Review: HydrophobiaS

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 end or is it just shallow?

Hydrophobia (which does not mean "fear of water" — aquaphobia does) is the first of several planned digital installments. 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 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 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 okay, 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 to 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.

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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.

The Bottom Line

Hydrophia seems to be a game with so much promise. Even the game's story could be interesting. But everything falls short — disappointingly short. The controls aren't quite where they need to be. The story and dialogue aren't quite where they need to be. The level design, gameplay and pretty much everything save for the amazing water physics aren't, you guessed it, where they need to be.

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 was provided by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed the story mode and tested the game's other modes.