The second offering in the Xbox Live Arcade's 'Summer of Arcade' promotion is an upbeat, cherry-soda style arcade racer called 'Hydro Thunder Hurricane,' which couldn't have been any further from the last entry, the dark intelligent puzzler Limbo. It is true, the Xbox Live Arcade has something for everyone, and if you like over-the-top arcade racing, we have a treat for you.
The "Hydro Thunder Hurricane" logo is the first thing you will see when you boot up the 'Summer of Arcade' latest offering. It is also the first thing you will hear, as the announcer boldly calls out the name of the game in that obnoxious reverb layered tone that you will probably remember from the arcade games of the past. From there the techno-rock hits, and you will know exactly what you are in store for. 'Hydro Thunder Hurricane' (HTH) is actually a follow up to 'Hydro Thunder,' originally release in 1999 for the Dreamcast, which I was not aware of until I was prepping this review. For those like me who don't remember the original, 'HTH' is your typical arcade racing game in vein of the old racers from the likes of SEGA and Midway.
The Hydro Thunder Racing League
Joining up with 'Hydro Thunder Racing League,' a league of water racers who obviously have more courage then brains, 'Hydro Thunder Hurricane' gives you the opportunity to race the open-seas for the glory of the gold. From the main menu, you can jump into the single player or multiplayer modes, or check your achievements, leaderboards in such. As much as 'Hydro Thunder' is a single player game, it also screams for multiplayer attention... and as long as you are not booted from a server, you will probably enjoy your time within the alternative racing league.
The single player game offers eight different tracks to race around (some influenced from the original), 24 Ring Master races, eight gauntlet matches and championship tournaments where you can compete against 15 other drivers in a series of mixed events. These events take place over a series of tracks that are recycled in each event. The tracks are themed styled with several variations in their length, obstacles, and hidden areas. These tracks can also be raced with different difficulty levels (novice, pro, and expert) attached to them.
Into the Eye of the Storm
The introductory track is Lake Powell, one of the more common tracks and a perfect launching pad before Hydro Thunder really gets whacky. This hydro-dam channel race leads into one of the more unique levels that include a Norse themed titled ‘Storming Asgard.’ From Asgard you will visit several locations like ‘Monster Island’ established in the Bermuda Triangle to the entrance way to the lost city of Babylon simply labeled 'Lost Babylon.' The variety is ample and each level has enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. The interactive set pieces are impressive and if it’s not a giant sea-serpent erupting from a whirlpool, it’s a Norse god dropping a massive hammer into the course. 'Hydro Thunder Hurricane' loves to be in the eye of the storm, what a perfect setting for a race.
Each race is fast paced and only gets wilder as you unlock tracks and new speedboats. The gameplay mandates quick reflexes while you turn and twist in the unsettled waters of the racetrack. Boosting, hidden pathways, track switches, are all part of the game, this is 100% classic racer without the over complications of many of the other racing games of this generation. Each track needs to be unlocked by a point value that you earn while finishing races on the podium. It should also be noted that you can earn points online and offline, which is nice motivator to interact with the other racers on Live.
Multiplayer is downright addictive once you find the right group of people. I an unusual amount of “disconnected from the sever” notices while reviewing the game, this isn’t a reflection of the code, more like the general public playing the game. However, once you are locked in the addictive nature of placing on the podium and ranking up the leaderboards will take over. Even more interesting then taking out the enemies online, is a cool integration that lets you know who is ahead of you on the leaderboards during your single player game. This is an extra motivate that pushes yourself to do the best you can. The multiplayer is not brain surgery, but it’s done well.
It's OK to Miss Behave
The vehicles you will be unlocking also help contribute to the fun in Hydro Thunder Hurricane. The themed courses have dispersed their influence over to the boats and you will see numerous themed watercrafts as well. For an example on of the earlier themed boats you will unlock is like ‘Miss Behave’ a boat made out of WWII plane parts, which leads up to another interesting number called ‘Rad Hazard,’ a UFO hydroplane. Along with the silly are several normal boats including a few standardized hydroplanes and v-hall boats. Each vehicle has a different skill set that includes variables in their acceleration, handling, top speed, and air control. Depending on your play style you will likely lead towards a certain style of ride.
On the downside, the graphics could have been improved. I really expected more out of the water effects and the quality of the boat themselves. It’s all a little low-res, which is fine, it’s the gameplay that matters, but a little more graphical punch wouldn’t have hurt. In addition, there is a heck of a lot of clipping in the game to go along with its “bouncy” physics that will pin pong you off walls and into the depths of the track. The bounce is definitely something you will have to get used to, and might be a deterrent for some… just keep in mind, this isn’t reality, its an arcade racer in the purest form, it’s meant to be crazy.
Microsoft's 'Summer of Arcade' has found another winner in 'Hydro Thunder Hurricane.' In the spirit of the arcade racers of the past, Hydro Thunder Hurricane does no wrong with its back-to-basic arcade rooted gameplay. The action is fast, super fun, and worth the investment. ‘Hydro Thunder Hurricane’ might not make quite the impact that its summer predecessor did, but that doesn’t mean its not as good, it’s just different. So if you miss the olden days of turning on your system and blowing a few laps in an over-the-top ridiculous racer then ‘Hydro Thunder Hurricane’ is one ride you shouldn’t miss. Sign me up.
Final Score: 8.0
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 08.01.10
- fun, throwback arcade racing
- online racing is excellent
- themed tracks and boats are fun
- superb leaderboard support
- graphics could have been better
- physics are very bouncy
- skins should have been easier to unlock
Summer of Arcade: Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (7.0) | Lara Croft: Guardian of Light (8.9) | Limbo (9.6)