Hydro Thunder Hurricane Review

By Jake Gaskill - Posted Aug 03, 2010

Midway's high-octane boat racer Hydro Thunder makes its next-gen return in Vector Unit's downloadable sequel that brings all of the blistering speed, over-the-top level design, and white-knuckled intensity that defined the original game. Taking to the waters against friends online provides the perfect escape from the painful difficulty curve that hamstrings the later portion of the game.

The Pros
  • Tracks feel like Disney rides
  • Solid variety of modes and maps
  • Blistering fast and tight racing
The Cons
  • Flawless AI on harder difficulties infuriates
  • Progression structure = some repetition and vehicle digression

The one phrase that continuously, and inadvertently, kept escaping my lips as I was playing Hydro Thunder Hurricane was, "Holy sh**!" Sure, the game does a good job of conveying the fact that you're traveling at absurd speeds, and the undulating water is gorgeously rendered, especially when you move from interiors to exteriors and back again, but it's the epic scope of the levels and explosive intensity of the racing that consistently caused me to let slip some rather salty exclamations.



Yo Ho Yo Ho A Race Boat’s Life For Me

Each level feels like a any boat-based Disney ride, with each one featuring a wholly unique storyline and events (i.e. chunks of a freshly bombed mountain crash down around you, a giant sea creature leaps causing giant waves as it lands, etc.) that not only influence the track but the race as well. Because the developers put so much time into creating realistic water physics, it's easy to hit a jump when you don't mean to, or miss a boost canister because someone’s wake pushed you off course. It definitely takes some time to come to grips with the fact that simply driving isn't enough to win a race, since it also comes down to what the water is doing at key points in the race.

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Race Together, or Yell Alone

The majority of the frustrations that crop up in the single-player fade away in multiplayer, because you know the other players are capable of making a mistake even if they are the best driver in the race, and you can simply enjoy the thrill of the race. In the higher difficulty events in single-player, there's little to do but sit back and watch as the computer flawlessly maneuvers around the tracks to victory, regardless of your performance. While you can progress through the game winning nothing but bronze medals, even that becomes a nearly impossible proposition on the hardest circuits. Strangely enough, there isn't much rubber-banding, which is a relief.

Thankfully, once you hit that point of control-chucking frustration in single-player, you can jump into multiplayer and have fun again. In addition to the standard race mode, there is a mode in which one player drives a giant, rubber ducky, and the rest of the team has to protect it, while also trying to destroy the other team's. It's a bit more chaotic than the regular races, but it's still enjoyable. The games looks and plays smooth online, and will definitely end up being where most people spend the majority of their racing time.



Wet and Wild (and Relatively Cheap)

Hydro Thunder Hurricane delivers the kind of "Whaaaaaaat?!" thrills of a Burnout-style racer in a downloadable package. The tracks are packed with awe-inspiring moments and inventive designs, and the racing is tight and fluid. While only the best of the best will find any joy in the harder difficulty challenges, racing online with friends provides all of the excitement and joy you'd want from an arcade racer (all for just $15).