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Hydrophobia Hands-On Preview Pt. 2

Part 2 of Kate's XBLA revolution...

Water here, water there, water, water everywhere. Water is the game: before the Queen of the World, before the Neo-Malthusian politics, before Kate even, Hydrophobia was about one thing and one thing only. Water. That wet stuff. You know.

It's a believable substance right here, which is to be expected as a team of astrophysicists and mathematicians has been working full time to perfect the swell's in-game behaviour. Ever-so-slightly elasticised maybe - when rolling waves crash into a wall they return at almost full force without the slightest whiff of dampening - but still better than most other water effects. The proprietary Hydro Engine technology accurately models waves as the ship is buffeted by explosions, and in open environments undercurrents and surface flows pull and push heroine Kate in different directions depending on her depth. Waves that crash onto surfaces even create a foamy top layer which settles or dissipates depending on the initial wave velocity. These systems are tough to get right (we dropped Fluid Dynamics at university because of the ultra-difficult calculations involved (We did? I must have been out of it at the time - Ed.)) and to see it working, in an XBLA game no less, is astonishing.

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A wide range of water sources guarantees a healthy variety of challenges. There are basic rooms with a set amount of water inside that can slosh about. There are point sources that see water spray through a crack in the wall, and these rooms can either then fill up to the ceiling or have a sink to keep the water level constant.

Continuous flows can transform long corridors into raging rivers by tasking a wormhole to pump the water passing through exit B back through entrance A, while motors can be added anywhere and everywhere to propagate currents in predetermined directions. Overheated water cracks pipelines springing more leaks in boiler rooms and submerged electric sources fry anybody foolish enough to stray into the wet before having the foresight to nip out and shut off the power. Maximum room water level can also be set so that the old wet stuff never reaches above set marks to stop planned puzzles from falling apart.

Original plans included a grab button for Kate to stay on her feet as walls of water cascaded through the hull. Sadly it didn't work too well and was scrapped, although some careful navigation and the odd prompted grab underwater is still necessary to avoid a dicing by giant fan blades.

Drowning is, you would think, the biggest danger, but only certain rooms carry this threat. Dark Energy Digital has also harnessed the mighty ocean's power for far more vicious and direct offensive attacks. Violent waves can smash bodies into walls, instantly robbing them of life.

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Many rooms are designed with water-filled sub-rooms next door. An explosive barrel next to a window pane presents multiple options: you could shoot the barrel which shatters the glass and in turn let loose a wave that obliterates the small army waiting nearby. Of course an observant Malthusian might spot this danger and dodge to safety, alerting other terrorists as he does so. A second option involves shooting the window first, unleashing a wave that carries the barrel into the group of talking enemies. One more bullet and, blammo, they're all gone instantly.

Every single object has its own mass and centre of gravity so set-ups such as these are easy to judge. There are other options of attack too but we're forbidden from revealing those details just yet. All we'll say is that old school Psi Ops fans - should there still be some of you out there - will get very excited.

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