Vector Unit’s Hydro Thunder Hurricane is the first official sequel to the arcade and Dreamcast classic Hydro Thunder. This new game takes what midway did way back in 1999 and adds some up-to-date tech to the formula. Water physics have improved and so have the in-game graphics, but have the improvements to Hydro Thunder Hurricane given the game what it takes to chop it up with the rest of the Summer Of Arcade heavyweights?
Hydro Thunder Hurricane is all about simple fun racing, the lack of game modes on offer reflect that fact. There are only three main modes on offer, these include Race, Ringmaster and Gauntlet. I don’t think I need to explain Race so I will move onto Ringmaster. This mode is all about rings, more specifically a set course of rings and your goal is to make it through all of them in the fastest time possible. Each time you pass a ring you get a little nitro boost, this boost becomes vital on the harder difficulties because the CPU times are much, much more competitive. Gauntlet is in a way is pretty similar to Ringmaster except for the fact that the ring gates are gone and the course has been littered with exploding barrels, which as you already know, have to be avoided at all costs.
Each event is broken up into classes, these classes are novice, pro and expert. Each class determines the game’s difficulty level and which boat type you will race with. Higher difficulty levels offer the fastest boats, but will also give you the most challenge. Your class choice will also affect how much credits you can earn. With expert offering the most amount of credits per race. These credits are used to unlock Boats, Events, Gamer Pictures and Avatar Awards. Each of the eight unique tracks also has collectables. You can use these collectables to unlock new snazzy skins for your boats. There are three skins per boat which means there are plenty of skins to unlock.
Visually Hydro Thunder Hurricane looks pretty decent for an Arcade game. The boats are all nicely detailed and the boat transforming effect you see when you acquire boost is a nice little touch. Tracks on the other hand are a little bit hit and miss. A few of the eight tracks on offer seemed to be a little bit on the dark side. I sometimes found it difficult to spot the shortcuts and collectables due to the dark nature of the track, However I’m willing to admit that the darkness I experienced could be my TV’s brightness, but I’m more inclined to say it was the actual track lighting. The water on the other hand is excellent, waves look realistic and your boat reacts to them in the way you would expect. Vector Unit have really done a good job at making you feel like you are racing on a rough sea or river.
As with most modern games Hydro Thunder Hurricane has multiplayer and to be honest it felt a little tacked on to me. There are only two modes of play, one being the standard Race and the other being a game mode called Rubber Ducky. The Race mode is pretty much the same as the singleplayer mode expect there are less boats and you are racing against other people. Rubber Duckey on the other hand is pretty much the cat and mouse game mode found in many other racing games. The mode is broken down like this, Each team decides who will drive the Rubber Ducky boat, once thats done all the other players on that team have to help the Rubbery Duckey get to the finish before the other team. It sounds pretty simple and it is to be honest, but don’t let that put you off because there is some fun to be had, especially if you play with a bunch of buddies.
To wrap up, fans of the old game will no doubt be happy with what Vector Unit have done with Hydro Thunder Hurricane. Newcomers to the franchise may feel like the 1200 Microsoft point price tag is a little to steep for what essentially is the classic game with a few bells and whistles added.