With so many other games leaning towards, and embracing the realism aspect, Hydro Thunder: Hurricane feels like a breath of fresh air. Shunning anything remotely realistic like it were a cat who'd just had a new collar put on, Hydro Thunder is an adrenaline pumping, surf-soaked
fun ride – imagine Mario Kart, without the weapons, on water, and you’ll be on
the right track. A racing game that thrives on arcade thrills, rather than dull realism, Hydro Thunder: Hurricane will have you, your family, and your children on the edge of your seat as you career through the incredibly themed, over the top levels, bouncing into other boats, and the spectacular scenery as you go.
Everything in Hydro Thunder has been designed to keep you on your toes, and your heart constantly racing. Rather than just having you race around eight varitaions of the same track, just in slightly different colours, everything about Hydro Thunder's courses can, and often will change as the race progresses to catch you out. Littered with secret passages that let you cut off huge corners, ridiculously over the top scenery, like dinosaurs, giant vikings, and even frozen mammoths (that we somehow managed to miss), the things that appear to just be lying next to the track often trigger and come to life just as you drive past, forcing you to make a last second change of course, and keep your adrenaline pumping.
As an example, just before we sat down to this review, we crashed into a police boat, and both careered through a wooden fence, over a giant waterfall into a valley below. Splashing into the water at the bottom, our impact triggered a landslide from a cliff, which threw giant waves into the water. As our boat leapt from wave to wave, the police boat yelled at us to pull over - seconds before it crashed into an explosive barrel, which had been shunted into its way, and splintered into a pile of driftwood, floating on the water. Floating into pieces. Travis be damned - a mellow, relaxing Sunday cruise on the lake, this isn't.
And although it may sound it could be incredibly frustrating - it isn't. Our resident gaming novice, Sarah, who can barely win a race on most other racing games was absolutely fine with this - even managing to come in first place in several of the races, and progress through the career with relative ease. While the changing tracks force you to act on your toes, they never cause you to come a cropper, and never feel unfair - instead, just helping to make the game feel more exciting, as opposed to many other dull, more realistic racing games.
With four player split-screen on offer, which even lets you take your split-screen game online, and compete against up to 8 players, Hydro Thunder: Hurricane's multiplayer is a highlight of the package. Cramming three other players onto a sofa, and duking it out is one laugh after another, as your boats fly through the air, or, if you're like us, bounce off a wall, land upside down, and then somehow manage to right itself as everyone else scoots past you. It's exciting, it's easy for anyone to pick up and play, and most importantly - it's a heck of a lot of fun.
But if you're the sort of misery guts who needs more than "just" fun to keep you playing, Hydro Thunder has plenty to keep sucking you back in for more. It has that "one more go" factor in bucket loads - thanks in no small part to its rewards system, which gives you points for achieving first, second or third place in the races. Brilliantly, it doesn't matter what type of race you do, as the game rewards you equally for all - whether it's split-screen multiplayer with family and friends, or single player against the computer, whatever you're doing, you'll be earning points, which unlock new tracks, boats, tournaments - and even avatar items, including a toy boat!
And although we've sat around trying to think about problems for a while, there really are very few. The main problem we have is the price. With only eight courses on offer, even if they are incredibly detailed, dynamic, and inventive, it still seems like a lot to ask, for effectively very few tracks. The other strange point is that while there are a two modes that can be played online, if you're keeping your game offline, you can only have standard races - the "Rubber Ducky" mode, where you're split into teams, who each have to protect your team's Rubber Ducky, while doing everything you can to stop your opponent's duck, during its race to the finish line - is disappointingly absent for offline play.
Still, despite the few problems, they don't do much to spoil the overall package. With some of the most exciting, interesting, and action packed racing we've seen on the 360, you won't go far wrong with this - and if you find yourself some cheap Microsoft points that'll bring it down to less than a tenner, it's well worth it.