Hydro Thunder was always one of those games back in the day that was just an absolute blast to play in the arcade. If you could find one of the sit down cabinets with a large monitor and loud sound system, the experience was an intense thrill ride that could make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Unfortunately, the only proper console release the game received was the Dreamcast version. As time has gone on, Hydro Thunder has just sort of faded into the background, with little of hope of ever being revived. Well, that’s all about to change, asdeveloper Vector Unit is about to release a true sequel to the Dreamcast version, exclusively on XBLA. I got my hands on the demo today at E3, so hit the jump to hear all about my wet experience.
The first thing you notice about Hydro Thunder Hurricane when you start playing is it feels familiar right out of the gate. The feeling begins when you get to the boat select screen and all of the sea craft are similar, if not exact replicas, from the original game. The developers purposely did this to give the game a nostalgic feeling for fans of the series.
When you get to the map screen though, everything changes. Instead of recreating old maps the designers created eight completely brand new maps from scratch. Three of them are circuit maps with multiple laps, while the other five are linear races where you rush go from point A to point B without revisiting any old locations.
Once you’re out of the map screen and begin the race itself, you get right back to that familiar old school Hydro Thunder feel I mentioned previously. Water physics and boat handling feel like they’ve been ripped right out of the old Dreamcast game, and trust me when I say that’s a good thing. I immediately felt comfortable playing and knew exactly what I was doing.
For those of you who haven’t played a Hydro Thunder game before, playing is all about understanding how the water physic effect the way your boat races, and adjusting accordingly. When you have tons of boats racing, all stirring up the water, and other objects causing waves, like falling rocks or sea creatures, you have to adjust quickly or risk getting knocked off course. It all combines for an extremely hectic experience that’s a blast to play.
I was only able to get my hands on one of the levels, but it was exactly what I have come to expect from a Hydro Thunder game. There were lots of jumps, most of which land you boost power-ups if you hit them correctly. These power-ups fill your boost meter, allowing you a quick burst of speed when the A-button is pushed. The level was also filled with an enormous sea creature which created a huge whirlpool I had to avoid, and it was filled with waterfalls that blurred my vision.
Did I mention the super sharp turns of the original game make an appearance as well. When you see them you need to prepare accordingly or risk getting slammed into a wall. Of course being an arcade racer, most of the game can be played without ever lifting your finger off the accelerator. You can use the break to get better race times, but if you navigate the water appropriately and turn your craft at the right time, you never need to.
I haven’t mentioned the graphics yet, but of course they are beautiful. They feel very arcade like, and not super realistic, which is good because Hydro Thunder was never about realism. It’s about totally over the top boat racing action that it out of this world.
If there’s one thing I want to get across it’s that Hydro Thunder Hurricane looks, feels, and plays like Hydro Thunder of yesteryear. If you’re a fan of the series you will immediately feel right at home and enjoy it. If you’ve never given it a try, this will be your chance. Check back later this summer for the official review when it releases for the XBL Summer of Arcade.