What We Already Know
If the game industry’s taught me one thing it’s that you should (almost) never count a good game out. Hydro Thunder Hurricane is the follow-up to a decade-old arcade racer / Dreamcast launch title from Midway, a Chicago-based publisher that itself capsized in 2009. Luckily Microsoft swooped in to pick up the rights and here we are, with a new arcade-style wave-racer 11 years after the original.
What We're Seeing Now
Hydro Thunder Hurricane is the brainchild of a tiny developer called Vector Unit. While Vector Unit didn’t work on the original game its devs clearly hold Midways’ minor classic in high regard. Hurricane is being pitched as a true sequel to Hydro Thunder, recreating what worked so well in the original (read: massive, shortcut-laden tracks, super-simple, arcade-style action) and bringing the rest up to modern technological standards.
Based on my short time playing Hurricane , the game couldn’t feel closer to its predecessor. The simple, player-friendly handling is practically a carbon copy of the original’s, and it’s never too tough to take a corner or recover from crashes. In addition to the old throttle and nitro button, Hurricane adds a button for the boost jump, which launches your craft off ramps and into shortcuts. (In the first game the boost was activated with a button combination, but a lot of players failed to notice it existed.)
Perhaps the biggest changes come in the wave physics, which are now (somewhat) accurately modeled. At times your ride will be anything but smooth, what with your competitors leaving turbulence in their wake. On the other hand a new drafting system can give you a speed boost when you trail another boat, if you want to risk the waves.
Hydro Thunder was a surprisingly difficult game, to the point that a lot of folks couldn't even unlock all the tracks. Hurricane will use a more lenient system in which you can earn unlocking points in any mode, multiplayer included, so it hopefully it won't be such an uphill (upriver?) battle this time out. DLC is in the works too, though the devs aren't ready to discuss any specifics. New tracks and boats seem like no-brainers to me.
Hydro Thunder Hurricane looks like an excellent surprise for fans of Midway's flamboyant racer. It's due out in July as part of Microsoft's Summer of Arcade promotion.