Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games
Developer: Radical Entertainment
N Amer - 11/13/2003
The Simpsons Hit & Run Review
Even among licenses, The Simpsons has had a pretty spotty track record. From the most recent (the dismal Road Rage) to the Super Nintendo/Genesis titles of yore (Virtual Bart, anyone?), Simpsons games have been lukewarm at best. Simpsons Hit & Run, however, comes in to change all that, and it actually manages to do so by offering a deep and fun Simpsons game. The gameplay formula has borrowed heavily (read: ripped off) Grand Theft Auto, but while derivative, Hit & Run is very engaging and fans of the series will enjoy the plethora of little nuances pulled from the TV show. Sure it’s a complete knock-off, but that doesn’t stop Hit & Run from being the best Simpsons game on record.
The plot of Simpsons Hit & Run involves a mystery surrounding the appearance of robotic wasps, black surveillance vans disguised as pizza trucks and other bizarre goings-on in the peaceful town of Springfield. You play as various members of the Simpson clan as you complete missions in order to uncover the plot behind the disturbances.
The core gameplay of Hit & Run feels a lot like a cross between a platformer and Grand Theft Auto. Certain areas require you to complete jumping puzzles and defeat enemies by kicking them. The game follows a lot of the same confines as a platformer, you even collect coins for the purpose of unlocking new vehicles and costumes. However the meat of the game is the driving missions. These missions may have very well been taken straight from GTA, since you pretty much do the exact same things in them as you would in that game. You race against others, collect items before the timer runs out, wreck other cars; pretty much the same as GTA. Plus, you can also commandeer any other vehicle in the game, a la Grand Theft Auto.
However, what the game lacks in originality, it more than makes up in atmosphere. The game is brimming with little nuances from the TV show that fans both casual and hardcore will be able to pick out and enjoy. The game makes you feel like you are really in Springfield, with bit and pieces from individual episodes like Montgomery Burns’ casino, Chief Wiggum’s “We Are Watching You Kids” sign, Kamp Krusty and many, many others.
Even the vehicles you have access to are pulled from individual episodes of the show, like both the Plow King and Mr. Plow, Lisa’s Malibu Stacy Hot Rod, the family car and Bart’s boxcar. Same thing goes for the unlockable costumes All of your favorite characters from the show also make an appearance like the Comic Book Geek, Professor Frink, Grandpa Simpson, Otto and tons of others.
Although the gameplay formula draws heavily from GTA, the game structure is a bit more linear than that of GTA. The game progresses with more of a definite focus on story and you pretty much play through the game’s levels and proceed onto the next member of the Simpson family. Springfield, while extremely detailed, isn’t as expansive as Vice City. However, one thing that I actually found to be better in Hit & Run was the vehicle physics. The cars handle a bit more fluidly than in GTA and, with a good gamepad, the game feels very responsive and natural behind the wheel. The default keyboard and mouse configuration is a little frustrating, but this can easily be changed through the game’s options.
The graphics are great. The characters feel a bit goofy at first (being in 3D and all) but after you get used to them, they look great and are well animated. The environments are excellent, full of wonderful little nuances from the TV show. The overall look of the graphical presentation is excellent and does a great job of capturing the essence of the show.
The sound is also extremely good. The music contains a very eclectic mix of songs. There is the Simpsons’ theme song, which has been revamped and remixed in various different interpretations throughout parts in the game. There are also some original songs that accompany each character, giving them a unique feeling. Bart has some hard rock underlying his driving missions, while Lisa’s is laid back and sounds like it’s taken out of a sixties beach movie. The voice acting is done superbly by the TV show cast, and the dialogue (while repetitive after a while) is very snappy and funny.
Simpsons Hit & Run is a great game that, while not at all very original, does a fine job of emulating the feel of the show on which it’s based. The game is brimming with atmosphere and references that will make hardcore fans of the show giggle with delight. Simpsons fans both casual and hardcore should check this game out.
Reviewer’s Scoring Details
Hit & Run offers up a mix of platforming and driving. While finding coins throughout Springfield is a bit on the redundant side, the sense of atmosphere is fantastic. There is plenty to do in the town of Springfield. The vehicle physics are very nice and the game is chock full of references to the show that fans will certainly dig.
The world of Springfield has never looked so gorgeous; everything is portrayed in vivid detail, and the nuances from the show look great. All in all, the graphical presentation is excellent, not to mention that this version benefits from the PC’s higher resolutions and better textures.
The music is composed of variations of Danny Elfman’s Simpsons theme and unique tunes for each member of the Simpson family, and sounds great and upbeat. The voice acting (while a little repetitive at times) is superbly done by the original cast, and the script is very clever.
Hit & Run borrows heavily from existing games like GTA and any number of platformers, so don’t expect anything original. However, what it does, it does well.
Ok, so it’s a bit of a rip-off of GTA with some Mario thrown in. However, the Simpsons’ universe is so well conceived in Hit & Run that you can’t help but feel charmed by the atmosphere. The gameplay is fun, the graphics are great and the overall presentation feels like the Simpsons more than any other game ever has, making this very likely the best Simpsons game ever.
GameZone Review Detail
Sure it’s a complete knock-off, but that doesn’t stop Hit & Run from being the best Simpsons game on record.
Reviewer: Steven Hopper
Review Date: 12/23/2003