Hydro Thunder Review
Okay admit it people, every time you enter your local arcade spot, what is the one machine you always see a line for? Yep, Hydro Thunder, from my personal experience almost all of the time I see a Hydro Thunder machine, I always have to wait for my turn. The lines really do pile up, and there is no doubt that Hydro Thunder made probably the biggest wave last year when it crashed onto the arcades. Midway made the game sport one beautiful graphics engine, some kick ass gameplay and great fun overall. When Midway had decided to port the game over to the PS, DreamCast and N64, I really doubted the game's success on the N64 and PS. My reasons for that prediction was that the game would lose too much from its arcade counter part (especially in the visuals). So see was I right to pre-judge the game, or I was wrong.
Wow! Blue Shift and Midway managed to do some great re-modeling for the Playstation version of Hydro Thunder. Though not graphically impressive as the DC version, the PSX version still does look a lot like the Arcade. Believe it or not, but the PS version actually has some advantages over the DC version. First offl, the DC port of Hydro Thunder had poor frame rate in the Two-Player Mode, secondly the water reflections weren't present, and in addition, some of the tracks didn't seem faithful to the arcade tracks. I know all of you are probably wondering whether or not those problems had been fixed by Midway and Blue Shoft in the PS port of HT. Good to say that they all were, the frame rate keeps very steady during a two player race, the reflections look excellent, and the tracks are exactly like themselves. I'm not saying that the visuals are better than the DC version, because the DreamCast's visuals are marvelous, but the PS does have some advantages as well as disadvantages over the Sega port.
Onto the boat detail, the only thing about the boats that was changed, was the way they look visually. For the PS, graphics are very good. They may not be over shadowing the DC version or the Arcade but they do look pretty smooth. The water looks very sweet as well, in some areas it may look rough but that's usually when you are racing over shallow water, all you need to do is change the view. But what disappointed me was that I wasn't greeted with any FMV or CG or any video sequence. That is pretty weird, almost every PS game I've played for the last year has had at least one video, but I haven't seen any in Hydro Thunder. I guess that about wraps it up for Hydro Thunder looks, lets head on over to the gameplay.
People please don't jump at me for saying this but the gameplay in Hydro Thunder is better for the PS, and is only by a hair. The only reason I have to say that is because the PS version has exclusive tracks and boats that are not available in any other version of Hydro Thunder, otherwise everything is the same in all ports. But come on, the PS version may not look as clean as the DC version but the things that plagued the DC port, were fixed on the PS. And besides, with little to no frame rate loss and more modes you really can't go wrong purchasing the PS version of Hydro Thunder. Remember, with good fortune comes bad luck, and what plagues all versions of HT is that you can't switch the difficulty. So it will take some good practice before you start earning some trophies and cash. Speaking of cash, Hydro Thunder also has a tournament mode called Circuit Mode, this is where you pick your boat and start racing on tracks, make money, earn new tracks and boats. In total, Hydro Thunder has 13 tracks and 9 boats, a nice two player mode, an Arcade Mode and a Time Trial Mode. Hydro Thunder may not be the deepest racer on the market but it sure is one of the funniest.
What is the main thing you would normally hear in racing game besides heart pumping music, the engine from the vehicle. I have to say that the engines in Hydro Thunder really sound like some powerful machines, the engine effects really sound good and loud (I like that!). But what sucks is that there is no in-game music, and that disappoints me. A game like Hydro Thunder deserves a rockin' Techno/Rock soundtrack that will boil your blood and get your adrenaline going. Although, on the bright side the game does have an announcer who speaks during the menus.
Learning the control takes no time, the brake button on the easy courses is something that you don't have to use, although speed is the necessity there. As you progress and race on newer stages maneuvering your boat gets more difficult. Turns become tighter, roads become narrower and the overall challenge just increases. The Dual Shock has been put to work in Hydro Thunder, Blue Shift has made every, bump, scrape, and smash come to life with the Dual Shock. The analog sticks are both fully working with HT, the right is for throttle (acceleration) and the Left stick is for turning.
Midway and Blue Shift brought an excellent arcade conversion to the PS. Hydro Thunder may not be the prettiest racer on the market, but it still does shine in almost every category. Mixing fast action gameplay, great two player fun, and the need for reflexes, Hydro Thunder definitely is a great game. My choice would be to purchase the PS version if you want more replay value, but if you're going for the polish then head on over to the DC port.