Weâ€™ve got Boost â€“ letâ€™s use it!
Weâ€™re into the second week of XBLâ€™s Summer of Arcade and despite offering dynamic and exciting racing delights, Hydro Thunder Hurricane was always going to find the universally praised Limbo a tough act to follow. Not that there arenâ€™t aquatic thrills and spills a plenty in this powerboat-racing sequel to the original arcade game Hydro Thunder, but it doesnâ€™t have the same wow factor.
In the single player game, you can choose from race, ring master, gauntlet and championship modes which are all centred on the 8 courses available. The courses are impressive and lavish in design and location including the hanging gardens of Babylon, the sewers of Paris (minus the filth I remember seeing once on a school exchange trip) and the fabulous Asgard complete with ghostly Viking ships, gigantic swinging war hammers and Arnold Schwarzenegger brutes shouting â€œgo back!â€ Each course in race and championship mode feels like itâ€™s straight out of an action movie and are well designed to be a mixture of sharp twists, treacherous turns and incredibly high freefalls with waterfalls, swelling tidal waves, monsters and police boats to also contend with. The courses in the ring master and gauntlet modes are the same as in race mode but instead of battling against computer AI racers, itâ€™s you against rings and the clock or explosive barrels and the clock â€“ Iâ€™m pretty sure you can work out which is which. Alternatively, you can race up to four local players for split screen or race up to eight online for motorboat mayhem.
There are of course the classic Hydro Thunder shortcuts to hunt out that will shave an all-important couple of seconds off your race time plus lots of secret shiny emblems to collect and most importantly boost canisters to give your boat the edge. Whilst racing, your team (heard but never seen) will not only comment on your performance but will helpfully talk to you about your boost levels; â€œweâ€™re low on boostâ€, â€œwe need boostâ€, â€œboost is readyâ€ and â€œweâ€™ve got boost, lets use itâ€ followed by â€œwe could have made that jump if we had boostâ€ or the alternative â€œbetcha if we had boost we could make that jumpâ€â€¦. You get the idea. This commentary would be very useful and not at all annoying if this wasnâ€™t a game that was built around using boost! In order to finish the race within the top three, you are gonna have to grab either a blue or red can of boost to fire up your onboard rocket and blast you over the winning line. As soon as you have a can, the boost comments kick in. The blue cans donâ€™t last very long yet are just about spread out along the courses that you can hit another as soon as one runs out. Great. Constant chatter of needing boost, having boost, using boost then wanting boost, boost and yet more boost â€“ this game should have been sponsored by Cadburyâ€™s! For those of you that donâ€™t mind the commentary, they have included a high-pitched peeping alarm that will also sound as your boost is beginning to run low. AAAGGGHHHHH!
However, the upside of boost means there are genuinely fierce and fantastic moments within each race as the scenery flips by as you hit the perfect line at almost 200mph! Coming in the top three means not only do you get a shiny trophy but are awarded credits which go towards unlocking other courses, boats and skins (with design names including the delicious â€œhot chipsâ€ or the rather saucy â€œhugs and kissesâ€), though be prepared to repeat each course a few times before you have enough credits to level up â€“ a little humdrum but not as boring as it would seem because at the end of the day, youâ€™re driving a rocket fuelled powerboat â€“ and thatâ€™s fun! There are three classes of boats – normal, pro and â€œyouâ€™re crazyâ€ expert. Each boat differs in acceleration, top speed, handling and air control and the differences are immediately obvious once youâ€™re on the race route. These variations mean over time you can fully explore every nook and cranny of every course but arenâ€™t essential to gaining credits. It took me just over 3 hours to unlock all the courses, simply by using the boat with the most balanced stats in each class. The difference between each class really comes down to handling rather than speed, as the boosts will comfortably get you to the chequered flag first. As you can go back and replay races, you could simply keep clocking up credits on the first normal race but wouldnâ€™t suggest this, as itâ€™s dull as ditchwater.
Overall, the transition from the original arcade game to this is great. It retains itâ€™s repetitive arcade racing spirit mixed with fabulous courses and hidden surprises. Perhaps not the biggest splash this summer, more of a quick squirt from a hosepipe but still should go down a storm with racing fans everywhere.