Fear of water or not it's probably best to just forget about this game.
There’s no other way to start this review than by mentioning the path that Hydrophobia has taken to get to the place it’s in today. The original version of the game released last year on XBLA to mostly negative reviews. The developer took criticisms to heart and quickly updated the game, in what was called Hydrophobia: Pure, to fix issues that were of concern. Review scores saw a boost from there but developer Dark Energy Digital wasn’t done yet. With Hydrophobia Prophecy the game is now hitting PSN with additional Move Support and a very lengthy list of fixes and additions to the game. Dark Energy is referring to Prophecy as the ‘ultimate’ version of the game which is technically true. However I feel that it might be more fitting to see this as the most complete version of the game as ‘ultimate’ might give you the impression that there’s some form of fun to be had here.
Set in the year 2051 Hydrophobia is set in a world suffering from a massive over population issue. The rising sea level is causing the loss of formerly inhabitable land and now many are forced to migrate to sea and start life on large cruise ships turned cities. The game seems to imply that there are many organizations throughout the world searching for some sort of fix to the overpopulation issue. In the opening moments of the game a celebration of sorts is occurring as one particular company is preparing to make an announcement that could possibly form some sort of resolution to this problem. Of course things don’t go as planned as a terrorist organization under the name of the Malthusians detonate numerous explosives across the ship in an effort to solve the population crisis. The idea being that the only solution is through murder. There’s an interesting concept here if nothing else. It’s too bad that it ends there. The rest of the game presents numerous cutscenes establishing the fact that you need to get off that ship and a few brief moments in which you learn more about the Malthusians but nothing else is ever brought to life. One particular main character literally vanishes from the story towards the end with no explanation as to what happened to them.
The game is split into three separate acts. The first focusing on running through corridors flooding with water, climbing elevator shafts and hacking into security consoles while the remainder of the game turns into a mess of fire fights both above and below water. The opening moments of the game, if nothing else, at least present a brief glimpse into something that could have been interesting. I really like the idea of being on a ship that’s sinking with water rushing all around you. The sense of urgency that goes with that and the routes that could be taken from there seem really cool to me. Unfortunately the controls are unresponsive and it’s all thrown out the door in favor of gun-heavy gameplay.
While the direction of the gameplay certainly does drastically change heading into Act 2, the structure remains intact throughout the game. You’ll go through a narrow corridor and into a larger room with something to hack, a valve to turn or a group of enemies to take out. Rinse and repeat until the end of the game. There’s very little back tracking and the ‘puzzles’ in the game aren’t really puzzles at all. Unless you consider the act of taking out a handful of enemies and pressing a button in front of a valve a puzzle. There are moments where you’ll need to swim which actually isn’t entirely bad. At least control wise swimming works mostly fine. Holding a button will allow you to sink, float to the surface or swim faster. The times when swimming become troublesome are when the camera decides to grow a mind of its own and during underwater fire fights. I experienced a few moments during underwater sections in which I lost complete control of the camera making it nearly impossible to see where I needed to go. Underwater fire fights are just annoying. You’ll often have a few enemies constantly shooting at you as you swim with the ability to grab a nearby object as cover. While the swimming controls work for swimming they’re not well equipped for dodging oncoming fire and grabbing cover. Fortunately most of the time you can swim past these sections to the next objective.
While I wouldn’t consider any portion of this game to be anything resembling something good it’s in the final moments of Hydrophobia that things just get weird. Just moments before the final boss encounter you’re suddenly given the ability to control water and use it to propel explosive barrels across the room. It’s one of the most random things I’ve ever witnessed and honestly has no place being in this game. It felt as if the developers wanted you to be able to do something cool to combat the final boss and thought controlling water with your mind would be fun. It’s not. After finishing off the final boss the game cuts to a very brief scene that shows nothing but a closeup of your character’s face and that’s it. There’s no wrap up, no closure, no nothing. Do you escape the ship, are the terrorists defeated, what happened to your friend who is helping you throughout the entire game? Nothing. The lack of an ending is even more troublesome by the fact that the updated list of content for Prophecy notes that it has an ‘all new ending’.
Outside of the story mode the game features a challenge room. This is one single room with five short waves of enemies and that’s about it. Maybe I’m more used to games included numerous challenge rooms with some variety added to it but this just seems pointless.
Move support is another added feature and one that should probably not be used while playing Hydrophobia. While the Dualshock control method does suffer from some camera issues it’s much more apparent with the Move controller. I felt like I was constantly battling against the camera while using Move to a point far beyond frustration. At any rate the Move support is at least there but you’ll be saving yourself a lot of frustration by ignoring it.
It’s clear that the developers care deeply about Hydrophobia and if nothing else should be commended on putting forth a strong effort. The game literally allows you to open a menu to give the developers feedback. If nothing else it’s cool to see a developer so open to feedback. I just wish that it was being used for something more worthwhile because in the end it’s going to take much more than just a few fixes to bad controls, camera or bugs to fix what’s ultimately just a poor game. It’s not even that the game is terrible. Hydrophobia presents a few good ideas that aren’t used to their full potential and instead we get a poor third person shooter that just so happens to have a lot of water in it.
Fear of water or not it’s probably best to just forget about this game.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
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