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Arctic Thunder

Inland Productions



1 - 4


It may come from Midway, but it doesn't have a "z" - it's a different kind of arcade fun.

When Arctic Thunder was released on the Playstation 2, critics (much like myself) had a field day ripping it to shreds in reviews. The PS2 version was plagued with slow down, and other problems that I will not get into here. Needless to say, it stunk to high heaven. Fast forward a bit, and now we have Midway releasing the same game, only this time on the Xbox. Did Midway learn from their mistakes? Does Arctic thunder take advantage of the superior Xbox hardware? And why does Midway like the word Thunder so much? First there was Afro Thunder from the Boxing title Ready to Rumble, then there was Hydro Thunder and now we have the semi-sequel Arctic Thunder. For these questions answered and more read on to find out.

Arctic Thunder is the snowmobile follow-up to Hydro Thunder, which was released to the arcades with a semi moderate amount of success. The original game Hydro Thunder also received numerous awards as one of the few outstanding arcade games released in 1999.

Arctic Thunder features 12 stages from around the world and 19 unique characters that players can race and compete as. You also have a variety of modes that you can compete in. In the race mode, if you gain first place you win a gold medal, which gives you a special code that you then can use to unlock hidden features. If you can manage to win all of the gold medals, you can unlock a secret character. In the training mode you can practice and learn the tracks without racing other opponents. Its also a way to learn the short cuts and hidden item locations. In the points mode you earn points by collecting power ups, performing tricks and by knocking out your opponents. The points you collect then can be taken to the upgrade shop which can upgrade your characters abilities, snowmobile performance and to unlock hidden riders, tracks and battle arenas. Battle arenas? Yes - Arctic Thunder has a multiplayer mode where up to 4 players can compete with the main goal of destroying the other opponents. And finally is the Arcade mode, which is basically the same version as what was seen in the arcades. As you can see, there is a large assortment of things you can do in this title. So what really makes this title shine is the multiplayer levels, they're a blast with 4 players.

The controls are a snap to pick up, you steer the snowmobile with the left analog stick or the directional pad. I don't recommend using the directional pad, simply because the left analog stick feels much more natural and also feels more responsive then the D-pad. The throttle uses the A button while if you press forwards you on the left analog stick you can brake. The L trigger allows you to perform a quick turn, which is needed in some of the stages with their sharp hairpin turns. To perform a trick you press the X button. To lock on and fire your weapon you press Y and then the R trigger. And finally you can change the view by pressing the back button. You do have the option to change the control settings to match your personal taste, something that should be standard by now, but sadly, isn't.

Players will find that they have a large assortment of weapons to take out their opponent with. From my personal favorite the grappling hook to the atomic snowball, Arctic Thunder gives players the option to cheat their way to victory. This is what really makes Arctic Thunder such a blast to play. In a way it's almost like the pod racing scene in Star Wars Episode 1. For example, I was in 2nd place speeding towards the finish line and I could see 1st place right in front of me. Suddenly from behind one of the other opponents fired a missile hitting the 1st place snowmobile knocking him out of the running and allowing me the lead to win the race. A victory is still a victory, whether honestly earned or not.

Arctic Thunder seem to use the same engine as Hydro Thunder did, and by 2002 standards, the 1999 engine does look a bit dated. The main difference however is that there is a ton of stuff going on in Arctic Thunder as opposed to the "staticness" of Hydro Thunder. With the crazy and wacky stages to the other opponents the Xbox version takes it all in stride and stays at a solid frame rate through out. So Midway has taken advantage of the Xbox hardware in that regard. Midway appears to have also added some cool lighting and particle effects that are worth mentioning that didn't make it in the PS2 version. Arctic Thunder does a great job of capturing the sense of speed perhaps better then any game released so far for the Xbox.

The character animation is actually very good with some nice variety. While there are certainly prettier snow titles on the market, Arctic Thunder does a great job with what it has. The stages while linear and not as expansive as those found in SSX Tricky are still done very well. In particular the White House and Chernobyl stages stand out. In the Chernobyl stage there is a sequence midway in the race where you actually race through a long tunnel of radioactive waste that ripples and throws you about much like you were riding water-skis. It's a very cool sequence, one of many throughout the game.

Sound wise, you wont get many complaints from me. The character voices and the sound effects are a bit over the top but then again that's what you have to expect from a title like this.

Arctic thunder is fun. Sure its not the prettiest game on the Xbox and sure I am sure there are more technically superior titles currently on the market but when its all said and done, Arctic Thunder is a blast from the moment you pick up the controller and turn your Xbox on till the moment you turn the game off and put the controller down. Arctic Thunder is a fun and wild ride that will keep you coming back for more.

Mike Regan
Played the game so long his brain froze, which made him forget to include a strapline.

Arctic Thunder: The Scores













The Final Word:  Fun. By now you know if you like Midway's particular brand of arcade style fun, and this delivers it to a "T". Arctic Thunder may not tax out the capabilities of the Xbox, but it does show the PS2 what can and can't be handled.

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