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Jahanzeb Khan
27 Jul, 2010

Hydro Thunder Hurricane Review

360 Review | Forgotten speedboat racer makes a grand return.
Hydro Thunder was a fairly popular arcade game developed by the now defunct Midway Games (the original team behind the Mortal Kombat series) back in 1999. The game was ported to the Sega Dreamcast and later on the Nintendo 64 and the original PlayStation. The game later made an appearance in Midway Arcade Treasures 3. Following the demise of Midway, the rights to the franchise were bought by Microsoft and now they give us an Xbox Live Arcade exclusive sequel, Hydro Thunder Hurricane which is available now for 1200 Microsoft points (roughly $20).

Hydro Thunder Hurricane, like its predecessor, is an arcade racer that makes no effort to be realistic or deep. What you get is an unadulterated arcade racer that just about anyone can pick up and play. The game’s main gimmick is that it’s a speedboat racer, thus making it quite different in comparison to several arcade racers (except maybe the jet ski racer, Wave Race). Seeing as this a sequel to a game that came out over ten years ago, back when 90s style arcade racing titles were still huge, it’s a pleasant surprise that the developers chose to give Hydro Thunder Hurricance a classic 90s arcade racer vibe. The gameplay is pretty straightforward; you essentially race speedboats around a variety of courses and it doesn’t take very long to get into the swing of things. The control system is similar to that found in any racing title on the Xbox 360.

Hydro Thunder is back in style.

Hydro Thunder is back in style.
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The main gameplay mechanic is boosting, which you have to do a lot. Scattered around each course, are boost power-ups that fill up the boost meter, which aside from giving you a temporary boost, is also useful in changing your boat’s direction mid-air. Another cool feature is the ‘Boost Jump’, which allows you to jump and this is mainly useful in jumping over other racers and making big leaps over ledges even bigger. Drafting is also an important technique, where you ride on the slipstream of the boat in front of you, and this in turn allows you to gain speed. So even though this game being an arcade racer, there are some fancy aerodynamics in place.

Being a speedboat racer, water is where all the action takes place and this really makes Hydro Thunder Hurricane play and feel different from your standard racing title. The water surface creates a very ‘floaty’ feel, similar to the Wipeout games. Also, there will be many situations where you will be up against waves, where you can ride them and use them as ramps for an extended Boost Jump. There are also sections of running water and you can ride those as well, giving you additional speed.

The game has eight tracks for you to race on, with each being unique and unorthodox. From a creative standpoint, these tracks are really cool as they have several unique elements to them. You will be cruising through sewers, rivers, temples, waterworks, glaciers, a Japanese water park and even go through a portal to land on an alien planet. Each location also behaves quite differently, offering some obscure challenges and obstructions. In one course a Viking battleship will try to get in your way, while police boats operate round the clock (apparently these races are illegal). Expect to be attacked by a bombarding plane, Viking statues and even sea monsters.

Sure has some crazy locations.

Sure has some crazy locations.
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The tracks have been designed well, loaded with jump ramps, challenging turns and plenty of big Wipeout style leaps. They seem pretty simple the first time you race on them, but later you will discover plenty of short cuts and other hidden routes and locations. Also, during a race you will find ‘Switch’ pickups, and these unlock gates (which then open a new path) and bring up new ramps. The game offers nine speedboats divided into three classes: Novice, Pro and Expert. Pro boats are superior to Novice boats, with Expert boats being the best. However, the higher the boat class, the higher the difficulty of the game will be. Each boat has its own set of characteristics in terms of acceleration, top speed, handling and air control.

Leap of faith.

Leap of faith.
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In terms of content, Hydro Thunder Hurricane is quite generous for an XBLA game going for 1200 Microsoft points. In single player you have your standard race mode, a ‘Ring Master’ mode where you have to drive through rings (much like the speedboat missions of Grand Theft Auto), a ‘Gaunlet’ mode where you have to complete a run while avoiding exploding barrels and finally a ‘Championship’ mode where you compete in a series of events, accumulating points as you go. The Ring Master mode is actually quite useful, as it teaches you how to navigate a track better and also points out most of the useful shortcuts. Completing these various challenges by ending up in one of the top three positions earns you credits, and these allow you to open up new challenges, tracks, boats, boat skins and other Easter eggs. Also, there are secret tokens to collect on each track, which unlocks certain bonuses like new skins for boats.

As for multiplayer, the game offers a four player offline split-screen mode which runs well. On Xbox Live, you can compete with up to eight players in a standard race or an amusing ‘Rubber Ducky’ contest where two teams compete to get their respective duck across the finish line. At the time of review, we couldn’t find many players to compete against but we were lucky enough to find a couple of European journalists to play against, and we found that the net code was quite excellent. The best part about multiplayer is that you can earn credits by finishing in the top three, which means you don’t have to force yourself to play single player just for the credits.

The Ring Master mode teaches you a lot.

The Ring Master mode teaches you a lot.
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Graphically the game looks fairly good and while there is nothing too cutting edge or detailed, they do the trick. It has a nice 90s arcade racer look to it, with really vibrant and colourful graphics that are quite similar to 3D arcade racing titles released by Sega. It looks pleasant enough but it does suffer from some issues like pop up, screen-tearing and frame-rate inconsistencies, which are hardly game crippling but are still noticeable and can sometimes hinder the flow of the game. Musically the game is pretty forgettable, with nothing noteworthy or special. The sound effects, announcer voice and the annoying wingmen (or boatmen in this case) are as cheesy as they can get in an arcade racer.

Hyrdro Thunder Hurricane is an extremely accessible and entertaining arcade racer with a cool speedboat gimmick that has been implemented really well, and is a game that any gamer can get into and have fun with. The game is based almost entirely on the template that was set back in 1999 with the original Hydro Thunder, and it is still as fun today. However, the arcade racing genre has come a long way since 1999, and so while Hydro Thunder Hurricane may lack the conventions, presentation, content and depth that modern arcade racers have today, you're not likely to find a better game involving speedboats than this one.
The Score
Hydro Thunder Hurricane is an extremely accessible and entertaining arcade racing game. You're not likely to find a better game involving speedboats than this one. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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13 Comments
3 years ago
Looks good! Reminds me of the updated Wipeout except now for Hydro Thunder!
3 years ago
i think deathspank or shank would have been better game to put into the summer xbla line up, but that's just my opinion
3 years ago
Being a huge Hydro Thunder freak, I'm still tossing up whether to buy a 360 just for this game icon_sad.gif
3 years ago
good to see an 8 on here... ign scored is poorly (5.5 from memory?)

i think it needs to be seen for what it is... a mindless arcade boat racer... certainly keen to try it as i still have my dreamcast hydro thunder game icon_smile.gif
3 years ago
yer i saw lots of poor reviews so far thats why i made my comment. From what I have been hearing its surely not worth buying a 360 just for this, but good thing is there are lots of other reasons to get a 360
3 years ago
Deathspank couldn't have been a Summer of Arcade title as its on PSN. But if the developers agreed to delay the PSN version then yes it would have fit right in.

As for this game there are mixed reactions, 8 is so far the highest score but I have seen it get 5.5
3 years ago
renegadesx wrote
As for this game there are mixed reactions, 8 is so far the highest score but I have seen it get 5.5
I wouldn't say it's had mixed reactions. According to Metacritic only IGN have given it a score below 7. It's more that IGN didn't like it and so far everyone else finds it to be good.
3 years ago
When i saw they were going to be selling this, i had this strange reaction where i went, you know what, i really feel like a boat racing game.....i played a lot of live and let die on the c64.
3 years ago
highest score for this game is a 9, last i checked.
3 years ago
There's a few 8's and 9's out there icon_smile.gif
3 years ago
I am liking it plenty good and would have to agree with the review, a good blast to the past, better put it on the projector, aye
3 years ago
yer noticed death spank and shank are not exclusives and xbla summer games must be exclusives so i apologise. The demo is not bad, but it doesn't seem fast enough to me? I never played the original. I kinda want a wave race now though lol
3 years ago
You need the expert boats yo, they go pretty fast....crancked a few times into the top 300 last night with them. I reckon this game is pretty good value for 1200 points....makes me feel like i am in the arcade, and worth a way higher score than 5.5. I think ign talk shit.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  28/07/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Microsoft Game Studios
Genre:
  Racing
Year Made:
  2010
Players:
  8

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