Hydro Thunder Hurricane Review
It was in November 1999 Hydro Thunder first made an appearance, releasing on the SEGA Dreamcast – before being ported over to the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 the following year. A decade later, developer: Vector Unit has brought the title to the Xbox Live Arcade in the form of a sequel/remake titled: Hydro Thunder: Hurricane.
Hydro Thunder: Hurricane is a powerboat racing title and the first of its kind on Xbox Live Arcade. The main objective within the game is to earn gold, silver and bronze trophies in the game’s fifty events. Earning trophies also rewards players with credits; this unlocks new boats, tracks and events – allowing for progression within the single player game mode.
In order to provide some variety within the game, Hydro Thunder: Hurricane consists of a number of events. They are: Race (in which players carve the waves across a number of tracks against sixteen other racers); Ring Master (in which players weave and jump through an increasingly challenging slalom course, stringing together multiple gates to earn Boost – whilst missing a gate adds time to the player’s current run); Gauntlet (in which players make their way through the tracks, avoiding the explosive barrels); and Championship (which uses a combination of the prior events to create a tournament game mode). Overall you are more than likely to gain a significant amount of enjoyment from each one of the events on offer.
As for boats, the game provides nine in total, each of which is rated in terms of acceleration, top speed, handling and control. The more costly the boat is worth, the better stats it contains. Furthermore, each boat is customisable with a choice of three skins – adding a sense of individuality to the title. The boats are noticeably different in design, giving the player plenty to choose from. Likewise, the game features eight tracks, all of which have been well-designed. The tracks feature terrifying waterfall drops and meandering twists and turns, contributing to a thrilling boat-racing experience.
Throughout each of the game’s tracks are ten hidden packages (coming to a grand total of 80 all-in-all). The packages serve no real purpose within the game except for unlocking one of the game’s achievements, which is worth a measly 5 GamerScore. Whilst they have been well-implemented into the game, often proving a challenge to both find and collect, it would have been more satisfying to be rewarded with something more than just GamerScore.
Once players have collected all the credits – unlocking all the tracks, boats and events, as well as finding all the hidden packages (something that can be achieved quite quickly), there isn’t much else for players to do in the single player mode. Thankfully, Hydro Thunder: Hurricane also supports multiplayer locally and online.
The game’s multiplayer caters for up to four players over split-screen mode, which is an enjoyable feature for players on one console. Over Xbox Live, up to eight players are available to race, with a maximum of four of them being able to play from the same console. As with most racing games online, the race becomes more tense and frantic when battling it out against human opponents. As well as the race event, the multiplayer also features ‘Rubber Ducky’ – an event in which the players are divided into teams, with one player being allocated to drive the Rubber Ducky boat, which players must do everything in their power to stop them from getting across the finish line first. The event itself was a clever idea, though unfortunately the fun is short-lived and most players will opt for the more simpler race events.
The game’s audio is sufficient for an Xbox Live Arcade title, featuring the typical Arcade-style soundtrack and decent sound effects. Regrettably, this is worsened by the fact Hydro Thunder: Hurricane features a cheesy commentator that is more than likely to get on the player’s nerves, as they commentate on the game’s menu screen and at certain points during the races. Whilst it is an annoyance, it can be avoided by simply turning down the volume. Graphically, the title is pretty impressive, featuring some stunning water effects and great detail in the environments and boat models.
On the whole, Hydro Thunder: Hurricane is one of the best developed titles on the Xbox Live Arcade; so much so it feels like an original Xbox title. There is enough content in the well-developed game to justify the 1200 Microsoft Price tag, despite the odd flaw.