By: Quinn Potter
As the team behind the enjoyable Hydro Thunder Hurricane, developer Vector Unit knows a thing or two about making watersports fun. It’s been more than four years since Hydro Thunder graced the Summer of Arcade program, and this time they’re trading boats for jet skis with Riptide GP2 for the Xbox One.
Controls are well set out. When you go up a ramp for a jump, you can manipulate the main toggles to do tricks, which is super-cool.
Graphics are good. Frame-rate holds up well. No screen tearing. The water is a super-strong graphic feature, as well as the background details. Riptide GP2 is set in the future, so the courses are pretty unique and have a lot of fun futuristic details. It’s just a little disappointing that the main focus – your avatar and jet ski – aren’t as well thought out.
For example, you get to choose the color of a player’s suit and helmet, but you don’t get detailed facial features. Also you can select different colors for your jet ski, but you can’t add creative features such as a bigger engine, different fins, etc. In other words, don’t expect any tricked-out details that you might find in GTA5 or nifty gadgets to make yourself a Bond-mobile.
A minor point (but major distraction) is that it’s very difficult to tell when you have made a selection from the menu, unless you are actually moving the toggle. The white shadowboxing around the icon barely stands out, so it’s hard to tell what you’ve actually selected. This might be frustrating if others are watching or if you turn your attention elsewhere for a minute and forget where you were.
The audio is a mixed bag. The soundtrack is pretty lame. There’s a repetitive electronic keyboard that plays softly in the background as you prepare to race (this is supposed to be future-oriented music, I guess). When you are actually racing, the engines rev, crowds cheer, water splashes, and glass breaks – and the effects are solid.
Pick your colors, pick your jet ski, decide if you need a paint job and get racing. Pick your venue: Career (you versus AI), VR Challenge (you versus online player) or Split Screen (you versus a local controller). Pick the type of competition: race against others, do a “hot lap” (race against yourself for your personal best time) or an elimination (last person in the race gets eliminated after every 15 seconds). Within each type of competition, there are different tracks that range from low to high difficulty.
Race tracks can be set indoors or in a city. You will be rewarded for both your finish time and tricks. Every time you level up, you earn one skill point. With that skill point, you can either do a boost upgrade, or upgrade agility.
These skills will help you perform different stunts, which are the highlight of the game. You can execute a “lazyboy,” “rock star,” “handstand,” “windmill,” “knuckle dragger,’ “skydiver,” “death wish” – or many others as you work your way up the skill set. When you are previewing the tricks, you’ll see a preview of the trick as executed by the racer and jet ski you chose.
The better the tricks are (and the cooler they look), the longer they take and the harder they are to do with your controls – and the more they are worth. When you have a bunch of players in a room executing tricks together on a course, it gets pretty awesome. If you finish under the time mark for a hot lap or finish in the top three, you are rewarded with in-game cash that you can spend to either upgrade your ski or buy a new one.
This is a standard racing game, like one you would find with cars, except you are racing on water. There’s no real theme or in-game humor; it’s just flat-out tricks and racing on jet skis. If you like racing and want to get on the water during the winter — or if you like the idea of doing some mega-cool virtual jet ski stunts while racing against your friends — this might a really good option.