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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
8.5
Visuals
8.0
Audio
9.0
Gameplay
8.5
Features
9.0
Replay
8.0
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
Xbox
PUBLISHER:
Vivendi Games
DEVELOPER:
Radical Entertainment
GENRE: Action
PLAYERS:   1
RELEASE DATE:
September 16, 2003
ESRB RATING:
Teen
IN THE SERIES
The Simpsons Game

The Simpsons Game

The Simpsons Game

The Simpsons Game

The Simpsons Game

More in this Series
 Written by Alex Fitzgerald  on October 01, 2003

Full Review: With Halle Berry being the artistic basis


Cloning has always been a big part of any entertainment industry. Once Bruce Lee got big in the Hong Kong action industry, kung fu movie fans were treated to several flicks starring martial artists with names like "Bruce Leung" "Bruce Ali" and "Brian Lee." When Korn and The Deftones got big in the music industry during the early 90's with their unique blend of whisper lyrics and grinding guitars, major music publishers like Sony and Warner Bros. started putting out albums by groups like "Endo" "Unloco" and others who blatantly ripped off Korn's new rap metal sound.

Even in the video game industry we have been treated to our fair share of carbon copies, which started appearing as early as the days of Pong. It seems that these days that for every Xtreme Beach Volleyball there's a Beach Spikers, and for every Tony Hawk's Pro Skater there's a Grind Session.

Though this obvious "borrowing" of ideas has gotten many a video game journalist riled up (claiming that said games are one of the main reasons for the lack of originality in the video games industry we're seeing today) there are some good side effects of these rip-off games, and The Simpsons: Hit and Run is a good example of this.

When you play Simpsons: Hit and Run, it's obvious within about three seconds that you're playing one of the many GTA clones out this year. Unlike many of the other GTA clones though Hit and Run has one very unique thing going for it: The Simpsons license.

Make no mistake about it either, The Simpsons license is being utilized to the fullest this time around. Unlike earlier Simpsons games like Road Rage and Simpsons: Wrestling (which were just terrible games with a Simpson's shell surrounding them) all of the wacky social commentary, character comedy, and slapstick humor that makes The Simpsons so fun to watch on TV can be found within Hit and Run in great quantities.

The game's plot is somewhat lame when compared to some of the great stuff we've seen on the show, but it holds the game's missions together nicely. It goes like this: Springfield is on edge after black vans with cameras sticking out their roof start roaming the city's streets. To further the paranoia, little mechanical bees with cameras in them as well are also making the rounds in Springfield. Where are these mechanical bees and vans coming from? Who is sending them? What do they want with footage of Springfield? These and other questions can only be answered by cruising the town as any one of The Simpsons family (save for Maggie) or Apu, following leads you get from other lovable Springfield citizens, and gradually coming closer to finding out who the real culprit is.

Of course, no one is going to try to complete the game to find out more plot tidbits, but instead to just get at more of The Simpsons humor. Fortunately for Simpson's fans, Hit and Run sets new standards for humor in games. Around every corner in the game gamers are greeted with funny lines of dialogue, hilarious scenery, and other hilarious material that is sure to please any Simpsons fan to an umpteenth degree.

It's good that the humor is so great in the game, because it does carry the rest of the game. Though not approaching Futurama levels of compensation, the reason you will often go on in the game is because of The Simpsons scenery and not because of the missions design. It's not that the driving missions you drive are bad; it's just that they are unoriginal. The mission types you engage in - chasing vehicles, destroying cars, collecting items...have been done a million times before in a million other Driver clones, and if you're someone who has played a number of those games, these missions are going to feel tired after only an hour or so of gameplay.

The humor isn't the only thing that carries the tired missions though; it's just the most predominant one. There are other high points the game holds that'll make you forget about the lame missions, like the game's world. Remember the first time you played GTA3, how free you felt within the game's virtual universe? The same feeling is aroused in any Simpson fan the second their hands touch the controller and they're let loose in the games virtual worlds.

Everything that you could've asked from a virtual Springfield is here. Spread out among the game's six different areas are tons of secret areas, shortcuts, and a plethora of Simpsons characters that you can interact with. To top it all off, each area also is loaded to the brim with famous Simpson landmarks. The Bowlerama, Moe's, Springfield Gorge...you'll run into these places and hundreds more areas plucked straight from the show. There are also much smaller references to the old shows to be found within the game, as you'll see many billboards that have popped up in The Simpsons shows, you'll run through fields of Tomacco, and you'll occasionally see some signs of Simpson neglect (El Barto graffiti anyone?)

The game's developers have also done a stellar job of giving you things to do within each game area. Other than simply doing the story missions, gamers will also get to engage in side missions, mechanized bee breaking, and various platforming-style collecting challenges.

The side missions are nothing really special, as all they have you doing is talking to a Springfield character and then performing a task that isn't too unlike the ones you would find in the story missions. The real shining beacon in these side tasks is the ones that are more geared towards the platforming audience than the GTA crowd. Unlike many other games in the Driver vein, the playable characters in Hit and Run are given the ability to perform double jumps and butt stomps. Using these abilities, gamers can reach rooftops and other hidden areas, do some platform jumping, collect some coins, and battle some enemies.

This platforming flair added to the normal driving gameplay gives Hit and Run a more original gaming mix, thus keeping the game feeling much fresher than it would have if it simply stuck to just being a GTA clone. Also, the things you collect and unlock through the game's platforming elements are sure to please Simpsons fanatics exponentially. In Hit and Run, gamers will be able to unlock special Simpsons costumes and vehicles from classic Simpsons episodes, that players can access from any one of the phone booths or clothes stores located all about Springfield. Also, gamers will be able to unlock special collectible cards in the game, each one containing a summary of a famous Simpson episode and a memorable line.

If that isn't enough for your rabid Simpson fanatic needs you can also go about the town looking for what the game calls "Gags". Essentially, Gags are these areas within the game world marked by glittering blue lights, that when you press the Y button near reveals a joke (usually slapstick or silly in essence). A lot of these jokes are just lame environment interaction, but a few of them really had me laughing for quite a while. Trust me, the first time you hear a siren go off and a big booming voice yelling "Silent alarm activated" you probably will be laughing your ass off as well.

The control layout works nicely within the game world. Though the arrangement is simple, it does allow you to do everything you want to do while driving or walking about the town. The cars in the game control very arcade-like, which is perfectly fitting for the game. The one blemish on the controls is the camera control. Though not terribly bad the camera occasionally will get caught in areas you don't want it to, and turning the camera-control joystick will do little to help the situation.

The audio in the game is done very well. As you can imagine, the voice acting is excellent, with every Simpson show voice actor reprising their role for their game. The actual dialogue that the voice actors deliver is well written by the actual show writers, all though occasionally characters will shout out a phrase that sounds a tad out of character (such is the case when Lisa says "my bad" or when Bart says something really moronic that sounds more fitting for Homer).

The game's music is a nice touch in the grand scheme of things. Each character's music is fitting, as Bart perfectly lends himself to electric guitars while Marge sounds much better driving around to much more relaxed arrangements. Certain areas also have their own specific music, with areas like the Duff factory switching the character music to happy, drunk bagpipe music that adds to the immersion of the game. The sound effects are nothing special, but they do the job.

The graphics in the game are a mixture of 2D and 3D art styles that look fine when you're playing the game, but a bit laughable during the game's cinematic. The animations for the characters don't disappoint, being as fluid as they are natural, and the draw-in distance for the game's world is fine (likely helped by the fact that Springfield has been divided into six different areas as opposed to one cohesive city). The framerate stays pretty steady throughout most of the game, all though you might run into a few situations where it will drop a bit. Still, it doesn't hurt the game's core gameplay too terribly so it really doesn't matter.

Bottom Line
When it all comes down to it, The Simpsons: Hit and Run is the game that Simpson's fans have been dreaming about. Even though some of the game's missions get repetitive, the ability to explore a living, breathing, virtual Springfield more than makes up for the game's flaws. If you're a fan of The Simpsons show you'd be smart to check out this game. Whether you rent or buy though, you're sure to get caught up Matt Groening's work more so than you've ever been able to before.


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