Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release Date: September 9, 2003
It is no secret that the games based on the Simpsons franchise have been less than stellar, but I still hold hope that Fox Interactive will get it right with their new title, Simpsons: Hit and Run. Let’s grab a Duff, some donuts, and see if we have a winner.
Immediately at startup, you see the credits and introductions, many of which are seen in actual episodes. They even added the obscure Grace Films credit. Once you get to the main menu, you see a screen packed with familiar objects that have made an appearance in some episode over the span of the show’s 13 seasons. I couldn’t wait to start it! Before you start your adventure through Springfield, you are taken to the character select screen. There are only a couple of available characters at the start, and the rest must be unlocked through the game. Of course, I had to be my hero Homer, so I selected him and off I went to Springfield. The game plays the same as Grand Theft Auto: totally free roaming and no time limit. You can complete the missions to unlock new stuff, or you can just grab a vehicle and cruise around the town, finding hidden goodies or episode-specific gags, for the die-hard fans.
There is, however, a limit on the amount of violence in the game. You can damage and destroy cars, as well as run over fellow Springfieldians, but you will not see blood or death. Also, when jacking a car you do not throw the driver out a la GTA, but instead they take the passenger seat and come along for the ride. As far as weapons go, I haven’t come across any because Fox seem to have sent out a limited beta copy. Guess they don’t want to reveal all of their secrets!
The game world itself is expansive, taking you through all of the Springfield landmarks, such as Moe’s Bar or the Kwik-E-Mart. One aspect of the game that I love is the level of interaction throughout the town. The ability to walk into certain buildings is one of the staples of the game. Indoor exploration isn’t just about checkpoints or locating items; you can actually walk in and converse with the townspeople. There are also loads of extra checkpoints throughout the city, ranging from a change of clothes to a changing of automobiles.
As far as destructible items go, there are many ramps, billboards, street lights, and park benches to mow down in order to collect coins and points. Coins are the currency in Hit and Run, the means with which you can go to the different checkpoints and purchase the clothes, cars, items, etc. The story behind Hit and Run is of the caliber you would find in any Simpsons episode. The sarcasm and wit is in full force here, making for quite an enjoyable gaming experience, as well as keeping you laughing all through your adventure.
The graphics in Hit and Run are the same as in the previous titles, like Simpsons Skateboarding or Road Rage. All 3D, I personally could see the graphics benefiting if cell-shading were used, but it’s a bit too late for that now. The graphics engine paints the visuals of the Simpsons perfectly. The conventional artwork from the episodes is present in this game (no need to go overboard with super-intricate textures). The cars do take damage, but some of the models do not show it, all that happens is your car starts to smoke then eventually blows up. Character movement is smooth, and the character models are extremely well done. The audio synchronization can be off at times, and at some angles, the characters look a little odd, but nothing drastic.
All the actors have lent their talents to voicing the game’s characters. Throughout the game, you are bombarded with the hilarious one-liners from each character. Who wouldn’t want to laugh at poor Gil asking for some spare change? The sound effects are right on, and the world is loaded with the hustle and bustle of Springfield. As far as music, goes there is a soundtrack in the key of “The Simpsons,” and yes, the classic intro song is there. Top notch audio all the way.
To finish this up, I will end with the controls. The controls are your standard GTA style and are obviously easy to use. You can remap the keys, if you like. As far as the game goes, it is a solid title, but I do wonder about the long-term fun factor of the game. For fans of the Simpsons, there will be no problem. You will spend hours upon days upon months playing this title, unlocking and discovering all of its secrets. As for the people who are not Simpsons regulars, I wonder if they would part with the 50 greenbacks for this game, because this is a game for the die-hard fans. If anyone exists who either doesn’t like the Simpsons or hasn’t ever watched them, you have all of my pity!