Hydro Thunder - Sega Dreamcast - Midway - Racing - 1-2 Players
Graphics **** 1/2
Sound **** 1/2
Replay Value ****
Midway brings another of their arcade hits home with the release of Hydro Thunder for the Sega Dreamcast. As I never had the pleasure of playing this machine in the arcades, I'll have to stick with my impressions of it as a standalone title.
Graphically, Hydro Thunder is a beautiful game. Everything from the racing boats themselves to the backgrounds has been handled with an attention to detail. The locales themselves are incredible to look at, and you'll often find yourself noticing things that you've missed on your first few trips. When combined with the fact that there is little to no draw in or visual glitches to take away from the experience, Hydro Thunder easily scores as one of the best looking racers ever.
While the sound effects in the game are nothing special, the musical score for each stage is not only high quality but actually helps set the mood for the level. I was actually surprised by the this as I usually keep the stereo on when playing racing games due to the poor quality of sound most racers have. It was definitely a nice surprise when I turned up the sound and heard this one.
The controls are well laid out (I had to forgive the awkward placement of the thrust button due to the fact that it had to be placed on the triggers so it could support analog function.) - Both the digital pad and analog stick are supported for steering your vessel. Personally, I found that the digital pad was better suited to the game as it allowed for more precise control. But that's just me, you may find the analog control perfect for you.
The gameplay is where Hydro Thunder begins to really shine. While the one player mode is indeed a lot of fun, the two player mode allows you to go head to head against a friend and the split screen mode used works extremely well. You'll also find the racing engine of the game a little different. There is no standard time in which the computer will run a course. You may find yourself winning after placing a horrible run, or have your best time turn out to only be worth 3rd place. It almost feels like the better you are doing, the better the computer players are racing. It definitely keeps the pressure on.
Because of this feature the game keeps a high replay value and Midway has also thrown in 9 hidden courses and 10 hidden boats to keep things interesting. You'll fid yourself going back to Hydro Thunder well after you've purchased it. In addition, numerous shortcuts can be found on each level making for a long test to see which are the most advantageous to use and which should be avoided.
In other words, Hydro Thunder is a quality title, and one that you won't tire of easily. Add that to the fact that since it was one of the original release titles it can be found for around $30 and you just can't go wrong. If you're looking for a quality racer, look no further than Hydro Thunder.
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