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Simpsons: Hit & Run

Developer: Radical Entertainment | Publisher: VU Games
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 09/16/03 | Genre: Driving

Of course, The Simpsons has been known for providing great television entertainment. However, the same hasn’t really been true for video games. There hasn’t been a remotely good Simpsons game since the 16-bit era. Almost two years ago, developer Radical Entertainment and EA gave us The Simpsons Road Rage, a clone of Sega’s Crazy Taxi with a Simpsons twist. Despite poor reviews, Road Rage sold fairly well. This time, Radical Entertainment with publisher Vivendi Universal/Fox Interactive has drawn off of the gameplay mechanics of another popular game for The Simpsons Hit & Run. Have they done a better job this time? Let’s see.

Hit & Run borrows heavily from the gameplay of Grand Theft Auto III. That already sounds like fun, but Road Rage was also based off of a really fun game. I’m happy to say that Radical Entertainment did a much better job this time though. Hit & Run is most easily described by saying, 쉴’s like GTA3, but with the Simpsons.hat’s true, but to give Radical some more credit, they did a great job of adapting the universe of the Simpsons to the gameplay presented in GTA3. The connection between The Simpsons characters and the GTA3-type gameplay doesn’t feel contrived. The Simpsons don’t seem out of place in this game. Probably the major reason for this is because the game’s story and dialogue were written by the actual writers of the TV series, and the voice acting is performed by the actual voice actors from the show. Not only does it give you an authentic experience, it means that the game is pretty funny.

As I said, The Simpsons universe has been well-adapted into the gameplay. They didn’t just give you Simpsons characters with the goal of stealing cars and committing crimes. In fact, the game isn’t very criminal at all. The violence is all cartoony. The worst you will see is a car exploding (after people safely jump out) or people being knocked down and then getting right back up. The story revolves around mysterious surveillance cameras that have been appearing around Springfield. As the Simpsons attempt to uncover the mystery, they’ll also become involved in the problems of many citizens of Springfield. To accomplish missions, you’ll have to use a variety of vehicles as well as explore on your own two feet. As Bart explains in the tutorial, you don’t actually steal other people’s cars; you’re just 죡tching a ride.e explains that the Simpsons have done so much for Springfield that no one really mines lending the Simpsons a hand. In practice, it basically amounts to carjacking, but you do actually see your character (like Homer) sitting in the passenger seat as the original driver of the car remains behind the wheel. Again, as I said, the game isn’t all that criminal. On foot, your characters have no access to weapons. The worst they can do is kick. Kicking is primarily used to break boxes and destroy the mysterious surveillance cameras. You can kick people too, but it doesn’t really serve a purpose. Although, you’ll hear some funny lines from the various characters. Most objects, such as signs, trash cans, small trees, and more around Springfield can also be destroyed. Of course, you can also destroy both your own car and other cars if you drive too recklessly. You can always 쨩tch another riderom the numerous cars in the general traffic flow, but that doesn’t mean that you can just go around on a destructive rampage. There is a circular Hit & Run meter in the lower-right corner of the screen. It gradually builds up as you destroy property and harm people, and it slowly decreases when you are not. As you might have guessed, harming people rapidly increases your Hit & Run meter while 쭥relyestroying property doesn’t cause as much of an increase. Once the meter is full, Springfield’s finest will be on your tail, ready to bust you for a 쨩t & runiolation. Although it is not an easy task, you can give the cops the slip by evading them until your Hit & Run meter decreases completely. That’s easier said then done because if you hit more people or objects as you try to avoid the police, it will prevent your meter from decreasing. Being caught isn’t that big of a deal though. You just have to pay a fine of 50 coins, and coins are not exactly the scarcest thing in Springfield. For the most part, it’s just an inconvenience. However, in some missions that involve following other cars, races, or time limits, avoiding a Hit & Run can be crucial.

Being a multiplatform game, Hit & Run doesn’t exactly dazzle you with the visuals, but they are adequate. Texture quality and geometry detail are not that great, but it doesn’t detract from the gameplay. Even with the average graphics, the framerate drops some times, but it generally stays at about 30 fps. Probably the most problematic area in terms of visuals is the character animations. Facial animations consist of open-close flap-jaws that make it seem like the characters’ lips are actually bird beaks when they speak. Some of the animations look fine while others seem out of place. Transition between animation routines is often abrupt and awkward looking. There is also some inconsistent art design that stands out. In many of the levels, you’ll admire the little details such as posters and signs, but every once in a while, you’ll come across an object that doesn’t fit. For instance, in the second level, you can see a cat that is just one flat color with what looks like arts-and-crafts googly eyes pasted onto its head. Particle effects are as simple as they could be and there is no lighting. Over all, the graphics seem on the simple side, yet they get the job done. On a design note, The Simpsons look a little odd in 3D. This is one game that I think everyone could agree would look good cel-shaded. For instance, Homer’s big, bulging eyes look just a little odd when seen in full 3D. Still, it’s just something that takes a little while to get used to.

The audio quality is not as good as the PS2 or Xbox versions because it has been compressed some more to fit on the GameCube disc. However, there is a good selection of Simsons music, some better than others. I’m just thankful for the variety. Of course, the voice work is excellent. Every character in the game is voiced by the actual voice actor from the TV show. That’s a good thing too because there is a lot of dialogue in the game. It’s also really funny since it was written by actual Simpsons writers. Aside from scripted cutscenes, there are also several lines that will be blurted out by the player’s character, pedestrians, and other drivers. While you will eventually hear everything a few times from repetition, I don’t think it gets annoying because they included enough different lines. It’s not like you’ll be hearing the same one or two lines over and over again.

The controls are pretty simple. It’s not a very technical driving game. You can accelerate, brake, or use the emergency brake to drift or skid into 180′s. You can enter almost any car at any time, barring mission restrictions. You can also exit any vehicle at any time to explore on foot. Each character can walk, run, kick, jump and double-jump. Again, the controls are straightforward and easy to use. The major problem with how the game plays are physics and collision detection. Basically, they are just sub-standard. Collision detection problems don’t affect the gameplay that much. It mostly just hurts the visuals. Sometimes you’ll see some NPC’s standing right inside each other or sometimes they go a little bit into the ground when knocked over. The physics affect the experience more importantly though. There is a problem with cars going over a horizontal surface to a steep surface. The car tends to stick to the steep surface (even a vertical wall) and it just looks ridiculous and slows you down a lot because you have to either try to go forward and reverse to free your car, or hit the D-pad which resets your car onto the road. At lease the developers gave the player a way out when the car gets stuck, but the necessity of such a function is not a good thing. Another strange thing about the physics engine is that the vehicles resist tipping over to the point of ridiculousness. Your car can literally be vertical on its side

By Andrew Thivyanathan - 10/06/03
ESRB Details: Comic Mischief, Mild Language, Violence
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Screenshots for Simpsons: Hit & Run

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