feel ever feel claustrophobic? Love spending long hours in the pool or the bath? This game is for you.

Why You Should Care

The game's water physics are quite impressive. Water is something that video games rarely do right, and Hydrophobia does a fine job of creating virtual water that has weight and viscosity. Not bad for a developer that previously made snooker games!

So how's the game itself? There are moments when Hydrophobia works brilliantly. Everything falls into place, and you say to yourself, "Wow." Sadly, those moments are few and far between as the majority of the game seems keen to do everything it can to make the place experience unnecessarily rough.

Like what? Well, like the fact that the game's map is complicated and confusing. Knowing which way to go can be vexing - sometimes there are hints (like pipes light up) and sometimes not. Not much is done to aid players in exploring underwater - it's dark and hard to know how much air you have left. The messy map, however, is most perplexing because Hydrophobia puts forth the idea that it is possible to build a vessel that encompasses an entire city, but it can't do a simple map right? Bwah?

Are you done complaining? No. The controls felt buggy at times and were not precise as they should be — a huge drag when you are underwater and trying not to die. And then you do. And the save points are not as frequent as they should be, meaning time-eating replays. Oh, and the dialogue and voice acting aren't very good.

Was there anything you liked? Yes. The water effects are excellent. I liked some of the equipment in the game, like the "Mavi" handheld. Combat was OK, but often, I found myself unable to get into cover - even when I had an onscreen prompt. The interactive environment reminded me of things I've seen in other games (exploding barrels, etc.), but Hydrophobia does attempt make that sort of combat deeper. Later in the game, players can acquire a greater variety of weapons, which really helps liven things up. I just couldn't help but think it was too little, too late.

Early in the game, everything goes to pot. Kate has to scramble as more and more water floods in. There might be story spoilers here.

This trailer doesn't give a good sense of what it's like to actually play Hydrophobia. However, it does provide a good look at some of the game's techy equipment.

Kate's weapon in the game is an "LP4", which can be outfitted with various types of ammo.

Here is a teaser look at the game's underwater combat.

There is a fair amount of cover used in combat.

Here are the terrorists that have taken over the ship. Well, some of them. They may not look like it, but they love economist Thomas Malthus.

Much of the action either takes place in corridors like this or in large rooms.

This is a look at a large room. Spacious!

Combat is often less about shooting and more about shooting things, causing them to blow up or electrocute bad guys.

Buy It

If you want to check out a new spin on third-person adventure games or enjoy futuristic adventure games.

Don't Buy It

If you get frustrated easily. Or if you don't like games with spotty control. Or if you are aquaphobic.

Hydrophobia was developed by Dark Energy and published by Microsoft. It was released on the Xbox 360 on September 29. Retails for 1200 Microsoft Points on Xbox 360. A copy of the add-on was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed the story mode and tested the game's other modes.


    Wait, a bunch a Malthus-loving terrorists? Weird story.

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