Hydro Thunder Hurricane Review

   28/07/2010 at 20:42       Richard Horne       13 COMMENTS. - Score 3/5
 - Hydro Thunder Hurricane, Vector Unit, WaveRace, Powerboats, Xbox Live Arcade

The people that spend their working days posting on videogame forums are a predictable bunch. When they’re not extolling the virtues of their preferred consoles, they’re either nailing their colours to a best-loved developer’s mast or worshipping at the feet of their favourite marketing executive, salivating and lapping up their words like a thirsty lapdog. And these last few post-E3 weeks have been no exception.

But in and amongst the usual in-fighting, trolling and flame-baiting there has been one recent recurring theme: time vs. cost.

This is hardly an original topic of conversation for the notoriously vehement and vociferous gaming community, but it’s particularly apposite given Microsoft’s current Summer of Arcade promotion, a promotion during which it intends to release a series of high-profile digital-download-only Xbox Live Arcade titles. While last week saw the release of the delightful Limbo, this week’s tasty morsel is Vector Unit’s Hydro Thunder Hurricane, a current-gen sequel to the reasonably popular Dreamcast and Midway produced original.

The time vs. cost discussion hit critical-mass last week when many gamers refused on principal to buy Limbo for 1200 marketplace points (£10.20) because it only apparently clocks in at a short-lived 3 hours. Gamers are a demanding bunch, and even though most are quite happy to spend £10 to £15 at their local multiplex for a couple of hours’ viewing pleasure and a sugar rush, they expect more from their games.

Luckily for them then, Hydro Thunder Hurricane offers much more longevity, a decent number of game-modes, plenty of opportunity for replay thanks to its decent online functionality and roster of powerboats and perhaps best of all, a veritable bucket-load of blue-skies gameplay, and all at that same price-point.

For those of you new to the series, Hydro Thunder Hurricane can be best summarised as Wipeout meets WaveRace. You take control of a 25-foot long power-boat and it’s your job to best utilise nitros, boost-jumps and ramps as you navigate your way around a plethora of varied levels across a wide-range of vistas, racing against 15 other boats in single-player and up to 7 of your mates over Xbox Live.

With shortcuts-a-plenty it becomes evident quite quickly that in order to succeed you’ll need to learn the best routes through each level and try and keep out of harm’s way as you battle through the game’s 4 main modes. Race mode sees you taking on single events one at a time. Ring Master requires you to power through a level riding through as many rings as possible along the way, with a penalty incurred for any you miss. Gauntlet is a good old-fashioned time trial mode. While last but not least, Championship mode, the traditional staple of racing games, features multi-event leagues with an overall winner declared after a set number of challenges.

Graphically Hydro Thunder Hurricane is a mixed bag. While its visuals are crisp and sharp, its textures detailed and realistic and the overall experience fast-paced and smooth, it lacks a certain charm and panache that other similar racers offer. I’d also hasten to add that those of you averse to v-synch screen-tearing might want to give it a miss.

Everything’s also presented in that typical ostentatious SEGA style with the cheese-factor turned up to the max. That isn’t a criticism and is at first quite endearing, but it eventually begins to grate slightly and you’re left with no option but to tone things down by adjusting the volume of the over-enthusiastic announcer and non-descript Rock/Pop.

The controls are also sharp and precise with enough variety between the various boats to keep things interesting. But throughout, you can’t help but shake that feeling that the game has no real soul. I mean technically there’s nothing wrong it per se, but it’s just not particularly memorable or surprising. And even the ridiculously showy set-pieces, which you would thing would provide you with plenty of memorable moments are fairly lacklustre at best.

But perhaps the one thing that disappointed me the most was the water in the game. While it looks completely believable and realistic, it doesn’t seem to actually physically affect or hinder your racing much at all. Instead I almost immediately found myself hankering for Nintendo’s almost 10 years old WaveRace BlueStorm which was released around the time of the launch of the GameCube. I remembered the swell and force of its waves and currents as having a much more physical impact and was surprised that this modern-day high-definition title felt somewhat lacking. I even dug out my copy of WaveRace to see whether or not my rose-tinted spectacles were in full-force or not, but if anything, the game was much better than I even remembered and still an absolute delight to play. And, as I initially suspected, its waves and water had much more of an impact on proceedings.

And so to come full circle and back to my original point about time vs. cost, sure Hydro Thunder Hurricane might well justify a purchase thanks to its 10-20 hours of gameplay. But you’ve got to ask yourself this question, and answer honestly: will those hours be as magical, enchanting and as enjoyable as Limbo’s 3?

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