Hope You Packed Your Swimming Gear
After being delayed for over a year due to switching from a retail release to a downloadable trilogy on Xbox Live, Hydrophobia has risen its head above the water. This transition from disc to download is a first due to the technology developed by Dark Energy Digital. Its game creation system called InfiniteWorlds dramatically reduces the file size, meaning you are actually paying for a full AAA title normally only found on disc. This leaves room for the novel HydroEngine, which promises to achieve completely free-flowing water that entirely affects the environment and your play style. With comparisons to BioShock, the game has a lot to live up to.
Flooding The World
Hydrophobia is a third person shooter/survival game set in the mid twenty-first century on board a huge ocean liner, the Queen of the World, a city at sea. Mega corporations known as the Five Founding Fathers, who carry out scientific research on the stateless vessel, built the ship as a haven for the world’s elite. At the time of the game the ship has reached its tenth anniversary and one of the Founding Fathers, Nanocell, is expected to make a breakthrough announcement. However, not everything goes as planned. An opposing political organization known as the Neo-Malthusians attack the ship and it starts flooding with water.
The developers tried to create a tangible future, so the motivations of this terrorist group are not so distant from those of today’s groups. One of the fast-growing problems at the moment is the rising population of the world, and the Queen of the World and the Neo-Malthusians represent two conflicting solutions. The society that lives upon the Queen of the World is based around Cornucopian ideology – they hope that the advancement of technology will provide enough for the growing population to survive. The Neo-Malthusian solution is a little more radical and destructive; their message is “Save the World, Kill Yourself.”
A Drop Amongst The Rain
The game’s title relates to the position systems engineer Kate Wilson, the lead protagonist, finds herself in when the Queen of the World floods. Her fear of water originates from her memory of a tragic accident in which her younger sister drowned. This part of the trilogy sees Kate overcome her fear and face the oncoming floods. After her hesitant start, Kate soon switches to survival mode and eventually becomes the reluctant hero of the game. By avoiding the clichéd sexy, over-confident female archetype, Kate seems very down-to-Earth and human. Her evolution as a character is portrayed very well and you soon find yourself really caring for her.
To escape the flooding lower decks of the ship, Kate uses her instincts and skills as an engineer to bypass the terrorist’s attempts to lock passengers in with the water. Helping her along her way is her comical boss Scoot who communicates with her and sends help via the consoles found on the ship. Kate uses the MAVI (Mobile Automated Visual Interface) device, an engineering tool, to navigate the ship. It enhances the environment so players can thoroughly search their surroundings and remotely interact with doors and machines.
The Neo-Malthusians don’t just disable the ships security however; they also use their own encrypting system to lock down each section. Unfortunately for Kate the only way past this system is to kill the Mathusian team leader in each area to obtain the MAVI frequency key. With this the MAVI device can be used to scan the walls for the hidden encryption code, which then allows you to progress to the next area. This procedure becomes a bit monotonous after a while, but fortunately the interesting combat prevents things from getting too boring.
Shock To The System
Due to her vulnerability, much of the gameplay places you as inferior to the well-armed terrorists. Kate’s main weapon is the LP4, a small pistol that fires off sonic rounds with different types of ammo. In addition to regular bullets, there are energy rounds that shock everything in a radius and gel rounds that act as remote detonation projectile mines.
There are also many environmental hazards like oil barrels, electrical units and gas leaks, all of which are essential to exploit in order to defeat the terrorists standing in your way. The game garners a replay just to try out all the possible ways you could kill each Neo-Malthusian terrorist.
Interacting with the environment and experimenting with the HydroEngine is fantastic fun over and over again. Characterization is done well and the game is backed by a strong story.
Player control is at times sluggish, particularly during combat and objectives are quite repetitive. The game is very short without sufficient replays.