Summary: Hardly anyone believed us last summer when we previewed the latest Simpsons video game and happily reported that it was actually going to be good. Now that the console versions have been out for some time now, the word is out: The Simpsons Hit & Run is actually a great game! Today, the PC version of Hit & Run ships to stores. Read our review to find out why no Simpsons fan should be without this Grand Theft Auto inspired creation!
oh, wrong theme song.
The Gritty Side of Springfield
Hit & Run is essentially a parody of Grand Theft Auto 3. All of the necessary elements are there: a variety of hijackable cars, powerful weapons that are great for attacking random street-goers, prostitutes, and run-ins with the law. Except that in the Simpsons world, you can simply hop in someone's car and get a free ride (as Bart says, "we deserve it after all we've done for this town!"), the weapons include your legs (kicking) and butt (a Mario-esque double-jump and squash), the prostitutes are just skimpily dressed women near the trailer park where Cletus lives, and the police will charge you 50 coins (or whatever you have if less than 50) if they catch you after an extended binge of hitting people and, well, running.
Vivendi Universal Games
Xbox, GC, PS2, and PC
missions that advance the game. The story starts simply enough, with Homer talking to Ned Flanders and running errands for Marge, but over time a very mysterious mystery mysteriously manifests, putting the characters on the trail of a suspicious, specious cola. As the game progresses you will come across nearly every resident in Springfield, including: Professor Frink, Snake, Comic book guy, the Captain, Krusty the Clown, Principal Skinner (and mother), Dr. Nick, Dr. Hibbert, Moe, and countless others.
The FedEx Quest
The most common missions involve driving around very rapidly to pick things up, deliver things, pick up and deliver things, bump into vehicles that have things you should pick up so that you might pick them up and deliver them, and, finally, blowing up vehicles in order to pick up their contents, usually for the purpose of delivery. You'll never feel
SIDEBAR: Recent Simpsons episodes sucking less?
gags, or attack the wasp cameras that have appeared all over Springfield. There are seven collector cards per level that open up racetracks in the multiplayer bonus game styled after Off Road (Bart says: "it's like a game within a game!").
3D is fun for the whole family! The Simpsons family, at least.
Hit & Run manages a very cartoonish feel for such a thoroughly 3D game. Simpsons purists will no doubt find fault with the appearance of Springfield and co., but I think anyone with an open mind will find it to be a generally pleasing translation... even if Lisa's hair is a bit wacky in the third dimension. Each level has several outfits you can buy for your character, including the Bartman costume and "casual" Homer in underwear only. Unfortunately, the characters' mouths are not synced with their speech, and this can be very jarring initially. You hear Homer. You see Homer. But it doesn't look like the Homer you see and the Homer you hear are one and the same. After enough playing it's easy to habituate to this unseemly design issue, but it really is too bad that Radical Entertainment didn't at least fix this for the in-game cutscenes.
SIDEBAR: The Simpsons children are given anti-growth hormones to fend off puberty (source of information: the revealing behind the scenes special).
Memorable Quotes Abound
The character speech is top-notch. Each character has a rotating set of sayings to shout while driving around or kicking people. Often times these become amusing for reasons unintended. If Bart hops in his car, drives slowly for two feet and hops out, he's apt to say his usual "leaving the car" saying: "That was soo cool". Certain sayings can get annoying over time, but many cars you use come pre-equipped with drivers, so across missions you will not only hear your own character, but also those that drive you around (including Otto and his school bus, or Professor Frink and his hover vehicle).
SIDEBAR: Homer's hunger knows no bounds. In one episode he actually says, "mmm... hippo."
Running People Over Does Not Shut Them Up
The shouts and cries of characters you run into are repeated more frequently. You can scarcely run over a dozen Springfieldians without hearing "you want a newspaper upside youse head?" or "This is a sad day for generic characters everywhere". The sound effects that coincide with running things over are varied, but you get used to them so quickly that they're virtually unnoticeable by the third or fourth mission.
A Lone Trumpet Sounds in the Distance
Hit & Run also happens to have an excellent soundtrack worthy of the TV series. The music spans jaunty little driving numbers to ambient horn sounds (all the better for walking) or something that might be on a "Hot Nights in the Red Light District" compilation. Er... not that I own one of those. Take a trip near Moe's and you'll hear it, though. There are no musical or sung numbers, but you really couldn't ask for nicer background noise in the Simpsons universe.
SIDEBAR: The Simpsons has become an industry unto itself.
Although I can whole-heartedly recommend this game to fellow Simpsons fanatics, many non-Simpsons fans would miss the gags and jokes that make the game so fun. If you boil it down to its basic elements you really get a lot of repetitive driving around ala Crazy Taxi or GTA 3. This can be incredibly fun if you're enjoying all of the story asides and jokes in-between, but the basic gameplay is slightly lacking. That being said, Simpsons fans who don't have anything against over 50 (mostly driving) missions and races will no doubt find Hit & Run to be a worthwhile venture.
There really isn't anything quite like driving around your favorite cartoon town and talking to all of the people you've watched for years. Radical Entertainment has done a superb job of capturing The Simpsons feel, which is a pretty amazing feat when you stop to think about it. Random hilarious run-ins occur frequently, many times when they aren't even scripted. And for a show that has virtually nothing to do with driving, it's impressive to see a Springfield with seamlessly integrated wacky vehicles, destructive driving (Canyonero! - it's in the game, baby), and unexpected donut theft.
Hit & Run is available on the PC starting today, so console and computer gamers alike can take it for a spin. If you love The Simpsons, what else can I say? Get Hit & Run at the soonest opportunity. You're in for a wild ride...
SIDEBAR: Last night's "Itchy & Scratchy" was, without a doubt, the worst episode ever. Rest assured that I was on the Internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world.
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