Despite Microsoft’s new operating system (OS) having now been available in it’s final retail release for three months, Hydro Thunder Hurricane remains the only Xbox enabled racing title available in the Windows 8 store. Given that the racing genre remains one of the most popular in videogames to this day, the relative youth of the OS doesn’t provide enough of an explanation for the lack of attention paid here; but the fact that Hydro Thunder Hurricane has set the bar incredibly high could strengthen that resolution.
A simple port of the Xbox 360 videogame of the same name, Hydro Thunder Hurricane is a hugely enjoyable series of high-speed sensations, with players routinely encouraging to hit boost and deal with the consequences later. Boosts are earned by collecting them on the track (or passing through rings in Ring Master mode) and each canister adds to your boost meter. The course design is so tied to the boost system that it is entirely possible to boost throughout the entirety of each track once a little experience has been earned, and is actively encouraged in the harder events.
All events are interlinked by an overarching Credit system, meaning that you may need to compete an event in a different mode to unlock the next event in the mode you are currently playing. Some may find this annoying – especially if that have a particular favourite gameplay mode – but it is a system that encourages you to experience all that Hydro Thunder Hurricane has to offer. It’s arguably the standard races that are the most fun, but the Ring Master and Gauntlet modes do add a higher degree of challenge, and putting the lessons learned to the test in the Championship mode (an assortment of events based on all other single-player modes) is a welcoming conclusion to each gameplay chapter.
Further to this content, the difficulty of each event is determined by the vehicle chosen, with set of trophies available for each Novice, Pro and Expert. This effectively triples the content available in the videogame, and the rearrangement of items along the track means that each difficulty is a genuinely different experience. Additionally, each track features 10 tokens to collect, named ‘Hidden Packages,’ offering one final meta-game with an Achievement for collecting all 110.
The track design is built around all of these elements so well that players will still; be finding new shortcuts weeks after first purchasing Hydro Thunder Hurricane. With their construct of not only walls and racers, but waves, jumps and mid-track obstacles also, the tracks in Hydro Thunder Hurricane parallel those of Hydro Thunder GO – the Windows Phone version of Hydro Thunder – which Electronic Theatre considers ‘one of the finest racing experiences available for any smartphone OS.’
Hydro Thunder Hurricane is a quality racing title that does just as well breaking the ice on Windows 8 as it did at supporting new takes on old classics as an exclusive on the Xbox LIVE Arcade. That Microsoft Studios is clearly keen to make a digital franchise out of the Hydro Thunder licence – with the Windows 8 release marking the third edition of the videogame in as many years – there’s high hopes that the name can maintain the quality seen here in Hydro Thunder Hurricane and Hydro Thunder GO.