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Review: Hydro Thunder Hurricane

It is often said that the thrill is in the chase, and Hydro Thunder Hurricane is no exception to the rules for a compelling fast-paced-competitive speedboat racer. The game is based on the arcade classic ‘Hydro Thunder’, but has been rebuilt from the ground up with stunning HD visuals and amazing dynamic water physics - so realistic you might even need to bring your life jacket!

Developed by Vector Unit and published by Microsoft Game Studios, Hydro Thunder Hurricane is the second game to be released as part of the popular “Summer of Arcade” campaign to promote the biggest and most anticipated blockbuster hits of the season coming first to Xbox LIVE Arcade.

Hydro Thunder Hurricane is also the first official sequel to the Midway arcade classic ‘Hydro Thunder’, which was released on the SEGA Dreamcast, Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64 more than 10 years ago. Rather than simply recreate the original game with updated graphics, Vector Unit has delivered an all-new game engine to give an old title a new next-gen lease of life complete with online Xbox LIVE multiplayer capabilities and brand-new theme park style tracks.


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The Single Player Experience

From the Single Player options you have the choice to play in a traditional Race Mode or Ring Master, Gauntlet and Championship events. After you have made a choice of game type, you now have the option to choose your track and speedboat from the following options when available:

Tracks and Description:

  • Lake Powell - The saphire blue waters and twisting canyons of Lake Powell make for a fast and competitive natural race course.
  • Storming Asgard - The Scandinavian fjords are known for their towering rock walls, impressive glaciers and unpredictable storms.
  • Monster Island - Located in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle, this tropical island is known for its scenic beaches, ancient ruins and mysterious disappearances.
  • Tsunami Bowl - The Japanese have taken speedboat racing to a whole new level with this custom built waterpark stadium.
  • Lost Babylon - A team of archeologists has discovered the entrance to an ancient city, could it be the lost city of Babylon?
  • Paris Sewers - Explore the old industrial sewers beneath the City of Lights and dodge working boats in the open waters of the Seine.
  • Seoul Stream - South Korea’s capital city transformed its waterways into a public park, and unintentially created an outlaw race venue that has to be driven to be believed.
  • Area 51 - Something’s going down at this top secret Nevada military research base. Security is scrambling and the perimeter is down, a perfect opportunity for some off limits racing.

Speedboat Class:

  • Novice Racing - Vector, Damn the Torpedoes, Miss Behave
  • Pro Racing - Thresher, Tidal Blade, Banshee
  • Expert Racing - Cutthroat, Razorback, Rad Hazard


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Initially the game will start on Race Mode with Lake Powell and only the Novice class of available speedboats as an easy introduction. All speedboats have different attributes that affect how you play the game based on their acceleration, top speed, handling and air control. It is also noticeable how each speedboat handles and interacts with water differently based on the size and shape of the boat; some will cut through the waves with ease whilst others drift better or hover on the surface. You’ll quickly get attached to that ‘one’ boat you find familiarity with, but because of the different scene and water variations of each track - you’ll need to find a better boat more suited to the track environment. After your first race, further tracks and speedboats can be unlocked by earning Credits that are rewarded for placing first, second or third in any race or event where you will also win a gold, silver or bronze trophy. Whilst coming first will reward you with the most Credits, anything less than third place will reward you nothing and you will have to replay the race or event again.

The Race Mode is pretty standard of any competitive racer where the objective is just to come first place, but due to the dynamic water physics and how you control your speedboat, this will affect the water around you. The effects of realistic water movement varies in working for and against you; mostly because it can either give a much needed push in the right direction or completely throw you off course. You will find that each track is a fast paced race against the clock and tides, where each wave creates an off balance effect to keep you aware of the need to master the controls of your speedboat - a split-second lack of concentration could cost you your position, or completely trash your boat in a minor explosion!

The challenge to Race Mode is that it will always place you in the sixteenth position where you have to compete against fifteen AI racers in similar class speedboats. You can proceed further through the tracks by obtaining the booster bottles that have been carefully placed ahead of you which rocket propel you for a limited time, or hunt out the shortcuts to gain a few seconds advantage over your nearest rival. The key to winning a race is becoming familiar with the track and timing your actions carefully around the events that will try to knock you out. Fast unpredictable water, scenery objects, track obstacles and weather effects all become your enemy during the battle to gain a leading position.


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Ring Master is a timed event that is split into Novice, Pro and Expert categories where you follow the track by successfully going through coloured rings. Still facing the same track challenges as Race Mode, but without racing against other speedboats, you really are up against the clock where any missed rings will add seconds to your timings. This not only puts you further behind, but adds more pressure in your efforts to get to the finish line. The Ring Master challenges with progressive difficulties is overall the most difficult of events within the game requiring the utmost precision and top speed from your speedboat. Expert difficulty will have your heart beat racing, teeth grinding and playing repeatedly until you make a success from your near misses. The Novice setting has plenty of large sized rings to follow, whilst the Pro and Expert difficulties have smaller rings set further apart with a higher penalty for missing them. Unlike the other events, Ring Master doesn’t require you to find booster bottles because your rocket-powered boost is activated and restored by successfully following the set path of rings whilst keeping your speedboat on track.

Gauntlet is an explosive new take on Time Trial where you are racing through your chosen track to beat the given time set which varies upon your difficulty level. There are no other speedboats to race against, no rings to pass through as in Ring Master, but you will face a continuous stream of explosive barrels that will hinder your racing performance. This game type is not as difficult as Race Mode or Ring Master, but is a decent alternative that will still test your skill against a ticking clock.

Championship Mode is a set of challenges that consist of Racing, Ring Master and Gauntlet events where you will participate in a multi-event game with other AI players across varied tracks. There are separate Novice, Pro and Expert events where the higher difficulties will contain more events per Championship and the winner must have the highest cumulative ranking score from all of the races. It is worth mentioning that as with all the races and events contained within the whole game, you are required to have a certain amount of Credits to unlock each and every one. Once you have gained a gold, silver or bronze trophy from any race or event, you are permitted to race that track again and again if you so wish to help build up your Credits - the higher the difficulty, the more Credits you will be awarded per win.


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The Multiplayer Experience

At the main Multiplayer Menu you can join a Quick Match, Search for Match, Create a Match, set up a local split screen game or an Xbox LIVE Party. For the first time ever on the Xbox LIVE Arcade, Hydro Thunder Hurricane allows you to set up a local split screen game and have it combined with online Xbox LIVE multiplayer. In any online race you can sign in up to 4 local players on your Xbox 360 console and then race against other individual players or parties on Xbox LIVE. The game will not support more than 4 players locally or 8 players on Xbox LIVE.

There are only two Multiplayer Modes contained within this part of the options, so you can choose from the standard Race Mode as found in the Single Player or a whole new game type called Rubber Ducky. Starting with Race Mode, you can race on any of the eight tracks with your chosen class of Novice, Pro or Expert speedboats. Oddly, despite the Expert class of speedboats being far faster than the Novice class, multiplayer matches can race Novice against Expert event though there isn’t a chance in hell of winning! It would have been better to have additional options of segregating Novice against Novice, Pro against Pro and Expert against Expert, but until you have unlocked and mastered the controls of a decent speedboat you just as well be satisfied with a 6th or 8th position. The good news is that if you are only playing with up to 3 people, coming last will net you a bronze medal and still earn you a decent amount of Credits.

Rubber Ducky is a more exciting team based multiplayer game that involves one player from each team controlling a Rubber Duck! Other team players will be in control of faster speedboats where the main objective is to protect your team’s duck from being damaged by the other team. The Rubber Ducky boat is incredibly slow and only team work from those playing on faster boats can help you succeed, the winning team will be the team who manages to get their Rubber Duck across the finish line first.

When playing any of the eight tracks on Xbox LIVE multiplayer mode they will also unlock after the race within the Single Player options without needing the previously stated required amount of Credits. The Credits that you have earned in multiplayer will also be added to your Single Player Credits and count towards the overall amount required to unlock tracks, events, other speedboats and even Avatar Awards!

Hydro Thunder Hurricane will be released on Wednesday 28th July for 1200 MS Points. The game is beautifully presented in glorious HD visuals with tracks and speedboats containing the most intricate of detail on a retail game scale. It is fast-paced, addictive and could bring out a competitive side in the most timid of gamers - this definitely makes you want to succeed with your speedboat, if only just to beat your closest Leaderboard rival that is announced to you whilst playing online. For 1200 MS Points this is fantastic value with a great deal of replay value and certainly a lot of fun. Although it is reasonably priced for everything that it can offer with lengthy Single Player challenges, local and online multiplayer gaming - it could have been better if it had more multiplayer modes because two just doesn’t seem enough!

If you are fan of racing games, then this is definitely a worthwhile purchase, but for those sitting on the fence wondering “should I, shouldn’t I?” you could be pleasantly surprised - a simulated 800 foot drop into the sea with the splashing effects hitting your tv screen could be enough in itself to tempt you, if you do at least try the demo this week?

Final score: 9 out of 10 - Very Good (How do we rate games?)

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4 comments on 'Review: Hydro Thunder Hurricane'

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Comment by w0rms on 2010-07-26 17:04:11 | Reply

We played a ton of HT on the Dreamcast. Looking forward to trying this one out. May plop down the $15 for this one.

It’s quite addictive - I tried really hard to find some faults, but other than lack of extra multiplayer modes I couldn’t find any. Because of the dynamic water, how you land, race etc is different with each play.

So far the first two games in the Summer of Arcade has been outstanding.

Comment by stumpa on 2010-07-26 21:40:38 | Reply

yep used to play this on dreamcast was good this should be awesome gonna check it out

Did you get it & what do you think of it?

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