Hydro Thunder Hurricane Review

Hydro Thunder Hurricane (Only available on Xbox Live Arcade)
ESRB Rating: E
Players: 1-8
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Vector Unit
Release Date: July 28th, 2010
Xbox Live: Online Multiplayer

Price: 1,200 Microsoft Points

Parent Talk: As per usual with XBLA games, Hydro Thunder supports a maximum 1080p resolution, with audio weighing in at 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound.  The ESRB has rated Hurricane as E for Everyone, and features nothing offensive.

Hydro Thunder was a thrilling boat racer back in the mid-to-late nineties, towards the end of the vintage arcade days.  If you’re at all familiar, then you’re likely of age to remember this series known for its boat boosting and impressive water effects.  Wave Racer evolved, if you will.  Years later, Hydro Thunder is back with an XBLA exclusive that proves arcade games can still be fun, but need to evolve a little in order to truly shine.  After coming off Limbo, it was tough enjoy Hurricane since I’ve never been a fan of the genre to begin with.

The Great:

This is for you Ahmed.  We always bug Ahmed, you know, one of COE’s founding members.  He always complains about the industry’s increasing separation from offline multiplayer, and lack of hybrid.  Thus he may just cry over this.  Hydro Thunder Hurricane features up to four-player split screen, and the option to invite others from Xbox Live.  Four players on one couch can take on others from all over the world.  You know you want it Ahmed.

The Good:

+ Plausible selection of courses, boats, and events.  There are eight unique courses, three different events, and a solid roster of boats to use.  Each boat has the usual strength and weakness.  For example some manage better in the air, while others can zip around corners like no one’s business.  The three events are: standard races, solo ring races, and time trial…where the course is loaded with explosive barrels.

+ Same fun.  Though Hurricane is somewhat dated, I enjoyed racing around the various courses.  The core idea is managing your boost, and executing boost jumps to move ahead of the competition.

The Bad:

That sounds familiar.  Most of the sound effects came from the original arcade game.  You can enjoy them still of course, but they just sound dated, which is especially true if you own a surround sound system.  Couple that with a lacklustre announcer, and you have a less-than-exciting audio experience.

– Umm Houston, we have a problem.  Houston, are you there?  One of my biggest complaints is the pacing.  Typical racing games always feel slower because they aren’t designed to depict 400 mph driving speeds.  While these boats aren’t supposed to move ridiculously fast, they are supposed to at a high speed.  I think the boats are sluggish, even after boosting.  I may not be a professional with this genre, but sometimes the boost didn’t seem to do anything.

– Course layout, umm,hello.  I thought that often while madly pressing the back button to reset on the course.  Racing courses should never look like it’s veering to the right, when it’s really shifting left.  It’s possible that I completely suck, but I believe a portion of the fault belongs to questionable design choices.

The Ugly:

Disappointing visuals.  They’re not ugly, but it’s close.  Each track bears a theme.  A few are awesome, but most are dry, like the monster island track for example.  Sea monsters don’t necessarily mean popping visuals.  I never thought “Dude, that’s sick!” as a monster jumped out while racing.  Instead, I would look and think “Meh.”  Forza and the like has evolved racers in that it’s now difficult to play something this simple-looking.  At least it’s colourful?

The Lowdown:

This summer is slated to be one of the strongest for Xbox Live Arcade releases.  We had Limbo last week, and next week brings a brand-new co-op enabled Castlevania, but…you might want to sit this week out.  I’m not a big fan of boat racers, and the multitude of little annoyances can likely be forgiven only by HT enthusiasts.  My recommendation: download Limbo instead.