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Midway Arcade Treasures Volume 3

The Midway Arcade Treasures games have come out steadily since the dawn of the next generation consoles, gracing the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube with such classics as SpyHunter, Defender, Gauntlet, NARC, Mortal Kombat and many others, all left in their original glory. While these games were great for the older crowd that used to put their quarters on the glass for their chance to play these games in the arcade, the younger generation of gamers who spent their time playing Hydro Thunder, the Rush games, and others were left out until now.

Midway Arcade Treasures 3 seems to be the answer to the prayers of countless people begging for new releases of Hydro Thunder, Rush 2049, and Rush the Rock. These three games alone defined an era of arcade gaming and the collection also includes S.T.U.N. Runner, Super Off Road, Badlands, and others, all at a modest twenty dollar price tag. This should be a no-brainer.

Sadly, the games don’t live up to the expectations, and I’m not letting nostalgia cloud my judgment. When the game was first released, I read some reviews that claimed that Hydro Thunder was “arcade-perfect.” Bullshit. There wasn’t nearly this much slowdown in the arcade version of this game. I played a two player race of Hydro Thunder against one of my friends and it was the slowest thing I’ve ever seen. Grass grows faster.

There’s an actual working unit at the arcade near my house, and just for this review I went back and played it. Not only does the arcade version look better, it runs at a much smoother frame rate. Hydro Thunder is a game that needs high speed because it’s a fairly standard racing game without it. When there’s literally no way to crash in the game because the frame rate is moving so slowly that you can carefully plot out each turn, you’re not going to have any fun. The single player mode fairs a little bit better, but it’s still slow in comparison.

This is mainly an issue because there is no reason why it should be slow. Hydro Thunder should run cleanly on an Xbox, which is still an incredibly powerful console at this point, but it doesn’t because this was just a straight port that wasn’t optimized at all. Sure, it didn’t matter when Midway was releasing simple top-down 2D games on the system, but now that they plan on releasing some bigger, better looking games, they’re going to have to put some effort into it.

San Francisco Rush: 2049 does a better job. The frame rate is much more stable and the racing actually feels like it did in the arcade version. All the cars are here and all of the tracks have come along too. It’s just a shame about the sound. For some reason or another, the sound in this game is absolutely terrible. The voice-overs are horribly scratchy and inaudible. This fault is excusable because the racing in the game (which is most important), is solid, but this is such an obvious problem that it amazes me that it wasn’t corrected in the first place. But then again, when you just drop a bunch of games on a disc without doing anything to them, bad things are bound to happen.

San Francisco Rush: Rush the Rock does better than Hydro Thunder, but not by much. The game looks pretty good with a solid frame rate pumping out the action. The sound is much better than in Rush 2049 quality-wise, but the sound effect for the wheels squealing is completely overdone and out of place. Even the slightest, most mild turn, triggers the squealing sound effect, so you’ll hear it for almost the entire race. This is again an irritating flaw, but as before, the racing is right and that’s really what’s most important. For some reason or another, the developers didn’t seem to care that the Xbox has analog triggers and the game controls through the face buttons, which is a rather strange and silly choice to have made. And unlike Rush 2049 and Hydro Thunder, there’s no multiplayer to be found. Again, these issues come back to optimization, something that obviously wasn’t done here.

The rest of the collection, from Super Off Road to S.T.U.N. Runner to Badlands, are solid ports. They don’t have as many frame rate problems or sound issues, but I chose to highlight the other games because I think those are more the reason people want to buy this package. It’s just disappointing that there are so many issues with the three main games that people are going to be interested in, but do note that the other games in this package are worth picking up, even if Hydro Thunder is essentially unplayable multiplayer and the sound issues in the two Rush games are going to have you scrambling for your remotes “mute” button. All in all, this is still probably worth the admission price since it’s so cheap to begin with, but I think a lot of fans with vivid arcade memories are going to be disappointed with what they get.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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