Hydrophobia originally released in in September of 2010, and it had a few problems. It was overflowing with interesting ideas, was set against the backdrop of a compelling political science fiction story, and the characters were well-acted and interesting. The gameplay, technical aspects and some of the visuals made the game unnecessarily difficult. It was far from being a complete experience. The whole game just felt unfinished in many ways. With the Hydrophobia Pure update, many of the original complaints have been addressed, resulting in a much better game.
The developers of Hydrophobia, in response to the somewhat negative critical feedback, decided that the best way to redeem their game, was to quite simply fix it. In December of 2010 a huge patch was released for Hydrophobia incorporating a huge number of bug fixes, visual tweaks and gallons of other things. You can actually see the whole list here, or you can have someone read you a bunch of the fixes in an attractive foreign accent by watching this video:
Along with the patch, which is free if you already bought Hydrophobia, the game has also been discounted to 800 Microsoft Points for those who haven’t bought Hydrophobia yet, which I can confidently recommend that you do.
The biggest byproduct of the patch are the tweaks made to the controls. The game just feels so much more fluid now, and is much more fun to play. The climbing, the shooting and the swimming all just feel better, and make the game a lot more fun. Before the patch, controls felt clunky, and the chaotic water and explosions made the experience feel unmanageable at times. The game was intense, not because of what lay around the corner, but because at any moment, a random pipe could burst or fuel barrel could explode and kill you. Now that the player is given more control, and fatalities have become infrequent, moving through the ship just feels better. When you are not fighting with the controls, it’s easier to forget that you are playing a game and the whole experience becomes much more engrossing.
The same logic can be applied to the technical elements of the game. Large amounts of water, and just about everything else in the game would cause horrendous stutters in frame-rate, and the game would slow down like the molecules of freezing water. The patch has gone a long way in making the game run better throughout, which means you spend less time analyzing the frame-rate, and more time wondering what the true motivations of the terrorists are. It allows the player to enjoy the fiction of the game.
Another instantly noticeable element of the update are the graphics. Everything looks and sounds better. Character models have been tweaked, shadowing has been adjusted and water moves and looks better. The audio was actually pretty good before the update, offering intense music and believable explosions, but that has also been expanded and repaired.
Even the narrative elements of the game game have been literally “pruned” (to quote the developers) to give the story a better pace. The character Scoot, is a well developed character that you will grow to like quickly, but he would often become obnoxious. His dialogue has been cut back, so you will only hear from him when it is important.
It’s not a perfect game of course. Some of the same issues still persists. The game can’t quite escape the unfinished moniker, especially in the narrative department, and the searching puzzles in place to break up the the combat are still more frustrating than thought provoking. The map was included in the list of items that received and update, but it still feels stiff and is difficult to navigate making objectives sometimes difficult or confusing to reach. The effect of the update though, is that these problems are now forgettable minor annoyances of the overall product. Originally they were just more bullets on a far too long list of complaints, but now they do very little to impede the overall quality of Hydrophobia.
It was an odd decision to spend so much time fixing an already released game, but for those who saw a good game just below the surface of the water, you will be happy to know that this is the game Hydrophobia should have been from day one. The story still kind of drops off inexplicably in the end, but the prospect of a Hydrophobia two has now become much more exciting. If the same amount of polish can be applied to the sequel that was applied here, then we all have an excellent game to look forward too. Dark Energy Digital clearly love their game and are proud of the product they released, and frankly they should be. It just took a little bit of cleaning up to get it exactly where it should have always been.
The discounted price, coupled with the massive update makes Hydrophobia the game it should have been from the beginning
Pretty much every complaint of the original release has been addressed and fixed
The game is simply more fun to play in general.
The narrative, while interesting, still has a lot of holes, and ends abruptly.
Map can still be difficult to use, obscuring objectives
Quote: "For those who saw a good game just below the surface of the water, you will be happy to know that this is the game Hydrophobia should have been from day one."