Hydrophobia Prophecy


posted 5/10/2011 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
One Page Platforms: PC
The part about “interacting with objects in the world” is achieved through the marriage of the HydroEngine with the venerable Havok physics engine. What this means to the player is that the wave action of the water is enhanced by physical objects in the game being washed around in a very realistic way. Because of the inherent randomness of flowing water as modeled by the HydroEngine and the realistic response of objects, the player is immersed (so to speak) in an extremely believable environment. Many of the effects have a direct bearing on the game as well. Kate is able to move through shallow water rather easily, but when the serious flooding starts it can be a challenge to simply get her to where she needs to go. The wave action of the water also causes problems in cases where you are trying to Kate to draw a bead on a target, only to have an inconvenient wave come along and disrupt her aim. There are also a number of times when the electrical conductivity of salt water can have a deleterious effect on Kate’s health. One is well advised to pay attention to dangling electrical wires and the resulting sparks near the water and to not allow the flow of the water to move poor old Kate into a danger zone. I personally have negligently allowed poor old Kate to meet her demise in the most shocking ways numerous times.

There are also times when Kate is forced to swim long-ish distances through completely flooded areas where there is no opportunity to surface and take a breath. Kate’s lung-reserve is graphically displayed on the screen to help the player know when the situation is getting desperate. As the pressure builds, Kate’s pulse rate increases. Combined with the flow of the water and the feeling of impending drowning, the feeling of being under water and swimming for your life becomes very visceral. Before you know it, you too are holding your breath as you hunt for the next pocket of air.

The game play itself is rather rudimentary run-and-gun, although there is a cover capability offered. Playing on the normal level, I never felt much need for it and I wasn’t particularly good at it anyway. I struggled with getting around corners without accidentally exposing poor, poor Kate to enemy fire. Lucky for Kate, the AI is not overly brilliant and it was usually easy enough to just hide behind a convenient object or duck under water for as long as it took for the AI to do something stupid. It did come as an unpleasant surprise to learn that the AI can not only also swim underwater, but can fire their weapons under water as well. Poor old Kate, again.

Kate’s primary weapon is a sonic gun that has the benefit of never running dry (so to speak) of ammo, but comes at the cost of what can seem an interminably long recharge time. Of the various other innovative weapons to be found, my favorite by far was the gel rounds. These can be more or less silently fired into/onto a malevolent bad guy, then detonated remotely. Sneaky!

When it comes to moving around on the ship, there is a puzzle aspect to the game wherein Kate often needs to figure out how to navigate her way around damaged decks or open flame. This more often than not involves climbing, although there are many cases where the judicious opening of doors will release a flood of water that will wash out flames or sweep away bad guys. Strangely, given the very tight restrictions regarding the handling of explosive or flammable objects on ships, there are also quite a few objects floating around that can be blown up in order to exterminate some pesky AI opponents. Or just for fun, for that matter.

The path Kate takes on her journeys through the ship is very linear, but not always obvious. Many of the doors and decks look the same, just as one would expect on a ship, so it is easy to get lost. There are two solutions for this available to the player. First, the player can select HUD mode. In this mode, waypoint markers lead the way through the path. Alternatively, if that mode is too easy (and, frankly, it is) the player can select MAVI mode. The MAVI is the aforementioned iPad-ish device that provides the interface to the ship’s systems. In MAVI mode, the device shows navigational arrows that give a general sense of the proper direction painted on the walls of the ship.
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