Full Review: Finally, a way to knock down snowmen with lethal artillery!
Midway's had many years of experience in bringing home their arcade hits. They've dealt with some popular and fun multiplayer experiences like the Mortal Kombat series, and even the fast finger shooting Area 51. This time, from Midway comes a racing game that not only looks fast, but also feels it. Pack on your winter coat, hop onto a snowmobile, and be sure not to get in the way of crossfire, because the fun of the arcade is right at home in Midway's new "cool" racer: Arctic Thunder!
Most racing games have a simple premise: keep going fast and don't stop. Arctic Thunder is based on a more Mario Kart type theme, however. Through the game's snow blinding courses, you'll come across items scattered in the level's guts. From each collective weapon, and each AI you'll go up against, you've got to be the best. There's just no question about it. Obtain weapons, disperse the tracks of competition, and win... That's all there is to it.
Getting further into the gameplay is kind of hard to say. There really isn't much to the controls since it's very easy to get into the game from the start. In other words, there's no depth really when playing Arctic Thunder. Although, Thunder's easy controls are not a bad thing per se. In Thunder's racing modes, mostly you'll be picking up icons -- both offensive and defensive -- amongst other types. More so, moving through the irritating commotion on screen, you'll find that the most challenging part about playing the game is that if you're not in front, you've already lost the race.
Keeping your character afloat through Arctic Thunder is the most important part, as the Power-ups found not only get rid of those menacing opponents, but also, protect your character from harm. On the offensive side, you'll find highly useful weaponry like atomic snowballs; powerful missiles that swat the riders ahead, snowbombs; tails behind you in a path of well hidden mines, and the greatest one of all, the super attack; drives an explosive force so powerful, that it knocks riders off of their vehicles within the user's proximity. If no Power-ups are available in your menu, you have the option of using fists and feet to bash enemies out of the way. With this method, it's hard determine whether you're doing it right or not, because you can never be too sure as what goes on in the screen is a little too chaotic a lot of the time.
Opposite of the Power-ups used for attacking, there are ones used in a defensive state as well. And, they are...rooster tails; a Power-up that leaves a blinding path of snow behind the individual who uses one, shields; for a limited time, reduces the damage of attacks impairing your racer, and invisibility; for a limited time, you're prone to any attacks or visible to anyone who would attack you. Lastly, there are items that fall in the line neither in defense or offense, but just to help you out in general. The super boost item, for instance, makes your snowmobile go faster for a certain time. Collecting three boosts in a row creates an awesome effect, setting the snow in back of you on fire. Trick icons are found at the top of slopes, which, when you collect these, make your character perform a stunt with their snowmobile and further, allowing hidden Power-ups to appear. Health Power-ups are placed on the tracks in order to keep your life meter stable, or else it'll be easier to knock you off the top of your vehicle from enemy fire. With enough skill, players will find that collecting an assortment of each of the Power-ups aids the ride through each level better, overall.
In terms of how the graphics compare to the many other PlayStation 2 titles, Arctic Thunder isn't that close to being great. But, it does share a quality that's good enough for surpassing much worse titles. The rough character models and levels are rather sketchy to call anything in the game mesmerizing. However, there are peaks of interests. Such as, the massive raceways that do have nice areas of development in how sometimes there are lighting effects inside cavernous walls, or how many dots of snowflakes scatter from the open air. Little things, like when looking behind a racer's vehicle, show the snow will actually dig up and spout from the back. It's really a matter of how you're actually noticing how the levels can be fun to explore, through and through.
With 12 different tracks to race through, there's a lot of lively interactivity to also nose around in. Each track is based on a real life locale. For instance, you'll get to drive right through the White House itself in the Blizzard in D.C. level. Other area such as the Chernobyl track is not only based on a worldly area, but also, has the same theme to it. In the racing level, you'll actually get to pass by waves of green radiation, as the true Chernobyl disaster really did have. But, not every area is realistic, as the Haunted Forest track is just a fantasized, but fun, location. Something most notable about each of the tracks is that they're so big, that you'll find a variety of secret paths in which to collect more Power-ups. These secret pathways can also be put to use as a shortcut for winning the race, if it were to come to that. The better you are in exploring each level, the easier it will be in the end to win.
The first time playing the game, there are 6 tracks open, and 6 locked. As for characters, there's 6 playable, and 13 to unlock. Ultimately, your task is to unlock each of the levels by becoming the best there is in the game. The modes of play are Race; select a player to win the 12 gold medals for unlocking the ultimate character in the game, Points; finishing through the selectable tracks, lets you gain points by collecting Power-ups and defeating enemies, Battle Arena; with a family member or a friend, challenge them to a massive duel of time or kills in order to merge the victor, Arcade; like as if you were in an arcade yourself, race alone or with a friend in simulation style, Training; practice your skills looking for each of the hidden paths inside the levels, and lastly, the Upgrade Shop; spend your earned points from Points mode in order to unlock secret characters, levels, or stats to build up your characters to their maximum levels.
As for Arctic Thunder's sound capabilities, they're not too great. The music within the game is rather upbeat, and up-tempo like. Much of the time it sinks repetitively through the game's areas, and may even annoy the heck out of certain people. Even though it's not too bad, it's just not too great either. Also, the game's characters themselves each have voices. Still, the voice acting doesn't help make things better. From the list of already unlocked characters -- Wille Q., Ponzo, Agent 5, Candy, etc. -- they'll each have a set of preprogrammed voices that have a certain personality trait to each of their own. Agent 5, for example, is a young, daring type. His voice is more outrageous, when compared to the gorilla man, Ponzo, who will make grunts and the like. Really, when listening to the sounds in Arctic Thunder, it's a hit or a miss for individuals.
Maintaining your characters is a goal you may have to come in terms with, when challenging yourself to the game of Arctic Thunder. Each character has a certain set of abilities they can maintain. One may go faster than the other, or, another may have better defense. Whichever character you're choosing, you should always note that one is better than the other in individual aspects. By trying out the game's Points mode, you'll be able to better suit your favorite characters, by making them stronger in status. In total, Thunder will keep any player of the game hooked with hours of replay value.