The Simpsons: Hit & Run
Though The Simpsons: Hit & Run sounds far more like something dreamed up by a marketing weasel than a game designer (“It’s The Simpsons meets Grand Theft Auto III!”), the fact is, for once, someone figured out how to take a great TV show and make a great game out of it. With all of the original voice actors, a suitably ridiculous story, and a steady stream of laugh-out-loud jokes, The Simpsons: Hit & Run is, like the show itself, awesome entertainment—smart, irreverent, and funny as hell. And it’s one of the best action games of the year.
I need Amanda Hugandkiss
Grand Theft Auto III is indeed the starting point here, but it’d be unfair to call this game a total rip-off. Let’s call it a partial rip-off with Simpsons-esque elements of parody throughout. In any case, what we have here is an action-oriented driving game in which you face a variety of challenges in a colorful, cartoony 3D version of the Simpsons’ beloved Springfield. As in GTA3, you follow a story over a linear series of missions, but you can opt out of the campaign at any time just to drive around and indulge in activities that will help you unlock vehicles and other bonuses.
The game’s story is as silly as any episode of the show—some kind of nonsense about Springfield being overrun by mysterious black vans and mechanized bees, which may or may not be the doings of evil Montgomery Burns—but the designers do a nice job of structuring it so that it makes sense in relation to the gameplay. The main campaign is divided into seven levels, and each puts you behind the wheel as a particular Simpsons character, beginning with Homer, followed by Bart, Lisa, Marge, Apu, and then Bart and Homer again for the last two levels. Springfield is divided into three giant maps that change and open up new areas as the game progresses, eventually transforming into a nice Treehouse of Horror–style freakout for the game’s final level.
Each level has seven primary missions and one bonus mission, all of which boil down to being races, item pickups, or search-and-destroy-style missions. Your tasks are full of the usual Simpsons silliness: Help Comic Book Guy race another nerd to a coffeehouse to be the first to post comments online about a lousy movie, assist the redneck Cletus in “harvesting” ketchup packets for the winter, and so on. The difficulty of these missions runs the gamut—some tasks are ridiculously easy, while a few are exercises in keyboard-banging frustration.
Most can be beat handily with the right vehicle and proper familiarity with the levels’ many shortcuts, but, in my case at least, a few were nearly impossible because of the unforgiving time limits. Thankfully, the developers understand the need to keep Hit & Run fairly easy for casual gamers, so they not only made it simple to restart missions with no penalty, but also built in a Skip option to use after you’ve repeatedly failed a mission. This will allow even those who suck to progress through the campaign, try all the missions, and see all the cut-scenes. That’s a lesson all game developers should heed.
This game tastes like grandma!
But really, this is all about The Simpsons. Hit & Run is not just bogus shovelware with the license slathered on—it’s a full-fledged, genuine Simpsons production created by some of the show’s writers, featuring virtually every minor character you can think of, and jam-packed with hundreds of references to past episodes—enough to keep Comic Book Guy himself scouring the official episode guide for weeks. How can you not love a game that has Apu declaring, “I’m a lean, mean Vindaloo machine!” while racing or has poor, pathetic Ralph Wiggum counting down “One…one….one…go!” for a race? The Simpsons Hit & Run is relentlessly funny, constantly entertaining, and a total joy to play. For Simpsons fans (and is there anyone who isn’t one?), it’s nothing less than a must-have game.
The best GTA3 rip-off ever and a must-have for Simpsons fans.
Porting Games 101
As with GTA3, this is a port that arguably works better on PC than its original consoles. Graphicswise, there’s no comparison. Though the game’s 3D engine may not rival state-of-the-art beauties like the one in Tron 2.0, the 3D Springfield is still gloriously rendered, and on PC, the ability to jack up the resolution makes for a huge improvement—everything looks much crisper and clearer. It’s done efficiently, too. Unlike some dedicated PC games, I was able to play this all the way up at 1600×1200 on my P4, with no loss in performance whatsoever.
While some gamers may insist Hit & Run needs a console controller or gamepad, I had no trouble getting through the game with a keyboard and mouse, and I suspect that anyone who’s logged time behind vehicles in games like Battlefield 1942 will find it similarly easy. And having mouse-look when you’re out of your vehicle makes exploring levels on foot much easier.
Publisher: Vivendi Universal Games
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Required: Pentium III 700MHz 192MB RAM, 32MB 3D card, 1.2GB hard drive space
Recommended: Pentium III 1GHz, 256MB RAM, 64MB 3D card Multiplayer: None
Copyright © 2003 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Computer Gaming World.