Codex Gamicus

Hydro Thunder Hurricane is a boat racing video game developed by Vector Unit and published by Microsoft Game Studios for Xbox Live Arcade. The game was released on July 28, 2010 as part of Microsoft's Xbox Live Summer of Arcade promotion. It is a sequel to Hydro Thunder, originally an arcade game.

Gameplay in Hurricane involves players selecting one of nine boats to race through over-the-top scenarios. Players can collect boost powerups throughout a course which are used to increase the speed of the boat, jump over obstacles, or unlock shortcuts. The game comes with three single player and two multiplayer modes, some of which are new to the series.

Hydro Thunder Hurricane received fairly positive reviews, averaging 79.30% at GameRankings and 75 out of 100 at Metacritic, two video game aggregate sites. Critics generally praised the varied qualities of the different boats, the diverse arcade-style courses, and the game's overall replay value.



Hydro Thunder Hurricane includes game modes new to the Thunder series, including Ring Master, where the player must navigate through a set of rings on the course as fast as possible.

Hydro Thunder Hurricane is an arcade-style boat racing game, and the sequel to Hydro Thunder.[1][2] Gameplay involves players selecting one of nine boats to race through one of eight courses. The primary mode of gameplay involves a sixteen competitor race to the finish line. As with Hydro Thunder, players can collect boost powerups throughout a course which physically transform the boat into a more aggressive-looking form. Once transformed, players can use acquired boost to increase the speed of the boat temporarily, or to jump over obstacles.[3]

Hurricane continues the Thunder series tradition of hidden shortcuts and alternate routes in courses. Some routes can be found by simply driving towards them or smashing through an obstacle, while others require the player to drive over green powerups which lower gates or raise ramps.[4] Players earn credits by winning races. These credits serve as points which automatically unlock additional gameplay elements, such as boats, skins, new courses and game modes.[5] Players can choose to race a given mode and track additional times to earn more credits.

The game also adds three additional single-player game modes in which to compete. 'Ring Master' removes all AI racing competitors and places a sequence of rings throughout a given course. The objective is to drive through as many rings as possible in the shortest amount of time.[5] 'Gauntlet' also removes AI competitors, but replaces the rings with explosive barrels littered throughout the water. Players must complete the course as quickly as possible while avoiding the barrels.[5] 'Championship' mode is also new to the series, and pits the player in a mixture of tracks and modes.[6]

Hurricane also features a number of multiplayer scenarios. Up to four players can complete via splitscreen against each other and twelve AI competitors.[5] Players can also use any combination of splitscreen and Xbox Live players to play online with up to eight players.[5] Track times are recorded on leaderboards for players to compete against. In addition one multiplayer-exclusive mode was added, 'Rubber Ducky'. In this mode one player on each team pilots a boat in the shape of a rubber duck. The remaining boats on each team try to protect their team's duck while keeping the other team's at bay, with the winning team being first to get their duck across the finish line.[7]


Hydro Thunder Hurricane was first unveiled at PAX East on March 26, 2010.[8] It was then used as one of two mystery games ScrewAttack's Iron Man of Gaming.[9] Hydro Thunder Hurricane was released as part of the third annual Xbox Live Summer of Arcade along with titles such as Monday Night Combat and Limbo.[10] The water for the game was programmed for the game using several different techniques. Fresnel reflections, normal mapping, ray-traced depth fogging and depth-based foam and an adaptive LOD system were built to handle the visuals.[11] The physics system that controls the water allows multiple types of waves such as wakes and whirlpools, and also adapts to handle different boat hulls and other objects in the water.[11] V-hulled boats cut through waves, flat-bottomed boats hydroplane across the water, and multi-hulled boats have greater grip in the water.[12]

The first game demo we made was an original speedboat racing game. The demo showed off the game's controls and our new fluid dynamic system. Microsoft was interested, and through talks with them the idea came up of making this a full-featured sequel to the original Hydro Thunder.

—Matt Small, creative director, Game Play Book interview[12]

Hurricane did not start life as a Hydro Thunder franchise title. "The first game demo we made was an original speedboat racing game" says Matt Small, creative director for the game. "The demo showed off the game's controls and our new fluid dynamic system."[12] Microsoft Game Studios acquired the rights to the Hydro Thunder name shortly before publisher Midway Games was bought by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. During discussions between Vector Unit and Microsoft the decision was made to turn the game into a Hydro Thunder sequel.[12]

Vector Unit had contemplated simply porting the original Hydro Thunder to the Xbox 360, as they had been given the source code to the original game. They felt that given they would have to update all of the assets and that they had already built the water system the decision was made to continue building the title from the ground up.[12] The original source code was used for reference, and the Vector Unit "played the heck out of the original game to refresh our memories."[12] The boats and environments were redesigned, taking cues from the original, but accommodating the new physics system and updated graphics engine.[12] The developers contemplated things such as boat customization and user-generated tracks, but in "ultimately we felt that it was more important to present an accessible, hand-crafted experience that players can just jump into and have fun with."[13]

Vector Unit co-founders Matt Small and Ralf Knoesel had both previously worked on Blood Wake, a boat combat title for the original Xbox.[7] They took lessons from Blood Wake, altering and updating the physics to be not only realistic, but to "make a game which a Novice player can easily pick up and learn."[7] Hurricane had a development cycle of roughly twelve months.[14] An external audio contractor, Robb Mills, was called upon to compose the game's music. Developers also provided support for the Xbox 360 Wireless Racing Wheel.[11] A premium theme for the Xbox 360's New Xbox Experience dashboard was also released on July 15, 2010 as part of the game's promotion.[15]

Vector Unit held a contest from August 14 to August 23, 2010 allowing consumers to design a skin for their favorite boat.[16] On August 25, 2010 two winners were chosen to have their designs placed into the game. As a consolation prize, everyone who entered a design was notified that they would receive a code to download the content for free once released.[17] Additional boats and tracks were also confirmed on August 9, 2010 in an interview with Small.[18]

On September 3, 2010 Vector Unit confirmed via their Hydro Thunder Hurricane forum the contents of the downloadable content, dubbed the Tempest Pack.[19] The new content will include three new courses, two new boats, new skins for every boat, and new championships.[19] The courses will feature all three original game modes; Race, Ring Master, and Gauntlet.[19] A patch was released September 9, 2010 to fix issues in the game.[20] Players can no longer use collision glitches with the world geometry to find ways to cheat on the game's leaderboards.[20] Additionally the patch adds an audible beep to players who sit idle in multiplayer lobbies, prompting them to set their status to "ready".[20] The patch also decreases the amount of time to wait on players who do not finish multiplayer races.[20]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 79.30%[21]
Metacritic 75[22]
Review scores
Publication Score B+[23]
GamePro 4/5 stars[24]
GameZone 8.5[25]
IGN 5.5[26]
United Kingdom Official Xbox Magazine 9.0[27]
Joystiq 4/5 stars[28]

Hydro Thunder Hurricane received fairly positive reviews, averaging 79.30% at GameRankings and 75 out of 100 at Metacritic, two video game aggregate sites.[21][22] Reviewers were mostly unified on the overall quality for the price of the game. 1UP called it "a perfect match for Xbox Live Arcade"[23] and GameTrailers said the game "looks sharp for a $15 release."[29] Joystiq called it a "dynamite download"[28] and GameZone called it "the must-have arcade racer of 2010."[25] GamePro echoed these comments, calling Hydro Thunder Hurricane "a perfect throwback to the 'high production' arcade games of yesteryear."[24] PALGN also enjoyed the game, stating Huricane "is an extremely accessible and entertaining arcade racing game."[30]

Reviewers generally praised the boat selection, praising their uniqueness and selection of alternate skins.[31] Course design also received acclaim. 1UP called the over-the-top course design "like rides at Disneyland."[23] In its preview of the game at PAX East, Critical Gamer called the course design "really smart" and said that there were a "good balance of safe paths, risky shortcuts, and chains of boost power-ups."[32] Official Xbox Magazine UK cited "there's a brilliant playfulness to the level design."[27] They further noted the usefulness of the Ring Master mode in guiding the player to some of the game's shortcuts.[27] Critics enjoyed the longevity of the game, noting that between the courses and game types the replay value is greatly increased.[27] GamePro praised the game's graphics, calling the scenery "downright gorgeous" and further went on to call the lighting and water effects "quite impressive."[24] GameSpot felt the game's leaderboard system was a great asset to the game.[31]

Elements of the game's visuals were also criticized. IGN cited the vibrant colors of the original Hydro Thunder, then criticized Hurricane's visuals, calling them "muted."[26] They also disliked the sounds of the game calling the music forgettable, the announcer obnoxious, and the sound effects "straight from 1994."[26] Eurogamer also stated the game had "absence of personality and flourish" and that "perhaps comes from a general lack of nuance or innovation."[33] IGN also noted that Hurricane was "plagued by convoluted menus and awful load times."[26] Eurogamer Spain felt that the gameplay was too repetitious, pointing out that the different modes must be played repeatedly on the courses.[34]


  1. McWhertor, Michael (2010-03-26). Hydro Thunder Returns With All-New Xbox Live Arcade Sequel. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  2. Hydro Thunder Hurricane Official Trailer. Vector Unit via YouTube (2010-08-13). Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  3. Parish, Jeremy (2010-03-26). Hydro Thunder Returns; Intends Rock You Like a Hurricane. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  4. Gallegos, Anthony (2010-03-26). PAX East 10: Hydro Thunder Hurricane Hands-on. IGN. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 McWhertor, Michael (2010-05-04). Hydro Thunder Hurricane Churns Out New Modes, New Media. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  6. Hamza CTZ Aziz (2010-05-28). Hydro Thunder Hurricane Preview Time!. Destructoid. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Valladolid, Noe (2010-04-23). Meet Vector Unit, developers of Hydro Thunder Hurricane.... Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  8. Tolito, Stephen (2010-03-26). Hydro Thunder Hurricane Impressions: Bouncy. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  9. Gervise (2010-07-01). PBG's Iron Man of Gaming Run: Hydro Thunder Hurricane. ScrewAttack. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  10. McWhertor, Michael (2010-07-06). Limbo, Lara Croft & Castlevania Heat Up Xbox Live's 'Summer of Arcade'. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 NestleKwik. Making Waves: Vector Unit's Matt Small on "Hydro Thunder Hurricane". J2 Games and Vector Unit. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 Workman, Robert (2010-04-01). Exclusive: Hydro Thunder Hurricane Interview (Xbox Live). Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  13. Davis, Toby (2010-06-05). Interview: Matt Small, Vector Unit’s Creative Director. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  14. E3 2010 Hydro Thunder Hurricane Gameplay and Interview. Games Abyss via Youtube (2010-07-01). Retrieved on 2010-09-16
  15. Vector Unit (2010-08-31). Hydro Thunder Hurricane Premium Theme. Vector Unit.
  16. Vector Unit (2010-08-16). Win Your Custom Boat Skin in Hydro Thunder Hurricane. Vector Unit. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  17. We Have a Winner (or Two!). Vector Unit (2010-08-25). Retrieved on 2010-08-25
  18. xeroxeroxero (2010-08-09). Midlife Gamer Meets: Matt Small Of Vector Unit. Retrieved on 2010-08-26
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Title Update coming this week. Vector Unit via (2010-09-03). Retrieved on 2010-09-10
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 DLC update. Vector Unit via (2010-09-03). Retrieved on 2010-09-10
  21. 21.0 21.1 Hydro Thunder Hurricane for Xbox 360 – GameRankings. GameRankings. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  22. 22.0 22.1 Hydro Thunder Hurricane for Xbox 360 Reviews – Metacritic. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Mackey, Bob (2010-07-26). Hydro Thunder Hurricane Review. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Noble, McKinley. Hydro Thunder Hurricane. GamePro. Retrieved on 2010-08-02
  25. 25.0 25.1 Grabowski, Dakota (2010-07-26). Hydro Thunder Hurricane review. GameZone. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Gies, Arthur (2010-07-26). Hydro Thunder Hurricane Review. IGN. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 OXM Staff (2010-07-26). Hydro Thunder Hurricane – Messing about on the river. Official Xbox Magazine (UK). Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  28. 28.0 28.1 Nelson, Randy (2010-07-26). Review: Hydro Thunder Hurricane. Joystiq. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  29. Hydro Thunder Hurricane. GameTrailers (2010-07-28). Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  30. Kahn, Jahanzeb (2010-07-27). Hydro Thunder Hurricane Review. PALGN. Retrieved on 2010-09-02
  31. 31.0 31.1 Calvert, Justin (2010-06-27). Hydro Thunder Hurricane Review. GameSpot. Retrieved on 2010-08-24 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "gamespot review" defined multiple times with different content
  32. Joe D. (2010-04-12). Hydro Thunder Hurricane: PAX East Hands-On. Retrieved on 2010-08-31
  33. Parkin, Simon (2010-07-26). Hydro Thunder Hurricane. Eurogamer. Retrieved on 2010-08-24
  34. Robles, Xavi (2010-08-01). Hydro Thunder Hurricane (Spanish). Eurogamer Spain.

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