Arctic Thunder

While Midway created a rather inventive and relatively fun game with Hydro Thunder, they decided to take the same format, add in a couple of tricks, place the game in a snow setting and try to cash in on the franchise. What ended up happening is a game was created that took the fun of Hydro Thunder and added too much into the action department, resulting in a game that takes more patience than skill to play! With games such as this, you would figure that the fun and excitement that you had experienced in Hydro Thunder would return in this version of Arctic Thunder.

Alas, you're left with a game that offers you four different modes, but doesn't present itself in a way that you would expect out of a next generation system. The XBox does a good job with this title in one respect, and that is with the visuals that the game has to offer. Through the use of the power that the XBox has contained within its mechanical belly, you'll find that the ride you take is something akin to the arcade experience, but then you'll also find that the game still retains it's mediocre style of game play that just doesn't seem to hit the mark, no matter what system it appears on!


This is where the game differs completely from the other port. With the power of the XBox, everything comes to life with a clean and crisp view that isn't easily matched outside of the arcade version of the title! I've found that with most ported over games, the visuals seem to suffer from the programming, but in this particular case, you'll find that everything you may have experienced in the arcade is right there at your fingertips. The explosions look almost realistic enough to make you sit back from the screen, and that in itself is saying plenty. Also featured here, are some of the most gorgeous background and locations that I've seen from this title, and it matches; if not exceeds that of the arcade counterpart. You'll find that the life like detail along with all of the usual assortment of design and otherwise is a welcomed, yet minimal, addition to the title itself!


Audio wise, the game tries hard to offer the feel and excitement of arctic combat and racing, but seems to be muted in the way that it is presented. The game music does change from stage to stage, which is a definite plus, but the music itself just doesn't have all of the feeling that you would hope for with an action game such as this! The sound effects also seem to fall along the wayside with the explosions and racing engines seeming to be more of the same action game generic stuff that you would hear in any other game. Putting this altogether into one title and tacking it onto the audio/visual aspect of the game, this is another truly disappointing aspect of the game that I didn't expect to find.


The gameplay is basically race from start to finish while trying to beat out your opponents with different weapons and course path selections. Again, much like Hydro Thunder, there are instances of speed, action and mayhem, but even with the different modes that you can play through, you still have a rather used racing game format that doesn't quite hit the mark! The different modes include an Arcade Mode that allows you to play the game as it was originally featured in the arcade, right down to the originally selectable riders. In this mode, it is your stripped down racing with the different power ups and trick ramps but doesn't offer you any of the secret characters or extra options that the Race Mode does.

What Arctic Thunder seems to drive down is the game play fun, in which you have to unlock the attributes of the game such as difficulty and otherwise that would normally be found in a regular racing game. Probably the best mode that can be found in the game is the Points Mode, in which you earn points for racing effectively, performing tricks, blowing up your competition and finishing in a top spot. Through this mode, you can buy other riders, tracks, weapons and many different in-game features that weren't available before. However, what you'll find through all of the aforementioned modes is that the game really doesn't change much in the way that you have to race and even with the different paths, you'll find that the game still doesn't offer much variation after a couple of times through.

Controlling Arctic Thunder is little more than knowing just how to use the analog sticks and how to get through the course twists and turns. Anyone with any racing game experience will find that the game has nothing new to offer other than the different weapon selections and otherwise, so veterans to this type of genre will find that the game is easy enough to pick up and learn. Beginners on the other hand may do well to learn all of the controls through a couple of practice rounds before trying to tackle all of the different actions that the game has to offer. Tricks and otherwise are pretty much automatic, so there is nothing in that aspect that you'll have to learn or stress out over! All in all, the game control is about par for the course, with just the slightest need to learn how to control your character and just what attributes said character portrays.

Bottom Line:

Arctic Thunder is a racing game that tries to cash in on the overall success of Hydro Thunder, but with the XBox, it does this only with the visuals and nothing else. Falling the same way that the Play Station 2 version of the game did, the audio and the control, as well as the lack luster game play just doesn't seem to make this a popular title, no matter where it appears. For those of you who loved Hydro Thunder, this game may be a mixed back for you to play and purchase in good conscious If you're a fan of the game in the Arcade, then you may find this to either be a blessing or a curse. As always, the choice is up to you, but offering you some advice in this case, spend a couple of bucks to rent it first before dropping a part of your paycheck on something that just isn't spendworthy!

-Drew Guirey