Tuesday, May 17, 2016

VGR The Simpsons Hit & Run

VGR: The Simpsons: Hit & Run
From Radical Entertainment/Vivendi Universal Games/Sierra Entertainment/Fox Interactive/Gracie Films
Played on Nintendo GameCube
Also available on Xbox, PS2 and PC

Type Sandbox GTA-like driving
Year 2003

There's been a ton of games based around Matt Groening's Simpsons over the year. A couple of them good. A ton of others, really bad.

The Simpsons: Hit & Run is the second Simpsons game made for Vivendi Universal Games by Radical Entertainment following Road Rage, the developers of the later Crash Bandicoot games such as Mind over Mutant and more recently the Prototype series.

The game was carefully overseen by Matt Groening himself once he took an interest in the project. And the plot and the dialogues of the game were crafted by the writers from show.

Strange things are happening all over Springfield! From one day to another these mysterious security cams are installed all over the place, and there's all these suspicious vans driving around town as well.

The story begins on October 25. A wasp-like flying security camera gets inside the Simpsons' home. But Homer smashes it. He finds some shiny coins inside it, so he decides to collect more of those to get that fancy new Buzz Cola they're talking about on TV.

But that's not the only weird thing today, Bart disappears temporary. When they get him back, he says he saw an actual UFO!!

After a trip to the Kwik-E-Mart for the soda drink, Homer starts helping the rest of the family with mundane fetch quests. He follows one of those vans outside to the home of Mr. Burns! Is he behind it all? It sounds so obvious... 

Over the course of the following days, the story jumps from one character to another. The next day Bart skips school to play some of that new video game that just came out, one thing leads to another and he ends up doing a few errands for Professor Frink who reveals some info on the weird wasp-cams. They even get some help from Apu. 

It all leads to Halloween night! They uncover a whole entire secret alien conspiracy taking over the town! An alien spaceship is descending on Springfield!

Let's say it right away, if Road Rage was a Crazy Taxi clone, Hit & Run is basically Grand Theft Auto III with Simpsons characters!

It's a voluntary parody. The entire gameplay is directly inspired by it, which drew a lot of criticism at the time.

It's an open-world sandbox format from a 3rd person perspective. Throughout the story you will get access to different parts of Springfield. The game puts a lot of emphasis on mayhem, destroying the environment and letting you do random acts of violence against the other vehicles and even pedestrians (although it's nowhere near as a graphic as an actual GTA game!).

On foot you can walk, run, attack and jump around, each character has a different set of attacks to damage the scenery. But most of the game is of course driving. Yes, even the kids drive, they make several allusions to this silly premise in the plot. Like in a GTA you can steal other cars around or simply use a phonebooth to spawn a previous car you already own.

There are a ton of driving missions, also similar to GTA most of those consist in races either against other cars or a timer, but can also get more diverse objectives like reaching a goal or destroying other cars.

The more rampage you cause on the streets the more your "hit and run" meter fills up. If it's full, it will call the police and you will have to run a car chase to escape them! 

There's also various items to collect like coins or destroying the flying wasp cameras, all this unlocks more cars and costumes for the characters.

As you can see, this is a pitch perfect GTA clone to the point!

The linear progression through the story will take you through the 50+ missions of the game.

I found this was a fairly long game for the genre, it's about 7 chapters long each containing its own set of missions and secondary objectives! Each chapter is played with a different protagonist such as Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge and Apu. Homer and Bart are playable twice through the story.

As time passes the weirder Springfield will get, infected will all these wasp-cams and Halloween coming right around the corner.

Matt Groening and the writers helped bring Springfield into this 3D environment, compared to the previous game Road Rage this actually seems a lot more faithful to the show. They wrote the story and the dialogues for the game.

Not only did they get the actual crew to work on the game but also the cast! The entire actual cast from the show supplied the character voices. Including Dan Castellaneta (Homer), Julie Kavner (Marge) and Yeardley Smith (Lisa). 

The game originally began development as "The Simpsons: Road Rage 2", but Radical wasn't interested into making a direct sequel to that Crazy Taxi parody. They took the game into a different direction when they slowly started adding features to the game. It required a complete overhaul to game mechanics and engine. Driving controls is the only thing they really kept from it. They didn't want the player to just drive around, they wanted the player to be able to explore Springfield this time around. Go to most landmarks such as the Kwik-E-Mart, Moe's Tavern, Springfield Elementary School or even the "Android's Dungeon and Baseball Card Shop" comic book store.

It's a game made for Simpsons fans, with a lot of references and allusions to past episodes of the show, like billboard ads and movie posters.

Throughout chapters the story will take you from the familiar Evergreen Terrace to the nuclear power plant, downtown Springfield and finally the Springfield Squidport

To complete the game 100% you must do all the missions including the side missions as well as collect all the secret cards and do all the streets races.

There's also several secret sight gag animations you can find in each level, recreating some cult scenes from the show.

And if that's not enough replay value for you, there are also some hidden unlockable minigames! And a forgetable but okay bonus multiplayer mode up to 4 players for some versus action!

Finally, audio is where the game is really the best at. Not just the voice acting and the sound effects. Music was composed by Marc Baril, Jeff Tymoschuk and Allan Levy and it really captures the atmosphere of the show. They did a great job emulating the cartoon, although there are some questionable choices here and there.

Overall, The Simpsons: Hit & Run is one of the better Simpsons game out there.

The game really captures the show and does the Simpsons a great justice. It's very simple and accessible. And pretty funny. 

I do have a few issues with both graphics and controls, but otherwise it's solid. Some of the models look a bit sloppy and dated, they weren't perfect back then either. (Then again, Matt Groening's art style is pretty complex to emulate in 3-dimensions.)

Even if the game received a lot of criticism for simply being a copy-paste of the GTA formula at the time, it still remains one of the best selling Simpsons game to this day. Try it Out!
I give it:
2 / 3 Quacks!

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