It used to be trees. Back in my day, that is, which is probably before you were born. You'd load up a game, take a look at the foliage and gawp at how magnificent modern technology had become; 'my God', you'd think, 'they've stitched two flat textures together to make a tree!' And there would be much rejoicing.
But advancements in tree rendering are no more. Now developers can just buy a piece of middleware and just hit a button to bask in even the rampant wildlife of the tropics. No, these days it's all about water. Yes, there's some pretty good water out there already, but it's all static; dull, immovable pools of briny deep designed to house a few sequences where you need to worry about drowning. Not in Hydrophobia, though, where the water bursts and springs out of areas as if each pipe were moonlighting as a high-power hose. The water here is fluid and dynamic, rippling down corridors and sweeping through doors, and is almost always an impressive sight to behold.
Which is a lot more than you can say about the actual game.
I can't quite work out if protagonist Kate Wilson is actually afraid of water (as the title would suggest) but I do know that, after a scant few hours of being forced to play the game, Hydrophobia will be haunting my dreams for years to come.
Set in the future aboard mammoth cruise city Queen of the World, plucky tech wizard Wilson finds herself caught in the middle of an impromptu terrorist attack. The ultimate goal of these ruffians is to solve the world's swelling population by thinning the herd by a few billion, though their only discernable results seem to be in the creation of a few rugged, Tomb Raider-esque environments for you to scamper across.
Wilson's joined by her insufferable sidekick Scoot, who bleats nonsense – purportedly 'banter' – over the telecoms in an excruciatingly poor faux-Scottish accent. There's nothing like a potentially apocalyptic terrorist attack to bring out your very worst clichéd one-liners, is there? One antagonist speaks like Darth Vader, but is only wearing a bit of cloth over his mouth; basically, the general quality of Hydrophobia's voice acting suggests the talent budget stretched to little more than a multipack of Beef & Onion crisps.