Hydro Thunder: Hurricane | Gameguide Hydro Thunder: Hurricane – Gameguide

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The Hydro Thunder series has a fine pedigree, starting with a Midway coin-op arcade game released way back in 1999. Hydro Thunder: Hurricane for XBox Live Arcade is the latest member of the family and like the rest is an arcade racer involving driving high speed powerboats through a variety of fantastic race courses. What distinguishes Hydro Thunder: Hurricane from other arcade racers is that the racing happens on water. This adds a dynamic aspect to each race and most of the courses have events, creatures or machines that will add large waves for you to race over.

You start with a single ‘Novice’ level boat and course and have to complete a series of races against 15 CPU opponents or lone challenges to unlock more boats and content by earning credits. Placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the race or posting a low enough time in a challenge gives you varying amounts of credit depending on the skill level. There’s 8 distinct courses to race on with three skill levels: Novice, Pro and Expert. The courses are all in fantastic settings like the interior of a hydroelectric dam, a monster filled island, sewers pipes under Paris, or an alien infested secret lab. The courses are a mix of single lap and multiple lap events and each one is scattered with ‘boost’ power ups which fill your boat’s boost meter for extra speed. Snagging boost is vital for winning races in record times, but you can also boost jump, allowing you to get into secret areas and shortcuts in each course. 

There are two lone challenge modes: ‘Ringmaster’ and ‘Gauntlet’, again with Novice, Pro and Expert levels. Ringmaster has you racing through a series of fixed rings on each course. Each ring you hit gives you a little more boost to burn, and each ring missed gives you a time penalty. I ignored Ringmaster initially and just tried to unlock all eight by racing. However going back later I noticed that racing Ringmaster is an excellent way to learn the tracks, as the Pro and Expert Ringmaster levels guide you through the secret areas of each course. Gauntlet is less interesting, as it involves you racing through the course filled with explosive barrels. Hitting a barrel is really just a time penalty as you have to restart from the point your boat exploded. The dynamic nature of the water combined with the floating barrels of death can make Gauntlet rather tricky on the Pro and Expert levels too. The final single player mode is ‘Championship’ which is a series of fixed races and challenges scored on points. For example you might race a Ringmaster, a Gauntlet and a final Race over different courses for a particular Championship. Winning gold in the races and challenges also allows you to unlock different skins for the 9 boats you can play, although the skins have no effect in game.

Hydro Thunder has good multi-player support with a split screen mode for up to four players on one XBox and hosted XBL multiplayer matches with up to 8 players. The multiplayer races are fast and frantic fun, and you can expect a lot more argy bargy from online players than you’ll get from the rather polite AI racers in single player. As each race typically only lasts 3-5 minutes you won’t be waiting long in the game lobby for your first race either.

There’s also several gamer pictures and two Avatar awards in Hydro Thunder for you to unlock. The first Avatar award is rather dull, but the second is a very nicely detailed toy. As I don’t like spending real MSP on virtual doodads for my Avatar it’s nice to see so many XBL Arcade titles these days include a couple of items to add to your collection.

Overall Hydro Thunder: Hurricane is an enjoyable, well executed arcade racer, although for experienced gamers it will be awfully familiar territory. It’s family friendly too with an ‘Everyone’ rating and has quickly become a favourite of our resident 6 year old. It is quick to launch and play, with minimal level load times and most races taking under 4 minutes, but has that addictive ‘one more go’ quality you want from an XBox Live title.

Reviewed on: XBox 360

Available on: XBox 360

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