Oh Hydrophobia, Hydrophobia, Hydrophobia. What am I going to do with you? You came to me over six months ago with a wink and a promise, and while there was indeed some semblance of that promise, when it was all said and done, you still didn’t quite deliver. Now you are back, on a different platform and with a new vow. Is this an all new Hydrophobia, the one we should have seen months ago, or are you the same old dog with a nifty new title extension?
For those that missed out on last year’s Xbox LIVE Arcade release, Hydrophobia tells the tale of extremism gone...um...extreme. Set roughly forty years in the future, overpopulation has become a major global concern. Two factions rose to the top of the political ladder, the Malthusians who want to reduce the amount of people on the planet while Cornucopians want to use science and tech as a means to sustain the populace.
You are Kate, an engineer on the floating city The Queen of the Sea. The Malthusians launch a terrorist attack on the city and you will soon, in the course of your escape, find out that it wasn’t just a simple plot to sink the city. Now, for this version, developer Dark Energy has decided to add in some new cutscenes along with casting a new actor for the role of Scoot (a smart move, by the way) and a new ending that attempts to tie things up. I have to credit them for effort, as the backstory was always a strong point that wasn’t supported very well with the events in the game. Unfortunately, it still feels like the same old car, only with a fresh coat of wax. The new story elements do flesh things out a bit, but it still feels incomplete. And the ending? Yeah, this game really should have received a proper sequel in lieu of the ending Dark Energy tossed in to try and make good on the critics’ complaints.
The real crux of the game is the water effects and how they are used. There is a reason it’s titled Hydrophobia, you know? Anyway, the depths of the city is flooding and Kate will be navigating the water-logged areas as well as fighting the Malthusians. Having an enemy far down a hallway, popping off bullets at your head, while you blast out a window that sends gallons of H2O into your foe never gets old. Yet, for all the minor tweaks and adjustments made, the combat still feels almost as clumsy as it did the last time around. One bit of improvement though, provided you are using a gamepad on your PC, the controls are mapped better, making the third-person action feel a little more in-line with the others of the genre and making targeting considerably better. But beyond that, the novelties of the weapons at Kate’s disposal is still under utilized and the difficulty is still out of balance because of it. Oh, and no melee? Really? That’s still a sore spot for me.
This leads to one of the biggest issues I had with Hydrophobia: the mission structure. Kate will spend the vast majority of her time playing fetch. Go here, get a crypto key, hack a door, go there. Wash, rinse, repeat. That made it incredibly difficult to stay-the-course until the end as tedium is a serious mood killer. The hacking parts caqn be a challenge at times, which does spice things up a little. But not enough to ease the repetition. The environments suffer from the same inspiration that created the mission structure as well. After your fifth long hallway seeking yet another crypto key, the odd sense of deja vu wears thin.
I hate to sound like I’m coming down harshly on Prophecy, because really, I’m not trying to. I just walked in to this expecting a bit more than what I received. The water effects truly are fantastic to see, even though the hardware specs needed to push the visuals are quite beastly. The backstory is well thought out and still holds a tremendous amount of promise which some of the new content does relish in. But Prophecy promised to make this the most comprehensive version of Hydrophobia to date and the changes found here do little to adjust my original opinions of the XBLA release. I still felt like the journey was nothing more than glorified busy work. The collectibles, the Challenge Room, etc... are also present and account for, although I can’t say I necessarily cared.
Hydrophobia Prophecy still has the same ambitions as its predecessor and arrives for the PC crowds ready to share how water effects should be done. Unfortunately, the repetitive missions, lacking combat, and an improved, yet still incomplete feeling narrative make it difficult to recommend. As it sits, I stick with my original impressions. There’s a lot of interesting fodder here, but at this point, Dark Energy would be better off running with a clean slate instead of essentially patching and re-patching this one. If you are curious and can tolerate the low points, give it a run. But if you have already stepped into Kate’s shoes on XBLA, there’s no need to lace them up again.
Release date : 2011-05-09
Publisher : Microsoft Game Studios
Developer : Dark Energy
Gameplay : Action-Adventure
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