Hydro Thunder Hurricane was second in line for the 2010 Xbox Live Summer of Arcade and the sequel to to 1999 game Hydro Thunder for the Dreamcast. In addition to it being a classic Dreamcast title, I’m very nostalgic for this game because me and my father were big fans of the game, and we even played it at the arcade/bowling alleys when we had the chance. Could Hurricane return those fond memories, or will it be 1200 Live points down the drain?
Hydro Thunder Hurricane is all about riding the waves and boosting past others; there isn’t weaponry to be found on these troubled waters. The game sports a plethora of boats, ranking from Novice to Pro to Expert. I love the boats with the best handling; other boats feel very slippery to me. And with these boats, you’ll be zooming the waters. A great strength of racing games is having that sense of speed, and Hurricane makes you feel like you’re speeding on the water. And trust me, when you start drafting behind another boat, turn your controller like it’s a Wiimote, or if you have to push the back button after a nasty crash, you’ll appreciate the sense of speed Hurricane gives off. You can pick up boost powerups along the way (in the mild blue flavor or spicy-hot red flavor), you can use your turbo to boost jump, and there are also gear powerups to open up certain segments of a level, like a ramp or lowering a gate to jump through. These all add up to some exhilirating, arcadey style races. As you start to understand the Hurricane formula, you’ll never be without boost. Also, the pre-race boost is one of the easiest to enable in all of race gaming. You’d have to be a real putz to not start off with a boost jump.
Presentation-wise, Hurricane is only decent and won’t fascinate you. The boats are cool and have the usual fiery paint jobs and the tracks are unique and varied throughout, but graphically it doesn’t add life to the levels where I think there should be. And, as is usually the case in these types of games, the announcer adds absolutely nothing to the thrill of the race. It makes me appreciate whens games like Mad World can get a funny comedian such as Greg Proops to do crazy commentary. Music wise, load up some custom music on your 360 or put on some headphones; it’s a pretty forgettable soundtrack.
Hydro Thunder features 4 different play modes. The first is traditional race mode, where you always start in 16th and have to work your way up to first. It gets really tough once you get to expert mode, because you can’t afford a single mistake if you want to finish in 1st place. The second mode is Ring Master, where you go through rings to increase your boost energy. If you’re good, you’ll stay in the rings and be full-on boosting the whole race, but if you miss a ring, your entire boost meter is reset to zero and you’ll have to accept the 1 or 2-second penalty for missing a ring. The third mode is gauntlet, where you have to navigate the tracks without running into explosive barrels placed in the water. Barrels are also dropped from helicopters, so be careful with the waves. And the fourth mode is a Championship mode, which puts two different events from the previously mentioned game modes into a tournament format.
There are 8 tracks in the game, with some of the tracks being traditional lap 1-2-3 while the others are one long course with multiple paths. The course-type levels stand out because they really feel alive in the game as a viking statue might strike its axe down to cause huge waves. On a couple of the 1-2-3 tracks, you’ll notice that things have changed since your last lap and you’ll be forced to adjust on the fly. This looks great as you read it, but gameplay difficulty presents a problem with this. If you want to win, there’s really only one way to go, and the game is pretty damn punishing if you ride one wave to high or if you have a couple bumps along the way. Only one path has that red powerup you really need to get a push for 1st, and you can’t afford to pass it up.
Multiplayer is here, and it’s a setup that’s welcome, especially for arcadey style games like Hurricane. You can do local 4-player racing and have 4 players locally play online with others. You go through races just like usual against 7 other players and earn credits toward stuff in the single player “campaign”. Online multiplayer just doesn’t offer enough to keep me coming back. I’d rather spend my time challenging myself for times and golds.
You’re obligated (by me) to at least check it out since Xbox Live has a free demo of every arcade game. I think even in light of the difficulty, my final say is that you Gotta Buy It. At times, it will become a frustrating trial of finding the right path and maneuvering the right way at the same time, but the racing element is excellent in Hydro Thunder. Some might even find the idea of “the right path” to be a fun challenge for them. I mean, what do you want? You want you’re cheeves to be served on a silver platter? Play the game, get mad, then get even! Despite its difficulty, I still come back to it.