Well, this is a first. I’m not talking about reviewing Hydrophobia, obviously; I’ve done that three times already (three times! Three bloody times!). To the best of my knowledge, though, I’ve never written an introduction prior to actually playing the game.
As I hunch over my keyboard and tap out these words, the PS3 is whirring away behind me, grabbing bits of Hydrophobia: Prophecy from thin air – or, well, the internet. Considering I’ve reviewed it three times and finished it perhaps five, I think that I can get away with writing an introduction and outlining a few concerns before I actually play this latest (and hopefully greatest) version of the game.
I could joke that it’s somewhat appropriate, being that we’re near Halloween. “They say that if you’re on the Isle of Man, on a moonless, silent night with a clear sky, and you listen carefully… you can faintly hear the anguished screams as he gets told he’s reviewing Hydrophobia again!”
That might be a tad cruel, though, because I’d feel that way about reviewing any game over and over. It’s not that I don’t like Hydrophobia, after all – I do. It’s a decent, cheap action-adventure game with solid combat and staggeringly impressive tech, and I’ve got a soft spot for any developer able to hold their hands up, admit their product isn’t as good as it should’ve been, and commit resources to improving it. There just aren’t many games I’d actually want to finish five times in the space of two years.
So I suppose I’m coming into this review from an unorthodox perspective. I would imagine I’ve played more Hydrophobia than pretty much anyone outside of Dark Energy Digital and I’m not expecting to be hugely surprised; indeed, I might actually think less of the title simply because I’m so familiar with it. I’ll do my best not to let this colour my impression.
I’ll also point out that this iteration of the game possesses PlayStation Move support (which I’ll be unable to test), and that our scoring policy has changed somewhat since the last time I went through Hydrophobia. With that in mind, please excuse me: I need to go and play the game. You might want to read while I do so, as I doubt I’ll want to retread the same ground too much.
Right. I have now finished Hydrophobia: Prophecy (PS3) on medium difficulty, and completed the challenge room, and I’m honestly not sure what I can say. This is the PC version of Hydrophobia: Prophecy, only on console, as far as I can tell.
Actually, no. I take that back. It’s close enough to the PC version that it’s hard to note specific differences (one or two areas didn’t ring any bells, although that’s proof of nothing) but it feels more polished in general. The PS3 controls work fine (Move aside, which I’m unable to try out) and have less issues than mouse/keyboard. A few little niggling control issues regarding jumping and climbing appear to have been ironed out. The framerate is consistently high, and while some of the texture work isn’t jaw-droppingly stunning, it’s still a good looking game with water that is jaw-droppingly stunning.
You’re still Kate Wilson, and you’re still on a gargantuan super-ship – the Queen of the World – which is still under attack by Malthusian terrorists who still want to solve the overpopulation crisis through genocide. You still run, climb, jump, and swim through the environments, and you still use the environment and various ammunition types to take out the terrorists. You still get hydrokinetic powers towards the end of the game, and you still have very few opportunities to use them before it’s time for the last boss fight (which, thankfully, is far less of a chore than I remember it being on PC).
This is a tweaked version of Prophecy; it doesn’t have the vast, sweeping changes that Pure had over Hydrophobia, or Prophecy had over Pure, so some of the old problems remain. Level design is generally solid rather than spectacular, for instance, and the first half of the game (set in the innards of the Queen of the World) is a little samey in terms of appearance – but then I’ve never been a big fan of dark, industrial-looking environments.
The combat is much the same as it ever was, too, which is both a good thing and a bad thing depending on how much effort you want to put in. Actual direct combat using the gun’s semi-auto and full-auto rounds (as a gun, in other words) is a tad boring. Playing “properly”, however – using hanging electrical cables, explosive barrels, fire, and the omnipresent water to electrocute, blast, burn, and drown your foes – is as excellent and rewarding as it ever was. Some fantastic chain reactions are possible: use a Gel round to detonate an explosive barrel and kill one Malthusian, say, and then cackle as the explosion pushes the water – or, more specifically, the fire on top of the water – into another.
I think there’ve been some tweaks to this, too. The auto-aim seems far more sensible than that of the PC, although it might simply be that there’s actually a use for it on console, so it doesn’t feel like a weird hindrance.
In general, it feels more like a more polished product than the PC version. The only bugs and oddities I noticed were with the subtitles occasionally staying on screen for far too long and the odd blip with voice tracks occasionally cutting out. That aside it’s perfectly functional and solidly built.
It’s still Hydrophobia, but I’ll happily state that this is the best version of the game yet. If you have Prophecy on PC then there’s really not much of a reason to pick this up, but if you only have the game on 360 then this might be a worthwhile upgrade. And, of course, if you’ve yet to play Hydrophobia at all, then I’d give a hearty recommendation. It’s not the finest game in the world, but then, I doubt ten overhauls would bringny given game up to that level of quality. It is, however, a perfectly decent action-adventure, with stunning water which factors into the excellent environmental combat, and it’s absolutely worth a fiver of your money (or none at all for a brief period, if you’re on PlayStation Plus.)