A new IP franchise launched on a brand new water physics engine.

User Rating: 8 | Hydrophobia X360
Hydrophobia is a new $15 third person shooter / parkour game built on a revolutionary new water physics engine. The dynamic water physics implemented in Hydrophobia is unlike anything I have seen in any other game involving interaction with water. From the way that the buoyancy changes with water level, to the realistic flow as a large volume of water is transferred from one space to another, to the impact it has on the character and other flotsam and jetsam caught up in it to the puzzles that must be solved in order to complete the game, Hydrophobia is a fresh new entry where games so often seem to blur into one another.

In Hydrophobia, you play the protagonist, Kate Wilson, who is the chief security officer on a city-sized cruise ship christened "Queen of the World". The setting is in an overpopulated world in which this ship is an escape for those fortunate or rich enough to acquire accommodations on the huge vessel. However the ship has been taken over by a terrorist sect who believes the only way toward saving the world is through depopulation - "Save the world, kill yourself" is a common phrase seen in graffiti that the group has written on walls throughout the mega-cruiser. A massive waterborne craft wit compromised is the perfect environment to display the capabilities of such a dynamic new engine.

As far as the gameplay is concerned, it is decent. There are some camera issues, especially in those challenges where you need to find an exit before the room completely floods. There is a greater sense of urgency to the parkour because you will drown if you don't find that air pocket on the way to your next destination. Fortunately, Kate has some high tech device that provide a 3D map showing paths to objectives, air pockets, and which hatches are open and which ones are locked. I found the map a bit difficult to manipulate in order to obtain the optimal view.

The combat system requires you to think; your only weapon is a pistol that you must charge up before it shoots compressed air which takes about 5 or 6 shots to kill someone. You need to find other means to take out your opponent, such as an exploding barrel among the flotsam, a leaking gas receiver, a live electrical cable to knock into the water, or a glass door to blow open letting a flood of water in to drown your adversary. There are challenges and awards / achievements for taking down foes using various and combined methods. There are more potent rounds available for the pistol but they are rare and usually linked to a very specific puzzle or means of escape.

The voice acting is passable. The invisible and omnipotent helpmeet with who you are always in communication has a somewhat fake Scottish brogue. The protagonist is supposed to be American, but often British dialect of the voice actor sneaks in. The setting and story are good and well executed.

I haven't finished Hydrophobia yet. I needed something to play until Fable III comes out later this month and this has proved to be a very enjoyable diversion and, at $15 US, this game is a great value. I am looking forward to the future of this franchise.