Click here to go to the main page



Join our mailing list and receive the latest Dreamcast info every week:



Hydro Thunder

Racing on water. It’s a concept that never did work too well on video games. This was probably due to the complex water physics needed to generate the right feel, as demonstrated perfectly by Wave Race on the Nintendo 64. To this day, no game has come as close to recreating accurate water physics, and I can tell you now Hydro Thunder is also no where near Wave Race…but don’t dismiss the game straight away! Read on, as we look into one of the most overlooked Dreamcast titles!

Hydro Thunder was originally unleashed into Arcades across the globe a few years ago, before appearing on the PlayStation and N64. It then made its way onto our beloved console just after the American launch, although looking at it, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a recent release!

This is the original of what is turning into a pretty large series of games now.  4 Wheel Thunder developed by Kalisto Software is the second game in the series, which never appeared in the Arcades and was a Dreamcast exclusive title. Coming soon to the arcades, the third of the series will be Arctic Thunder, so to be in the same series there must be some simple thing all these games share! Well, indeed there is, and for the Thunder series, it’s the boost!

Now lots of games have nitro to make you vehicle go faster, but most of them limit you to how much you can have and use it as a means of giving you an advantage over the computer. However, in Hydro Thunder, you need the boost as the only means of standing any chance at all of winning! Picked up in 4 and 9-second capsules, you need to use your boost wisely and in the right places to get the best speed and slowly overtake your 15 opponents (a lot harder than it sounds!)

The graphics in Hydro Thunder as you can tell from the screens are well above the average Dreamcast game, crisp and clear! But as you’d expect from an Arcade game it contains all those little things that make it special and come to life! From helicopters whizzing over to police boats chasing you! This game is undoubtedly a good looker!

Perhaps the main downfall for PAL gamers is the lack of a 60hz NTSC style mode, and the low frame rate of 30fps compared with its sisters (4 Wheel Thunder) ultra smooth 60fps. However, this doesn’t really detract too much from the graphics! Something of particular note being on Powell Lake when you come across a dam and the police are driving over to stop your (Illegal) race, along with aerial backup from a helicopter! Also, you have to jump the dam and free fall what looks to be several hundred feet! It’s the set pieces like these that make Hydro Thunder stand out! In addition, the impressive draw distance the game generates is worthy of a mention as there really is very little pop up in the game to detract you from racing.

The water physics feel non existent, the distinct lack of waves apart from on the odd track, and the water surface might as well have been a bouncy rubber mat all along the track as that’s all the water is used for, a replacement for tarmac! However, this does work in the game’s favour, as it is so much easier to control and maintain a high speed on than say, Wave Race.

The tracks on the whole are well designed, with all the flair you associate with arcade games, but with a length that could make a rally game jealous! The majority of tracks are proper courses where you start upstream and finish at the bottom (no duh!), while others are the standard circuit affair involving laps, which adds a small degree of strategy to the mix. For example, once you pick up a boost, on the next lap that boost isn’t available meaning you need to conserve them to maintain a balanced speed otherwise you can kiss your chances of winning good bye as the CPU will simply fly past you!

The tracks have loads of secrets crammed in, some obvious like a simple split in the river, while others remain cloaked behind waterfalls, or having to jump (yes! I said JUMP!) UP water falls or into caves in the cliff faces. Trackside detail is very good most of the time and the textures used are definitely above average for a Dreamcast game.



Put simply, this game probably wouldn’t look any better on the PlayStation 2 visually! (Except for maybe a higher frame rate which would now be possible on DC if re-released)

Now for the negative parts of the game, which I would have to say, lie mostly within the presentation of the game. It is to say the least, very bland. No lovely CG intro and no menu music… just a voice over from the commentator, which can get rather annoying. Then the menu screens themselves are all static affairs with no animation to liven them up leaving first impressions of the game to be dead and lifeless. Although boring, the menus are, however, practical and functional.

The game progresses in a simple order. You have to come in the top 3 in each ‘Easy race’, which unlocks the Medium tracks and boats, then top 2 for medium, to unlock Hard, and then 1st on all the hard tracks, for the bonus boats and tracks which are even more impressive than the original courses!

Unless you’re Billy No Mates (like me J), you’ll be pleased to know there is a split screen mode for head to head racing. One good thing is that, for the majority of the time, the game still maintains a decent speed and the same graphical quality and draw distance unlike it’s N64 counterpart… bar the water spray from the boats, which you wouldn’t notice in split screen anyway.

One thing I haven’t yet mentioned is the sound on the game and it is fairly impressive… although the music is not the greatest I’ve ever heard in a game. The score is reminiscent of movies such as Jurassic Park, but as you should know by now, Jurassic Park this game isn’t! (Which I can’t help feel makes the music somewhat unsuitable for the game). However, on the set pieces there is some movie style sound mixing and choreographing to add tension… for example, on the dam where there are violins playing a single note like you get when in a movie someone was going down a dam. In fact, most of the races are designed to feel like it’s all one movie that, unlike the music, does suit the game well.

I would feel sorry for people who have spent the whole hog on this game, however at it’s current selling price in most places of £9.99 (around $10 in USA too) this is another game that really deserves to be in your collection!

Michael Rogers,




Suitably impressive for a 1st generation Dreamcast title
Sound 7.0 Great sound effects dampened by unsuitable music
Gameplay 8.5 A great game even by present standards!
Lifespan 7.5

Won’t take you long to finish, but you’ll be coming back for     more!


"The best water racer since Wave Race!"

>> Download some Dreamcast wallpaper

>> Download Dreamcast MP3s and screensavers

>> Read more Dreamcast game reviews



Developer Midway
Publisher Midway
Genre Water racing
Players 1-2
Extras Rumble



Which next-gen console will you support most?
X Box
Game Cube
Playstation 2
I quit gaming!


Please visit our sponsors to help keep our site running



All copyrighted images and names are trademarks of their respective copyright holders.  All original work is copyrighted by Farooq Asif.  Unauthorised reproduction of any material from this site is strictly prohibited.      © 2001