If you ever saw my good self playing a racing game you'd never want to get in a car with me. You'd also steer clear of hopping in a boat with me as well, thanks to Hydro Thunder. This game, which substitutes cars for power boats, is fun but by no means a perfect racer. A certain amount of suspended disbelief is required as you race round a New York disaster area or a ship graveyard. Your boat doesn't really take much damage, even when you're dodging lava flows, killer whales and plunging down the odd 200ft drop.
In all you have a choice of nine boats, with nine difficulty tracks, plus four bonus tracks for your money. Hydro Thunder is purely about speed and agility, although, since half your time is spent in the air, if you are skilled at timing your jumps it might as well be a flight sim too. It's simplistic and highly addictive, elicibng the much-needed adrenaline rush lacking in so many games.
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Hydro Thunder is the result of 18 months of hard Midway's San Diego team, this game is the ultimate in super boats--an area of racing mostly overlooked in the arcade industry. "I have looked at several boat simulators, mostly on the PC," states Steve Ranck, head designer. "Even though they say on the box they use realistic physics, nothing stands out." He's right. Most "boat simulators" put you in the cockpit of a stationary object as tons of sprites and backgrounds come racing toward you. Hydro will be different. What looks to be the ultimate boat sim focuses on three types of boats: Catamarans (a cool speed boat with two pontoons), Super Boats (your basic V-hull power boat) and Hydro Boats (those awesome two-pound boats that always look like they're about to flip over). There are also a few secret boats, one of which will be a hovercraft, and another is a concept speed boat created by the team. This leads into the levels of difficulty. HT has three difficulty levels: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Unlike some games where a ramped-up difficulty simply means harder competitors, HT offers more control over your boat. In the Beginner level, your vehicle is very stable. As you advance, you get into faster vehicles like the Hydro Boats, and you learn how to use waves to get to boosts hanging in the air or to jump to a higher placement.
The controls are simple enough as well. The steering is controlled by an almost airplane-style wheel. You either push the wheel in to go faster, or pull it toward you to slow down. Cool stunts can be performed by hitting turbos as you are pulling back on the wheel.
Some boats are incredibly fast from the start, but do not utilize the hydro boosts M as well as others. The other boats may not be very fast to start, but really cook when hitting a boost. The boosts are controlled by a meter, which can be extended if Balloon icons are picked up. There is also a special boost called the Mighty Hole performed by simply holding turbos for a while. During the Mighty Hole, your boat will flash white and for a time you will be invincible. At this point you can bash your opponents as much as you want.
Midway created each track from scratch. There will be a minimum of nine straightforward tracks, a couple secret ones and possibly two loop tracks. Locations include Lake Powell in Utah, a lost island complete with tropical settings and exploding volcanos, the Arctic Circle where you get to pull a Titanic and dodge icebergs, the Greek Islands, Venice, the Far East where you race in China and an awesome ship graveyard where military battleships have long been laid to rest.
Hydro is linkable for up to four players, and it just looks awesome. The development team really seems to know what they are talking about when it comes to boats. Time will definitely tell if it will be as good as it looks right now.
If I had to pick one type of game that I would most like to play, my answer would have to be racing. Not only that, but I really like racing games with a twist. The standard road racers are fun but I really enjoy something that takes the race off the pavement. Hydro Thunder is Midway's take on thunder boats -- and what a fun ride it is. If you have ever wanted to drive a hydro, this is the game for you. Okay, maybe it is not realistic at all but it is still a blast to fly over cliffs in high-resolution glory.
As I mentioned above, Hydro Thunder is a boat racing game that is a port of the arcade game of the same name. There are 13 boats that you can unlock, 14 very different tracks, and turbo power-ups galore. This game is pure arcade racing fun. Climb into the cockpit of your thunder boat and drop the hammer on some serious water racing action.
If you are looking for a challenging racing game, look no further. This game has to be one of the most difficult racers I have played in a long time. It is not quite difficult to the point of frustration but it is difficult to the point of wanting to play it again and again to just win one more race. This is the sign of a good racing game in my eyes. You will not sit down and finish this game in one or two gaming sessions. Hell, I would memorize a track and race it 15-20 times more before I would beat it. The game is broken out into four different racing categories and you must start at the first (easy) to unlock the next category (medium). There are three easy tracks and three easy boats that you can select. If you finish in the top three on all three of the tracks, you unlock three medium tracks and three medium boats. You must finish in the top two on all three of these tracks to unlock the hard tracks. If you finish in first place on all of the hard tracks, you will open up bonus tracks and boats. The game starts getting difficult on the medium tracks. I spent hours trying to get past them and I think that I am pretty good at racing games.
There are two real stars of this game. The first star would have to be the boats and the different designs. All of the boats look, feel, and handle differently. Some look like traditional hydros while others look nothing like a hydro but are cool all the same. Each boat has different speeds and handling and it is very important to select the correct boat -- it makes all the difference in the world.
The second star of the game is the tracks. The tracks are so different and varied from one another that you will almost feel like it is a totally different game on each track. You know how lots of racing games have tracks that look and feel very similar? That is definitely not the case here. There are tons of shortcuts, secrets, and special hidden areas scattered around in this game. They did a great job of placing jump ramps and huge drop-offs in just the right places. The first time you hit one of the 300 foot drops, you will be amazed at how cool it is. I don't know how else to describe the tracks other than as very innovative and exciting. Your first time through a track, you will have no idea what to expect. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. There are some tracks where you are actually sliding down ramps out of water. Trust me, it is cool.
Just racing your cool boat around a cool track is not going to put you in the winner's circle though. If that is all you do, you never win a single race. See, scattered across the tracks are different turbo boosts. There is the blue boost, which adds about four seconds of turbo boost and a red one that adds about six seconds of boost. There are even hidden nine-second boosts on some levels. Getting these boost icons is essential for any success you will have. Missing one or two of these in crucial spots will be the difference between winning and losing the race. One other neat thing about the boosts is that when you are using them, you can ram into the other racers and send them flying out of your way. I don't know what I did or how I did it but I managed to hit something that gave me an unlimited supply of boost across an entire track. I am not sure if it was a freak occurrence or if I hit something hidden. All I know is that I needed every bit of it to win the freakin' race.
My only real complaint about the game is the loading speeds and the interface. It is pretty tricky to maneuver through the screens to get you where you need to go. Plus, the most frustrating thing is that there is no way to restart a race quickly. Since each track takes tons of practice, you will have to keep racing on them over and over. The problem is that after every race it takes you back to the beginning of the game and you have to wade through all of the other crap to start the race again. A simple "try again" selection after each race would have done the trick and it is sorely needed.
This will be another of the games that you pull out to show off the coolness of the Dreamcast. I have never seen a game that has such realistic looking water effects. Everything from the regular water you race on to the waterfalls to the crystal clear nearly transparent water -- it all looks great. The boats also look fantastic with super details but probably the coolest graphical touch of the whole game is when you lay on the boost button and the flames come shooting out of the turbo booster. Unbelievable.
Midway seems to have taken a liking to the Dreamcast and we gamers are all the better for it. This game is really fun yet very challenging. The track designs are unparallelled and the different boats are great. I recommend picking this game up. I just wish it was not such a pain to restart a race because you will be doing it often enough.
Wave Race 64, despite being an almost three-year-old veteran, is still absolutely tremendous - on all counts. And it's a measure of the N64's - and Nintendo's - brilliance that the water effects have not been bettered on any system anywhere since.
So, what can Hydro Thunder offer that Wave Race hasn't already? It's another water-based racer, but this time the emphasis is pretty much on straight racing thrills, rather than battling against the ebb and flow of the tide, which Nintendo's classic positively encouraged.
Even so, the physics on the boats themselves are pretty striking; scything through the water and generally reacting as they would in real life, despite the absence of waves. Although there are no weapons, turbo power-ups are available, and there's an emphasis on shortcuts and huge jumps. Coming from developers Eurocom - the folks behind the technically superb Duke Nukem: Zero Hour - Hydro Thunder certainly looks the part, pin-sharp and colourful. And it's incredibly smooth, too. with nary a shudder of frame rates, which bodes well for the two-player mode. Question is, can it come up to the dizzy heights of the superb Wave Race?
We'll find out for sure in the next couple of months...
Hydro Thunder is heating up the arcades, but this fall, it will hit Dreamcast and Nintendo 64. If you haven't played the game yet, you may need a bucket of water handy to cool yourself down after playing.
One or two players can select from 13 different boats (four of which are secret) and 11 different courses in a knock-down, drag-out race to the finish. All the tracks from the arcade version are included--Thunder Park, Lost Island, Greek Isles, Arctic Circle, The Far East, Lake Powell, Ship Graveyard, Venice Canals, Hydro Speedway, New York Disaster and Nile Adventure, each faithfully reproduced. Midway's also planning to do one or two extra tracks for the home versions. One will be a practice track for new players to cut their teeth on, and the second may be the Transylvania track that was left out of the arcade game. At this time, the extra track will go into either the N64 or the DC version.
Boats range from easy to handle to very touchy, and as you master the more difficult boats you'll notice your times on each track getting lower and lower. While racing for time is fun even in two-player mode, competing against each other for place is even better. Using your boat's Mighty Hull ability, you can knock other salty dogs out of the water. Secret boats include a tiny version of the Titanic (called Tinytanic), a military boat (Armed Response), hovercraft (Blowfish) and fishing vessel (Chumdinger)--you get access to those by hitting the "pilot" view three times on the bottom four boats on the Boat Select Screen.
If you play a lot of Hydro Thunder (like some people on the EGM staff have), you know the amount of strategy involved. But even the novice player can get a lot of enjoyment out of racing through the game's highly detailed environments.
A two-player split-screen mode will be included, as will your usual range of other modes, like time attack. The lack of modem play is a bit disappointing--if you don't build it, people won't use it, c'mon companies-but can be overlooked since this will be a launch title.
Midway's early support of Dreamcast is strong, and titles like Hydro Thunder prove that the system can do arcade ports with ease.
Hydro Thunder is one of my favorite games ever, and Eurocom has done a good job of bringing it to the Dreamcast. Only the hardcore arcade fan is going to notice the slight differences, none of which affect the way it plays. The ramps not being lit, lens flare through walls, train being off-timed on Lake Powell, alligators swimming horizontally instead of vertically...! may be nitpicking, but if these things were fixed it would've been arcade-perfect. Considering that this is likely to be the best home version of Hydro Thunder available, it's too bad it's not closer to the arcade. Even if you're good at the arcade, there's plenty of challenge, as you're forced to use the lower-powered boats in the beginning to unlock the game's higher levels and more powerful watercrafts. So many things that could've been put into this to make it the definitive version are sadly missing: a good tutorial mode to test out the controls and for those new to the game to learn how to play, a "ghost" mode so you can race against your fastest time, a tournament mode so you can go straight through all the courses without having to go back into the game's menus, a "free" mode where you could take on tracks without computer players, etc. Still, with all this missing, it's a great game that racing fans will enjoy.
One of the best arcade racing games around makes a rocky transition to the Dreamcast. It's rather disappointing this is a straight port...no special console-only modes or treatments here, other than bonus tracks. It's also disappointing there's no four-player play, only a sluggish two-player mode. But if you haven't had the chance to try Hydro Thunder, please do give this game a ride. It's an excellent racer with fantastic track designs.
Ignoring the anally retentive issues that some people in our office have with this (there are some staunch fans of the arcade machine) you have to admit that at its heart, this is a fun, fun game. There are enough secrets and bonuses to keep you interested, and while the controls aren't-perfect, it feels pretty good for a boat racing game (they usually suck). My only major disappointment is the multiplayer stuff. It slows down...and why no four player fun?
When I first started at EGM, we lived the Hydro Thunder life. Naturally, I'm going to notice differences between the two versions. To my surprise, the DC version fares surprisingly well against its arcade counterpart. Frame-rates, graphics and controls are nearly identical but if you're really anal like Chris lohnston, you'll point out that the alligators are pointing the wrong way. Splitscreen mode, screw that. Yo, I wanna take this baby online!
After making a big splash in the arcade, Hydro Thunder will be making waves on the Nintendo 64. The home-console version of HT will be identical to its arcade counterpart, featuring the same nine boats and just as many tracks--though it may contain more of both. In addition to the one-player game, there will also be a two-player head-to-head mode that enables you to race against a friend via a splitscreen. Hydro Thunder seems to have all the right options, but judging from these very early screen shots, the graphics could use some fine-tuning.
Get ready for a wild ride as Hydro Thunder storms onto the Dreamcast. Featuring all the tracks and supersonic speedboats of the arcade game (and some as-yet-unknown secret enhancements), Thunder represents everything that fans looking for an adrenaline speed rush could want The serpentine tracks feature shortcuts and hidden areas, and the preview version showed great water graphics. None of the boat physics were in yet, so we couldn't tell how fast final gameplay will be--but if it's anything near the arcades, get ready to get wet.
With Hydro Thunder still making waves in the arcades, Midway's revving up a home version for release on the Dreamcast. The DC version will have graphics identical to those in the arcade version, 11 (shortcut-filled) tracks to race on, 13 boats (including 4 hidden ones) to race in, and collectable power-ups to speed you along. The home version, however, may have two extra tracks not found in its arcade parent along with a few other promised surprises. As for multiplayer support, two will be able to race head-to-head via a split-screen, but its not known if the game will support a four-player function via the Internet.
Snapshots and Media
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