Review by Sprock
"Yellow with envy."
Notwithstanding the beat-em-up success that was the original arcade smash classic, each gaming installment in The Simpsons' steadily growing library has been merely more than a complete rip-off of a previously-existing title with some zany Springfield twist to it. And as has been the case with practically all of these, the original previously existing title has remained superior in practically every way. The Simpsons: Road Rage is nothing more than yet another chapter in Springfield's horrible scams. Leeching off the success of Sega's arcade smash hit Crazy Taxi, a title with an arcade-like feel to it and a great sense of exploration, EA throws away all of its novelty and replaces it with a cheap, uncontrollable carbon copy that will have you feeling yellow.
Mr. Burns is undoubtedly one of America's most misunderstood men. Very few have lived his rich life and achieved an age well over 100. When you count out the ass kissing of Mr. Smithers, Burns really only has one thing to turn to in his lonely life his giant wads of money. It's no wonder he wants to increase his stockpile even further, so he has bought out Springfield's public transportation network completely. In an effort to promote his nuclear program, Burns has all the buses in town run on nuclear power instead of gasoline, radiating everybody who rides them and making them glow. Fortunately, the only victim thus far has been Hans Moleman, who gets killed all the time, anyways. The residents of Springfield are enraged by Burns' innocent nuclear power promotion, however, and decide to set up their own taxi system so they can charge excessively to put Burns' nuclear network out of business. Or for extra booze money. Neither one really works, as while they can save Springfield, they cannot save the game itself.
You have the option of choosing from over twenty characters to drive with as you wreak mayhem across Springfield. In addition to the predictable differences in speed and handling, each vehicle is substantially variable to suit the character that ensues road rage with them. Homer has his trusty pink Sedan, Professor Frink pilots his unpredictable experimental flying car, and even Reverend Lovejoy totes around his controversial book-burning mobile. Not all of these vehicles are available from the beginning of course, and gradually unlocking more and more characters is really the only true motive there is to playing through the game, and that's primarily for the diehard fans. Unfortunately, there isn't much balance when comparing each of the vehicles, so unlocking the majority of these is primarily for the novelty value. That's basically what this game is Novelty. No truly deep gaming experience. Just a mere, somewhat-charming token of the Simpsons franchise.
There lies a relatively minimal selection of courses to choose from, ranging from the bustling and corrupt downtown district to the crappily constructed dam overlooking the nuclear power plant. Certain Easter Eggs from the animated series will make their appearance in the landscape, like Moe's Tavern and Mt. Splashmore, though none of these really effect the gameplay. As each round begins, a timer will begin ticking at the top of your screen, prompting you to seek down one of the many passengers scattered throughout the city, stop in front of them without brutally running them down, then follow their commands of where to take them. For instance, a character may ask you to transport them to the nuclear plant, and you will begin a certain amount of time to take them their before they become enraged and storm out of your vehicle, cursing. Course memorization is not a necessity, as an arrow at the top of your screen will direct you where to go. However, the given path is often times not the most practical, and several shortcuts are hidden in each stage which will allow you to shave off time, so memorization is still key if you want to rake up the fastest scores possible.
Scores are tallied depending on multiple factors, mainly how swiftly you transported each passenger and how many you were able to assist in the allotted amount of time. Rewards will be raked in for continuous high rankings. Unfortunately, several factors will greatly hinder your travel in a negative sense. Most obvious is the control, which is perhaps the greatest hindrance in the entire game. Controlling your vehicle can be a real pain when it comes to turning and going in reverse, as the controls for each vehicle are incredibly stiff. There will be certain areas in the game where your vehicle will become wedged between other obstacles, making it impossible to move out without letting the timer clock out or quitting the game altogether. Fortunately, most of those vehicles suck so horribly that you will most likely not be caught dead using them, anyways. Alas, this poor control set-up can often times cost you swift times and high scores.
Repetition is another major flaw this game has to offer. Nearly every passenger wishes to be dropped off at the same location each time you pick them up. While this lack of randomness may be partially due to voice budgets, it is still quite lazy. Repeatedly going to each predetermined locale time and again can become very tedious, eventually wiping out the entire challenge since you pretty much know who will want to go where. There's no fun in taking Moleman to the power plant for further torment every single bloody time. Consequently, the game can become very shallow, barely stepping outside the concept of driving from point A to point B. In the lackluster Story Mode, for instance, there lacks any true goal for you to achieve other than playing the same damn thing over and over again until you master it. The few side missions it does offer are nothing more than tedious quests where you destroy a certain amount of objects in a given amount of time. The concept of exploration almost seems useless, which, in a game with expansive environments, is a big fat load of wasted potential.
Disc-based games have always generally had severe loading problems, but the ones witnessed in The Simpsons: Road Rage are arguably among the worst I've seen. You literally have to wait nearly thirty seconds for the game to revert back to the title screen, for crying out loud. The multiplayer is even worse. If you thought the loading times in the single player mode were horrendous, for the sake of your sanity, do not stray near this half-assed buddy counterpart. Basically, two players compete on a split screen for the highest scores and most money. The framerate is absolutely terrible on this, and that's when you forget about the fact that the split screen greatly restricts your scanning ability (something I've always hated about multiplayer racing games). Crazy Taxi's equivalent is much more refined.
If you're playing this game solely for comical entertainment, then you've come to the right place. Fans of the hit animated series will no doubt welcome voice-overs from the actual cast, filled with sarcastic and cunning remarks from the writers themselves. Unsurprisingly, much of the humor is related to driving recklessly, though still in character, such as Reverend Lovejoy cursing other drivers to hell or old Abe Simpson and his senility mindlessly complaining about youngsters. The language can become a bit moderate at times, but it's nothing offensive. Like the game itself, however, the entertaining dialogue suffers from immense repetition. The selection of voice samples is not very expansive, and chances are that you will repeatedly hear the same remarks every minute. These can get tiresome after about the first half-hour of playing.
While never quite achieving the abysmal status of such classics as Bart vs. the Space Mutants, The Simpsons: Road Rage is still definitely down there as yet another cheap cash-in of the franchise, sticking Springfield's favorite family on another successful franchise, while simultaneously tearing apart everything that made it great. The horrid control setup single-handedly makes the game unplayable, but when you add in all these other horrendous factors as tedious repetition and inhumane loading times, it hardly even becomes worthy of a rental. Seriously, only the most diehard fans should even be making that step. When you think about all the great humor and dialogue crammed into this title, it's really quite sad how crappy the rest of the game turned out to be. If you wish to play a more refined Simpsons title, I would recommend the Simpsons: Hit & Run. It may not be a fantastic title, but it's still legions better than this dribble. D'oh!
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 03/29/07
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