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Hydrophobia Review
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Following the success of the now what seems to be the annual “Summer of Arcade” event. Xbox this week kicked off “Game Feast”, in attempt to collect some more of our hard earned money on often fun games that end up severely lacking in the quantity department. In hopes to start the event off right we have been treated with Hydrophobia which sounds more like a mental illness than a game title. Can Hydrophobia’s amazing water physics keep this game afloat? Or will it assist the game in sinking like the proverbial ship.

The game is set in the mid 21st century when the world has fallen into the chaos of the “Great Population Flood”, and takes place aboard the Queen of the World, a city-sized luxury ocean vessel, built by a group of corporate giants known as the Five Founding Fathers; the group who, due to the Queen, have prospered while the rest of the world suffered. At the beginning of the game, the craft is bombed by a group of fanatical terrorists known as the Malthusians—named after political economist Thomas Malthus who predicted that population growth would one day outpace agricultural production, returning society to a subsistent level of existence (credit wikipedia for that tid bit of knowledge). The Malthusians have a plan to murder the vast majority of humans on the planet, so that the survivors wouldn’t suffer from the effects of the population explosion. Their slogans, including “Save the World - Kill Yourself”, are written on the walls and displayed on computer screens all over the ship.

In Hydrophobia you play as Kate Wilson, a systems engineer who becomes and unlikely hero following the attack on the Queen. Helping Katey navigate the different decks of the ship is Scoot, who is constantly saying obvious things over your headset with quite possible the worst Scottish accent in the history of not only gaming but any form of entertainment. What happened to Sean Connery? He isn’t doing much these days.

At its core, Hydrophobia is an action-platformer/puzzle game. To me it kind of felt like a mash up of Tomb Raider and Shadow Complex with the lead character being played by Joanna Dark with a new name. The platforming and puzzle solving can be rather tedious. Most of the time you are just trying to decode a cipher by following arrows on a wall until you locate said cipher using your MAVI. The MAVI is basically your all purpose hacking/decoding tool. Using the MAVI to find these ciphers is kind of like searching a hotel room with a black light only in the game you find a cipher to open doors instead of the love stains in the hotel.

The combat in Hydrophobia is nothing to rave about either. The most enemies you encounter at any given time is four. And killing said enemies is usually set up in such a way that killing them is a joke. Example, three guys walking down a hall way with red barrels next to them. Or two guys talking across the room while a conveniently placed electrical wire dangles above there heads.

After all is said about the tedious platforming and less than stellar combat system, the water is what will keep you playing this game. The new HydroEngine is absolutely amazing. I have never seen water behave in the way it does in this game. When you move through it and as you open doors and water comes flooding in you can’t help but be amazed. The water is actually clear and reflects what is in the environment rather that just painting the water blue like most other games. Uncharted has some pretty damn good looking water, but I have to be honest, Hydrophobia has just raised the bar.

Alright, so we know the game looks good, but what about the sound? Don’t worry because you won’t be disappointed. The atmospheric sounds of the ship sinking around me sounded as good as watching Titanic on blu ray for the first time. Water sloshing around me and bullets whining past my head made me feel like was right there holding Leo’s hand. Hey I can dream can’t I?

The following has to be said for this to be a complete review, so if you don’t like spoilers stop reading now. The ending of this game is so absolutely terrible. To call it an ending is actually an insult to game endings, because there isn’t one. Just as the story is picking up and you are readying yourself for an amazing finish as you escape the ship, you are treated to a “TO BE CONTINUED” screen just as you are reunited with the person you have been searching for in the past two acts. I actually felt dirty after completing this game. If this is the road games are headed down, where I actually need to pay to see an ending to a game, I don’t want to be a part of it. No way in hell am I paying for content add on to this game, nor will I invest one single msp for a sequel. I haven’t felt this led on, teased, or let down by any form of entertainment since Back to the Future 2.

At the end of the day is Hydrophobia worth your 1200 msp??? Probably not. If I were you I would wait for some type of game deals week where the price drops to 800, or you can always check out the trial for free and go from there. If you are like me and can look past sketchy gameplay because you feel so engrossed by the mind blowing water physics and the realistic sound, than you may want to pick up this game. But be forewarned…when you have completed the game you will be angry with that atrocity of an ending.

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Hydrophobia Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
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