The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear the news that the long-lost Hydro
Thunder franchise was being revived. I have fond memories of both the
classic arcade units and the port that was released for Dreamcast. New
studio Vector Unit, which includes members of the Blood Wake team,
clearly shares this feeling, and has taken a lot of care to recreate
the fast aquatic racing gameplay the franchise was known for.
Thunder Hurricane is remarkably full-featured for a downloadable game.
There are eight tracks, each featuring numerous alternate paths. The
nine boats are a mix of new watercrafts and retooled vehicles from the
original (though I’d be lying if I told you I actually remembered every
boat from the old game). Aside from the straightforward races, there
are some (not especially creative) modes like Ring Master (where you,
obviously, race through rings against a timer) and Gauntlet (where the
water courses are littered with exploding barrels). There are
multi-tiered Championships which string all three event types together,
awarding points for placement in each event. In addition, there is
eight-player online and four-player offline splitscreen play. I’m
especially grateful for the inclusion of split-screen, which fits in
perfectly with the era of casual, arcade racing that the game harks
Technically, Hydro Thunder impresses. This is a great
looking game, chock full of bright, compelling visuals. The water
physics are both visually compelling and crucial to the gameplay –
learning to “draft” in a competitor’s wake is essentially, allowing you
to get a boost of speed without wasting valuable boost. Aside from a
few camera issues, I can’t find fault in the overall presentation and
Though there aren’t a large number of courses, the
eight tracks are well designed and place an emphasis on testing your
nerve at every turn. This game isn’t about thoughtfully timing your
braking and approach to each turn; it’s about blindly mashing the boost
button and hoping like hell you can catch that next ramp to refill your
tank. Many times you’ll have the feeling of just squeaking out a
victory at the last second, flying by (or over) an opponent just before
the finish line. It’s even more challenging given some of the epic
creatures that will appear to wreak havoc on the course, like huge
water serpents or giant Norse statutes who swing Thor hammers into the
water, creating huge waves and swells you must avoid. You’ll also have
to take the time to learn the numerous hidden paths and shortcuts,
which become extremely important for victory in the later stages.
Thunder Hurricane is clearly a work of nostalgia, there aren’t really
any new ideas here, just a fervent desire to return video game racing
to a time when speed and fun meant more than complex career modes and
customizable liveries. Its all the more charming for the fact that, in
these declining days of the racing genre, there aren’t many pure arcade
racers anymore. Perhaps services like Live Arcade can be a new start
for a style of game that deserves a second chance.
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.