Posted October 3, 2010 by Jallen (81)
Hydrophobia: the fear of drinking liquids, generally used when referring to this symptom in rabies. Aquaphobia: the fear of water. Somebody didn’t do their homework, although I guess you don’t really want to drink salt-water, so it sorta works.
‘Hydrophobia’, this one of the newest batch of Xbox Live Arcade games on the market and this certain game has an interesting history. This game has been in development for around three years and the water engine the game is based on has been in development for five years. Originally the game was set for a more traditional disk release but finally settled for three episodic downloads exclusively for Xbox Live.
Set in the near future the game follows Kate, a young woman with appalling fashion sense, who is working on a massive floating city ‘Queen of the World’ as an engineer. The Queen of the World is having a 10th year celebration but rather than join in the fun Kate decides to check out a minor glitch in the system. While investigating the ship is attacked by a terrorist group. The group; Malthusians who have taken the theories of Thomas Malthus (you might have learnt about him in Geography) to heart. The world’s population is too great for the earth to support and so people should, and I quote, “Save the World. Kill Yourself”. An interesting premise and a nice backdrop but sadly the plot fails to have any lasting effect on the game as you struggle through water-clogged rooms and kill generic terrorists.
Dark Energy Digital has proudly stated that this is the first downloadable game to use the Havok Engine and of course it has their brand new HydroEngine for the water effects. It shows, while the game won’t look as good as games straight from the disk (due to the file compression) it’s definitely one of the best looking titles to download. Water effects are the big draw of this game and true to the developer’s words it looks very realistic and for the most part the water behaves as it should. Swimming and wading through knee-high water has been sped up, so Kate does seem to be part dolphin, but for the sake of gameplay we can let that one slide.
Game-play-wise the game is basically Tomb Raider, focused heavily on the swimming part. Kate wonders around series of confined areas pulling switches, climbing up the side of walls and occasionally getting into a fire-fight with the Malthusians. The controls aren’t as tight as I would like with Kate’s directional controls being a bit light but generally it isn’t a major problem. Wall climbing is very much a “only when we tell you” affair, so when confronted with an area full of seemingly climbable pipes, railings and other objects dotted around the room you won’t be doing any. When you do come across an area with climbable objects they’ll generally flash when you’re near but this is far from a sure thing which might lead to some confusion.
Fighting in this game is at least an original idea. The game’s gun is only a weak stun-gun and as the name suggests can stun an enemy but it takes several full charged shots to kill a man with it. A weak powered shot will nudge objects around while a fully charged shot can make things explode. So the levels are covered with exploding barrels, gas leaks and electrical wiring which you shoot when the enemies come near them. You can also stun an enemy and stand on top of him while he’s in shallow water to drown the unfortunate fellow. The problem is that it has an interesting start; as you smash windows with water outside that sweeps the enemy off their feet, then shoot a live wire electrocuting him before finishing him off with an exploding barrel you’ll be enjoying yourself. Then you realise you’ve just used almost all the tricks the game has to offer…I missed out the gas-pipe routine. The AI in the game is dumb as mud but yet they still have the self preservation (ironically) to avoid all of the dangerous objects that would quickly dispose of these annoyances.
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