PS2 REVIEW: ARCTIC THUNDER
Review by Cole
Review by Chris B.

Living in a geographic region of the Americas where winter is a force to be reckoned with for a good part of each year, I am reminded of my southern brethren who, sadly, may never experience the activities associated with it. I'm talking about downhill and cross-county skiing, ice fishing, ice skating, tobogganing, snowmobiling and thawing frost bitten flesh. Of all of these activities, snowmobiling is the fastest growing winter sport. If you want to experience the excitement of cruising convertible through snow packed valleys and groomed trails - you won't find it in Arctic Thunder.

Midway has produced a number of Thunder titles, most notably Hydro Thunder which is a really decent power boat racing game. So it's no surprise that snowmobiling should be added to their Thunder line. How could this not be a good game? Simply by not being a good game, that's how. It's unacceptable that any game on the PS2 should suffer from such slow framerate. Arctic Thunder suffers from it so badly that it ruins the entire gameplay.

The snowmobiles are poised to race over mountainous terrain on a variety of tracks. But to make matters more interesting, the programmers thought it would be fun to add weapons to the mix. It's totally understandable that in this day and age if you can't overtake your opponent with finesse and skill, then you can at least try to blow them up and get them out of the way. Sure, it could be fun but the weapons are cumbersome, take up too much of your precious viewing area onscreen and are confusing to operate. There are over 10 different weapon systems to use and rotating through your inventory to choose the right weapon for the job is made that much more difficult by the fact that none of the weapons seem to have any greater impact on any specific function. Aiming is a concept best left to chance here.

You will not want to split the screen as you will severely limit your visibility and increase the game's inherent choppiness. Besides, why drag a good friend into this mess? Ultimately this could have been a great game. It looks good and the courses are challenging but the overall quality would make the PSX blush. If you want a more realistic snowmobiling experience I would suggest holding a picture of a winter scene to your face and moving it back and forth smoothly while sitting in a tub of ice water. Here's hoping the Xbox version does this game the justice that it deserves.

 

News Flash! Renegade extreme Snowmobiles are on the loose. They have created an extreme and deadly sports league. The logging industry and others are protesting the massive destruction of the precious land. The renegades need to be stopped at all costs. Wow, first kick snowmobiles out of the State Game lands and now takes this fun away from them. When I first played this great game in the arcade, I loved it! You sit on a snowmobile and start to race. Now some of you reading the word "race" and are probably already tuning out, but it is far from just another racing game. Your sleds are equipped with many useful and just plain, fun weapons. Oh, now you're starting to get interested, good! Remember any one of the James Bond movies where he is being chased by killer snowmobiles, shooting rockets, grenades and almost anything else the writers could dream up? Our hero is only on skis with his skills of skiing and his wits to protect him while saving the world. Well, now you have the general idea of the game. So enough explaining and let's get on to the review already.

When I saw this title on the list of new releases, I preordered it right away. Midway has been making some of the greatest arcade games in the world for years. My only concern was would the home version be the same or would it get lost in the process turning it into a console game. Well, I can say without a doubt that the game loses nothing at all. In fact they added some great new features to the game play as well. There are 19 different characters to use each one has different abilities and each one's sled has something different. There are 12 tracks from Swiss Alps to the lost city of Atlantis. Your main goal at first seems simple: win each race of the 12 tracks and collect the gold coin. Your reward for all this hard work you might ask? Unlocking a mystery racer with every option filled to the max. Sounds really very simple then, right? Well, not so fast, you need to unlock some of the players as well as the tracks. They added different game modes and they even included a two-player battle mode. Of course, those are locked up tight as well.

So how do you get all this neat stuff to unlock it all and get to play everything? They added a something new called "point mode". You race trying not only to get the first place point bonus, but also to collect upgrades and points by hitting other racers off their sleds by using the hit and kick R1And L1 buttons. It sounds like a lot but each different racer has different tricks they do. Yes, they even have ramps to pull off some of the most insane stunts yet! The graphics are very good but nothing that you can say, wow, this really uses the PS2 to the limits. However, there's lots of extra action going on around you while you are racing such as helicopters flying around, sirens and flashing lights etc. There is no slow down. You really do get the feel of being on the sled going at insane speeds. They also kept in the three different views to choose from: the regular view, the first person view, and the pulled back view, which allows you to see the whole racing area. While practicing each course, the pulled back view is a great choice for finding shortcuts hidden in each track.

Someone on the team that created this game must have an issue of with snowmen. Because throughout every track you get 500 big points for demolishing every snowman you can find! And I thought I had childhood issues! But, hey, it is fun and challenging to say the least. The steering is pretty cool with the help of the r2 and the l2 buttons. You can break slide through those tight turns. Before I wrote this review, JD asked me what I thought of the game so far? I said it is really great with some great stuff, but not much replay value. Man, I regret making that statement now. Even as a one-player game it will take you hours to build and unlock each player, to unlock all the tracks, and to find all the shortcuts that are hidden away. You will want to find all the little neat tricks they put in this game. It is pretty embarrassing to lose to a monkey on a banana sled, really. I am just glad no one saw that, but, of course, here it is in black and white so now everyone knows it.

When a title comes out like this one it makes me smile and have faith that the great arcade games you play in your local game room will show up in due time for the console. I was impressed how they added the fighting to the racing theme of this game. The weapons are too many to list. The places you race through at times are mind blowing. You do not just race in snow. You smash through buildings, towers and trees. I wish I could tell you all of them. But the best way is to go out and get this game. In this reviewer's opinion, the best way to sum up this game is to take out the old road rash games of old and inject them with super strength steroids. So put on a helmet pop this great game in and make loads of racing noises and cheer as you play it. (Oh yea, that's just me!) You can do whatever you like when you play it, just make sure no one's around to see it.

OVERALL
2
GRAPHICS
4
CONTROL
3.5
MUSIC/FX
3
VALUE
2
 
OVERALL
4.5
GRAPHICS
4.5
CONTROL
4
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
3.5

 

System: PS2
Dev: Inland Prod.
Pub: Midway
Released: Sept. 2001
Players: 1 - 2