STAFF REVIEW of Hydro Thunder Hurricane (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Friday, August 6, 2010.
by Adam Dileva

Hydro Thunder Hurricane Box art Hyyyyyydrroooooo Thunnnnddderrrrrrrrrrrrr! Those who?ve played the original back in the arcade or on the consoles know exactly what those words mean. Hydro Thunder came out just over a decade ago in the arcades and was a huge hit. I know I?ve probably spent way too many quarters on it back in the day among many others. If you?ve not had the pleasure, Hydro Thunder is a boat racing game that pits you against 15 other opponents in races and also prides itself on many secret shortcuts, huge jumps, and massive boosts of turbo.

When Hydro Thunder Hurricane for Xbox Live Arcade was announced, I honestly wasn?t all too excited because I was expecting a remake like the majority of other XBLA titles that are redone. To my surprise, Hurricane is an actual full featured sequel to the arcade hit. No simple graphic updates here, everything is getting a makeover while keeping the spirit of the original true. This sequel is bigger and recreates the essence of true Hydro Thunder in its fast paced glory.

So what?s new other than the obvious massive upgrade in graphics? For starters, there are eight new stages that the environments have a theme park kind of feel. Each level is completely different from each other and has their own distinct feel. Each location is very much like the original where there is a plethora of hidden pathways, huge jumps, ramps, destructible objects and other surprises that are new to the series. All the stages are completely new, so there is a whole new world of paths and secrets to start memorizing.

Fans of the original will be ecstatic to know that some of their old favorite boats have been included among the slew of new ones. The bad boys returning include Cutthroat, Razorback, and Rad Hazard with some new coats of paint and styles to them. Each boat has multiple skins to unlock as you progress through the game as well. Another cool feature added is that there are now animations that show the boost rockets ?folding? and unfolding? as you gain and use your boost from hidden compartments in the boats. Each boat has their own specific statistics that cater to handling, speed, or other attributes depending on your preferred play style.

The original Hydro Thunder was simply just racing against opponents. The long awaited sequel now includes some new modes to entice players to continue playing and learn new skills. There?s the new Ring Master mode that has you racing through rings at predetermined spots while also gaining boost while going through them. Can you keep your boost going by not missing any rings?

Gauntlet is a solo affair much like Ring Master, but instead of going through rings, the raceway is littered with explodeable barrels if you hit them. Boost is placed in specific locations to better your time, but sometimes they are very close to barrels, so do you try your luck and attempt to get the boost? You better hope you don?t hit those barrels and lose precious seconds off your time. These new modes really make you hone your speedboat skills and accuracy while racing with full boost on. These skills carry over into racing and make it easier to pass opponents.

There are also now multi-event Championships that will usually have you completing a Race, Ring Master, and Gauntlet event in a row. Points are awarded for placing in each event then given to players at the end of all of the events. Championships take longer but award more points while allow you to unlock more courses, modes, and boats.

There is one other mode included called Rubber Ducky mode; this has up to eight players online competing in teams of 3 vs 3 or 4 vs 4. The premise is that one person on each team is that team?s ?Duck? and the Duck that crosses the finish line first wins. What?s so special about a race with these rules? The fun is that the other team mates are solely there to try and block and screw up the other team so that your Duck can cross that finish line first. That?s right; you are supposed to grief the other players in this mode as much as you can!

As you start the game, very few courses, modes, and boats will be chooseable at the get-go. This is where the game forces you to play across all the modes to accrue credits to unlock all the other maps, boats, and modes. Sure it?s nothing new, but there weren?t really many times I had to redo races and events to get enough credits to continue the elusive unlocking game. Playing online also counts towards your unlock points which is a perfect addition.

Enhanced water physics is a completely new addition to the series and completely changes the race mechanics. Now everything changes the water surface including your own boat. Your boat leaves behind wakes that can affect anyone behind you or even allow them to draft and gain ground on your position. Other objects will also change the water and waves such as falling debris, animals jumping out of the water, and even whirlpools. These add a new layer of racing that can allow you to jump over an opponent using a big wave, or simply drafting behind someone to gain speed and attempt to pass.

Simply calling Hydro Thunder Hurricane and HD upgrade would be doing it injustice. This is the full featured sequel with new tricks, great visuals, and new ways to race that fans have been waiting too long for and is only available on XBLA. The only thing missing I wish was included was the ability to download your friends? ghosts and race against them.

With the inclusion of online and local multiplayer, the replay value is definitely here as you?ll always be learning new hidden paths and an unlimited amount of human opponents over Xbox Live. In the famous words of the announcer; ?Go! Go!! Go!!!? and download Hydro Thunder Hurricane now for 1200 Microsoft Points and go make some waves.

Downloadable ghosts!

Overall: 7.9 / 10
Gameplay: 7.8 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.8 / 10


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