Hydrophobia Pure Xbox 360 Review

February 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Xbox 360, Features, Reviews

Publisher – Dark Energy Digital – Developer – Dark Energy Digital – Genre – Action – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 16+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

Hydrophobia has had a bit of a rough time in regards to the amount of criticism that it has received, although developer Dark Energy Digital certainly didn’t take this criticism lightly and have taken a long, hard look at the game to see what could be fixed. A simple 4mb patch can do an amazing amount of things and I have nothing but good words to say about the amount of effort and research which must have went into all of the improvements found inside the Pure patch.

But as I didn’t play Hydrophobia before the Pure patch was released, this review focuses on what the game is as opposed to how it compares to how it used to be. You certainly aren’t going to get a rundown of what didn’t work and how it’s been improved, but certainly reading the positive comments of players, the huge list of improvements on Dark Energy’s site, and hearing of the price cut, it’s not difficult to see that the developer can take criticism and then listen to it with their full attention.

It's certainly a dark, wet and very atmospheric game, and at least no monsters have been thrown in for a change.

The story of Hydrophobia is absolutely terrible, sorry Dark Energy but there’s no easier way of putting it. Kate Wilson is a systems engineer on board the Queen of the World, an ocean vessel that is the size of a city, but her only job soon becomes to survive as the ship is attacked and bombed by a terrorist group. To be fair, it is a decent set-up, but atrocious voice acting and characters make the entire thing feel pointless, not forgetting to mention that Kate is supposed to fear water, but it’s hardly a subject that really matters and it hasn’t really been worked into the game as such, which is a missed oportunity to say the least. The abrupt cliff-hanger ending was never going to be popular either, but Dark Energy are apparently planning some follow-ups for the future, so the story isn’t finished yet. It might even get better in future episodes, it certainly couldn’t get worse in any case.

But all I really care about in regards to story is that there’s a reason in which the Queen of the World starts filling up with water as well as stormed by men with guns. The former is certainly some of the most natural water I have ever seen in a game before. True, the graphics may not be anything outstanding, but the manner in which the water looks and reacts is something truly special. The three year period spent on the HydroEngine was certainly well worth it and as Hydrophobia’s theme is water, it’s certainly a good job that it looks and flows so realistically.

Hydrophobia is certainly a game that gives you a real sense of danger – the water can be calm in one instance and at the next it can be raging through broken windows and bursting through walls and doors. But it’s only really an illusion, as it rarely feels overly dangerous and, unless you’re swimming underwater, you sporadically need to battle against it to stay alive. It looks and reacts amazingly and Kate’s animations are very natural as she pushes against the waves, but the water could have still been a better part of the horror, something to really fear, but to be fair it certainly gets a lot angrier later on.

Moving away from the water, Hydrophobia is a panicky action game at heart. Kate carries a pistol, there’s a functional cover system and you’ll even get to do some underwater shooting. There’s only one gun in the entire game, but different ammo can be loaded into it and things can be mixed up by using the water and your environment as a weapon. Knocking an enemy down can result in him drowning and firing at a window or a weak wall can bring new water flowing in, washing away any unfortunate bad guys in its path. Furthermore, it’s possible to mix water with electricity, and, well, I don’t think I need to explain what could happen.

There's a separate challenge room mode, which has you taking on enemies and scoring as many points as possible. It's a fun extra that oddly gives you access to a weapon which can manipulate water.

The additional spice sprinkled into the fire fights helps a great deal, although sadly, while passable enough, they still feel overly bland. The shooting mostly feels weak in the sense that shots don’t feel impactful enough and the AI isn’t exactly what you could call smart. But the shooting does do the job and otherwise works as it should, it’s just not as exciting as it could be.

Sadly, the game is very linear and puzzle solving and exploration are kept to a minimum, unless you are someone who likes finding collectibles. The linearity is disappointing for such a game and I can only continue to dream about the potential of a Metroid like adventure with lots and lots of water. Even the occasional climbing sections are so effortless that they’re rendered almost pointless, but at least they add in some variation from the typical theme of water.

Hydrophobia is a generally well made game with some excellent water and a good four or five hours of gaming (that’s without the additional Challenge Rooms), but still there’s potential for some even better sequels if Dark Energy are to build upon this impressive starting point, which, considering that they gave so much love and care to an already finished game with the comprehensive Pure patch, I have every belief that they will.