Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release Date: November 11, 2003
The Simpsons Hit and Run has been ported to every console and sold like wildfire. If you are a major Simpsons fan and can quote several lines from the series at will, reading about the game is just more torture for you. Go buy this one. It is being heralded as the first game made true to the Simpsons spirit. This game finally 'gets it.' If you are like me and just wondering if it's a good game or not, continue on and find out more about this title that has every game playing Simpsons fan in a stir.
If you have followed or even tried any of the previous games with The Simpsons name on them you know a couple things. First of all, the games were not very good and just tacked on The Simpsons over some type of game that had already been made. Second of all, you know that none of them really captured the spirit of the show that has had continued success for 15 seasons. Somehow the fast paced, witty fun of the Simpsons characters just didn't shine through in the games previous to Hit and Run. Radical Entertainment has gone to some great lengths in Hit and Run to try and capture the look and feel of the TV show that millions now love. Even if you're not a big fan of gaming, or this particular genre of game, just being a Simpsons fan is almost worth the price of admission. Although you will find a few bumps along the way.
The Simpsons Hit and Run does borrow heavily from other successful titles in its overall game play design. There is an obvious borrowing from the GTA Vice City games. As a matter of fact, if you want a more pg rated, cartoon version of Vice City, Hit and Run may be the answer. If you hit someone there really isn't any violence. The victim either jumps out of the way when you go for them or they just go tumbling away spraying funny little catechisms from the show at you. When you're walking there are no weapons to use. The most you can do is kick. There is some incorporation of running over coins to build your money supply that could go all the way back to Mario. This felt a little cheesy, knocking over boxes and running through coins, and almost took away from how well done the game captures the show.
As you get started you will notice the graphical feel of the game jumps out at you in a significant way. The characters have all been done with 3d modeling. Cel-Shading would have been interesting as it tends to lend more towards the feel of an animated show. However, once you're in the game for a bit the simple 3d models work just fine. The colors are bright and boisterous, leaning towards loud, but hey, it's The Simpsons after all. The world of Springfield has been recreated in all of its glory with complete freedom to roam around. The interactivity of the world is not anywhere in the league of a GTA Vice City, nor is the mission design. If you choose to, you can just drive or walk around and go visit all the places you have watched in the show for years in your very own virtual tour. This is yet another reason that many Simpsons fans will want this game. Some of the modeling of environments feels overly simplistic and often looks like more could have been done. However, they do seem to do a good enough job of attempting to capture the animated look from the show. The models do feel a little plain but this isn't much of a bother as most of the time you're speeding through and not paying much attention.
The story goes many different directions but all revolves around some mechanical bees that are everywhere, some black vans that seem to be monitoring people and a new highly caffeinated cola. The story is decent and swerves off the beaten path just like the TV show does. There are several different levels to the game and you will get to take different characters through the levels to complete the game. To progress through the story line there will be quite a few mini tasks or quests that you are given to complete. The game is very linear as you can not progress until you have completed the current assignment. Most of the missions are very simplistic and you get a lot of hand holding to get you through. As you drive you see arrows on the road helping you navigate to your goal. You also have a small compass with your current goal in view to show you which way to go.
As your vehicle breaks down you will see floating wrenches, symbolizing a fix point. Run through them and your back to normal. Phone booths are also scattered about, unless you, ahem, accidentally run into them. Then you will just see a hovering phone. At these locations you can change vehicles as long as they are unlocked. You will also be able to upgrade your vehicles with better acceleration etc…
Unfortunately many of the missions began to feel very repetitive. There are several that feel too easy. Then they seem to go from too easy to almost too hard. You will start off just taking orders from Marge and retrieving items. Some of the tasks must be done with a time limit or you will have to try again. This all works well enough but after a bit can feel very mundane. There isn't much variance in many of the quests. Go here, get this, and do it under this amount of time or try it again. As mentioned, this all works fine until you proceed further into the game and find that some of the goals are just ridiculously hard to beat in the time allowed. Getting to try again is fair enough. But, not when it means your only way to complete the mission is to do it virtually without a flaw. Here is where some major frustration can begin to set in. In GTA, you may have to try again, but you have a much more open ended way of accomplishing your goal. If you're not getting it done by your first choice, try another path or another method completely. In The Simpsons Hit and Run you don't have this option. If you don't complete it under the allotted time, try again. But, this time do it flawlessly. This can mean trying the same mission over and over until you finally do it without a hitch. This started to make the game wear out very quickly. What was a whimsical romp through Springfield and its characters turned into a bit of frustration in a hurry.
Voice acting in the game is top notch and a breath of fresh air as many games overlook the importance of it. Every character from The Simpsons is represented in this game and they all have the correct voices. There is much to enjoy here as you will hear the entire cast spout off little cliché's from the show quite often. I found myself laughing as I drove my car and listened to the characters throw out little quotes from the TV show. As you progress through the game you will eventually end up controlling Homer, Bart, Marge and Lisa and others as they speed through a serious of goals. The in game music seems very on par with the action that you are currently in. Well done and fitting to the occasion.
The controls for the game are a little on the weak side for the pc. This seems all too common in games that are ported for consoles and the pc. The design seems to lend itself towards consoles. The pc control seems to be more of an afterthought. You can remap some of the keys but it still takes some getting used to. The camera angles can also get a little frustrating. At times the camera seems to swing around and make it difficult to navigate when you are walking. This isn't a problem when you are driving at all as you mostly just need to see where you're going with some peripheral vision for turning. Walking however found me in some tight spots. One task early in the game was to take different lifts in the nuclear plant and kick some power generators. If I fell, I would find that the camera angle would leave me looking at a wall and not the character. I was only able to get myself out by guessing when to jump and move. At one point I was staring up, underneath a catwalk and my character was on top of it, out of sight. Camera angle seems to be another thing that over the shoulder, 3rd person perspective games struggle with quite frequently. The Simpsons Hit and Run is no exception.
There is no multiplayer aspect to the game but there is a racing mode that can be unlocked if you collect all the cards in the game. The cards are hidden in different places in town and each has a significant moment from the show imprinted on it. Collect them all and you will unlock a special racing mode. There are also a few easter eggs in the game that you can find how to locate by searching the net. Some of these include a special vehicle that you can drive if you find it. On the first level this is a rocket car. Other easter eggs include the graphics changing a little on national holidays. This is synced up with your computers calendar. Once again, searching the net will reveal these little goodies.
The Simpsons Hit and Run is the first game that really captures the spirit of the show. The sharp wit of the series that has run 15 years finally comes through its excellent use of the characters. There have been 10 plus titles with The Simpsons name on them that have not really got it right. The Simpsons Hit and Run gets this part right. If you are a major fan of the television series and just want to walk and drive around Springfield and see the characters, this game allows you to in spades. If you enjoy the idea of the Grand Theft Auto series but wish it was less violent, this game may suit you as well. You can hit people in your vehicles but there is no violence, just rolling and dodging. The camera and controls can be a little flakey at times and some of the missions can go from being repetitive to just about impossible. However, there is just too much that has been done right to capture the characters and the town of Springfield to hold this game back from a good recommendation.