Hydrophobia – hands-on

Frantically running through dark, oppressive corridors that are rapidly filling with water was enough to nearly induce a mini-panic attack during our hands-on time with Hydrophobia on the PAX East show floor. The team at Dark Energy Digital has managed to capture the untamed energy of the ocean and turn it into a truly malevolent force to be feared. Hydrophobia is a game about the killing potential of water as much as it is about an overpopulated world being set upon by terrorists. We dig that.

A massive population explosion has forced civilization into crafting ships the size of entire cities to house the overflow of people unable to be supported on land. Hydrophobia takes place on one of these floating cities called Queen of the World, but it seems the plan for a calm and peaceful existence has sprung a few leaks. Kate Wilson, an engineer on the ship, is deathly afraid of water yet agreed to live on the floating behemoth amidst promises that she wouldn’t ever have to get near it. Unluckily for her, that was before a terrorist group hell-bent on reducing the human population attacked the big old Queenie in hopes of sinking the metal beast and everyone on it. Now it’s time to swim or die.

Kate starts out terrified of the water that comes thundering in around her at numerous moments in the game. As you progress, she eventually adapts and grows more comfortable in the flooded sections of the city, eventually realizing she has some kind of freaky inherent superhuman powers to manipulate the stuff in order to solve puzzles and take out enemies.

The early stretch of Hydrophobia’s third-person action adventure gameplay we were able to check out focused mainly on exploration and problem solving. We found ourselves climbing around pipes and rafters to escape explosions and fiery hallways, hacking doors to access documents and escape dangerous areas, and running (and swimming) like hell during the intense moments when jets of water came crashing through the hull to nearly choke the air from our lungs. Eerily spot-on water effects driven by a powerful physics engine make the omnipresent threat of drowning feel very real. Water often splashes onto the camera and flows about freely, making the wetter portions of the experience extremely realistic.

Water isn’t the only danger you’ll face either. We burned to death, fell to our doom, and were also shot a few times. Our demo session wound down just as we encountered several terrorists and were able to pick up our first firearm. Numerous weapons will be available in the game, and we’re told there’s a solid combat and cover system that kicks in a little ways in.

Hydrophobia is expected to run somewhere around the five-to-six hour mark and have various opportunities to roam off the beaten path and collect secrets. What we saw of it left us impressed and wanting to dig deeper into the game. For a downloadable Xbox Live exclusive, this game is shaping up to be something truly unique and more than a little nerve-wracking.

Apr 14, 2010


  • MaynardJ - April 19, 2010 9:34 a.m.

    The other people have probably died in the terrorist attack, or escaped. Being so afraid of water, Kate should live somewhere in the center of the city to be as far away from water as possible. So she has a long way to go and maybe a lot of people to meet. I was surprised to see that this is actually an XBLA game, it could probably pass for a fullprice title if it were longer. Hopefully the heroine's character development will be worked out well. Combining that with the natural looks, she could become a new classic game protagonist and turn this into a franchise. If this turns out as great as it looks right now, I'm definitely getting it.
  • g4m3rk1dd - April 16, 2010 4:13 p.m.

    oh and another question...where are the people on the ship?
  • g4m3rk1dd - April 16, 2010 4:11 p.m.

    this looks good >.> and i agree with n00b about the MC. anymore when they make video game characters as females they tend to go overboard with it (size DDDDD boobs? realy?) they need to be reminded that girls with not-so-big boobs and not-so-big-asses can still be attractive such as this one and Fang from FF13. even Faith from Mirrors Edge was pretty
  • spaceapes - April 15, 2010 3:32 p.m.

    this game looks awesome, and I love the of the gameplay. can not wait for the release!
  • n00b - April 15, 2010 3:47 a.m.

    eh another not sexed up female protagonist nice and it looks pretty interesting, esp for an xbla game
  • CH3BURASHKA - April 15, 2010 3:47 a.m.

    So, a Shadow Complex clone? I can see myself digging it.
  • fanboyhunter - April 15, 2010 12:48 a.m.

    Had no idea this existed now im hyped!!!
  • moonwalk_mafia - April 15, 2010 12:10 a.m.

    This is def shaping up to be this years Shadow Complex in the way of being arguably one of the best XBLA releases of the year

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