Xbox Live’s Summer of Arcade continues on with a sequel to a true arcade classic. When Hydro Thunder was released in the arcades back in 1999, it became an instant hit with its fun water racing. The game was released on the home consoles and becomes a big hit on the Dreamcast as well. Plans for a sequel were in the works for years, but that came to a screeching halt when Midway went under. After the purchase of Midway, Warner Bros sold off the rights to some of Midway’s series leading to Microsoft purchasing the Hydro Thunder name. That leads us to the sequel that’s been a decade in the making: Hydro Thunder Hurricane.
Hydro Thunder Hurricane is split into four types of events where you control 1 of 8 types of powerboats on 1 on of 8 different tracks. The four events are the standard 16 boat race, the ring master event that has you navigating through rings that are set in a certain pattern throughout the course with the goal being to make your way to the end of the track quickly with as little ring misses as possible, the gauntlet has you steer through the course avoid explosive barrels that are scattered throughout, and the championship event which is a combination of the previous the other three events where you gain points depending on how you place in each event. By placing in the top 3 of any event, you get credits that will unlock more events, tracks, and boats.
If you never played Hydro Thunder before, don’t worry, because it’s easy to pick up and play. The controls are simple; the RT is used to accelerate, LT to brake, A to boost and X to jump boost. Boost is only available when you pick-up blue/red/grey canisters icons that are spread out throughout the course with red boost giving you more than the blue boost. Once you have boost, you can hold down A to speed up, and by hitting X, your boat will do a jump boost that lets you pick up more items that are in the air or lets you jump into a shortcut.
Shortcuts are the real fun of racing in Hydro Thunder Hurricane. Each course has multiple shortcuts with some being slightly hidden, and others require you to pick-up a green icon that will activate gates and ramps to reach them. It’ll take several runs through to figure out where all the shortcuts are, but there’s a sense of fun when you try to find them. To mix it up there is also different obstacles that will show up during certain parts of the race including some large sea monsters that you have to watch out for. It’s all designed to make the courses as interesting as possible for players.
Another part of the fun is the water physics because if you time your boost jumps with the flow of the waves in the water, you can get some serious air. Later courses have way more waves making it far more demanding to maneuver. While the water physics are good, the feel of the boat seems a bit off. When you fly and collide with objects in the air, you would think that there would be a bit more flipping and some spectacular crashes. I also have an issue with the speed because it doesn’t really feel like a fast game until you get to the absolute top speed which is true in most games. However, you never have that feeling that you’re going 150 mph as that feels almost the same as going 50 mph in this game.
Online is fairly standard in one aspect and incredibly unique in another. As you would expect, you can race against other players on Xbox Live as well as have your buddies with you do some split screen action. That’s an obvious inclusion in the game. What was less obvious is the second multiplayer mode which is called Rubber Ducky. In this mode, teams are split into groups of 4 with one person on each team controlling the Rubber Ducky (it’s a boat you can unlock). The other 3 players have to stop the other team’s Rubber Ducky from reaching first place. So while this is a race, only one person is actually trying to finish the race. Everyone else is looking to bash the other team’s Rubber Ducky to slow it down making for an interesting form of teamwork and adding something new to your standard racing game.
As you play through Hydro Thunder Hurricane, you won’t be taken in by ultra realistic graphics. Let’s face it, this is an arcade game that never made it to the arcades so it’s far from being the highest standard in graphics, but it has that colorful arcade look to it. There’s plenty to look at in each level as you speed on through. Music and sound are also on par with an arcade game with your standard rock music with sound effects that go well with what’s going on. Everything is just right for an arcade game, but maybe considered lacking compared to other current gen games.
With a price tag of about $15, Hydro Thunder Hurricane doesn’t have the most bang for your buck. The truth is that in a few hours will have you unlocking almost everything. Then again, as the theme of this review goes, this game is designed to be like a true arcade sequel. Don’t expect this to be Gran Tourismo or Forza on the water because it isn’t. Instead, think of it as whether you would spend $15 on this game in an arcade. If you could have fun racing again and again on the same tracks, trying to get everything as well as beat your own times or play people online, then you will want to buy this game.
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