Review – Hydro Thunder: Hurricane
Play your cards right… you’ll live to talk about it.
The Dreamcast may not have any shortage of racing games but, for me at least, Hydro Thunder was my favourite. A big, brash coin-op conversion that found its true home on Sega’s doomed console, it was immense fun, looked gorgeous and was perfect for quick pick up and play sessions. As the name suggests, it was a speedboat racer but with slightly less realistic handling than, say, Out Run 2 and it was fast, furious and just about deep enough (thanks to multiple shortcuts on each track) to keep you interested.
Midway, the original publisher, has long since gone tits up and their IPs are slowly finding new homes and thankfully Hydro Thunder has re-emerged on Xbox Live Arcade with a bonafide sequel, Hydro Thunder: Hurricane which has popped up for 1200M$P as part of the Summer of Arcade promotion.
First impressions are good, with the opening track showing off the splendid graphics (complete with decent water effects). Planes swoop overhead as the race kicks off and you fight your way through the pack of fifteen competitors, picking up boosts and scanning for shortcuts. The whole game is riddled with lovingly-crafted graphical touches with all manner of surprises rising up out of the water. It genuinely took me a day to remember this wasn’t a Sega game, given that they offered a similar treatment to their Out Run and After Burner reboots. The cheesey commentary and rock soundtrack further reinforce the similarities.
Occasionally the sheer enthusiasm of the course designers means that things can get a little obscured by all the eye candy and so it may take you a little while to learn the tracks so that you can make the turns that are sometimes hidden but it’s really not a problem and compared to something like the Burnout series, you’ll rarely be scuppered by the visuals. My only complaint is that some of the ludicrously huge drops are obscured by a blur effect which is a shame as I’d rather see the drop clearly. You know, Wipeout style.
Given that you’re in a boat, the controls are simplicity itself. The triggers control acceleration and braking, with boosting and boost-jumping maps to A and X respectively. The reason I enjoy these games so much is that I’m undeniably shit at driving games and stripping out handbraking makes my life a lot easier. The bounciness and the ability to reinforce your steering with boosts makes this feel closer to those MX Vs ATV titles although the game does tone down the realism, making your boats handle a lot easier than they should.
Hydro Thunder was a great arcade game and there was a n equally great version of it that was released on home consoles. so I was really looking forward to the XBLA release. Thankfully this game delivers, with updated graphics and added online multiplayer.
The one thing that really makes the game interesting and fun has to be the courses. They all have very unique features and settings. A lot of the courses have multiple paths and secrets to find as you make your way around them. As well as some surprises that pop up, though there are a couple of the tracks that are a bit dull. The races never feel unfair, though they can be challenging. There’s none of the shitty tricks like rubberbanding AI or impossibly fast opponents.
As well as races there are two types of time trials, Ring Modewhere you try to get your best time whilst going through all the rings, every ring you miss adding a second to your time. There’s also the Gauntlet where the course is littered with explosive barrels hindering you .
Unlike many of the XBLA games that are at the 1200M$P price tag this game feels worth it. I know I spent a lot more money on the Dreamcast version which didn’t have as many game options. My only gripe is this game could have done with a few more courses.
Secondary Score: 8/10
The game’s eight tracks offer a myriad of different challenges and surprises. That said, after the exceptional early levels some of the later ones seem a little pedestrian and are also narrower, requiring better steering and control as you’d expect. I guess you couldn’t really have it any other way but I’d have welcomed a few more explosions and gimmicks to keep me interested. This is all resolved by the final level which is, to put it lightly, absolutely batshit mental and all the better for it.
In addition to the main racing mode, the game also offers a Ringmaster mode (earn boost by passing through rings in a time trial) which is more fun than it sounds, Tournament mode and also Gauntlet mode which is also a time trial but this time with loads of explosive barrels to ruin your day. These are all just filler but they don’t spoil anything and do add a little value for money. Online play is present and correct as you’d expect and seems particularly smooth at what is probably this game’s most popular period.
Hydro Thunder: Hurricane is good. So good that I’ve not even resorted to swears yet. It’s a worthy sequel to the original and one of the standout titles of Xbox Live Arcade in 2010. The price is maybe a tad high but you’ll definitely get a tenner’s worth of fun out it. Try the demo first but expect to shell out some Microspazz filth dollars at the full game. Unless you hate fun (or have children that drowned or something).