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.
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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.