Review by odino
"D'oh! Worst sandbox game, ever."
Simpsons games have the reputation of always being bad. This isn't exactly true, but there have been large patches of cheap marketing games pumped out to cash in on the success of the TV show. With this game it seemed they could actually come up with something really REALLY great for a change - something they have not managed for a Simpsons game for sure.
Let's start, you have several introductions to watch/skip through - already annoying. Luckily they can be skipped. You start the game and watch the nice introduction. The graphics look really neat and polished, pretty amazing at first sight. The voices are the same as the TV show which enhances your virtual experience. Voice acting is top notch, and they included man of our beloved characters. Graphic-wise this game is top notch as well, plus they did a good job for recreating Springfield areas to drive around, even though they had to tweak it for a circular style gameplay.
You start out as Homer and have your first small driving missions. They basically start out the same pattern each time: you talk to a person, you get into a car, you drive somewhere (with time limit most of the time) and on the way it's possible you have to do something like ditch a car, stay close to a car, destroy a car or collect things a car drops. When you arrive at your destination, the mission either takes another turn doing one of the above, or it simply ends the mission already. There are around seven missions in each level and there is always one bonus mission. That's plenty of missions, unfortunately they are always the same style. You can change the car, and often that is recommended. Cars must be bought wth coins you collect from destroyed things such as lamp posts or boxes.
Missions start out easy and later on require speedy approaches or you having to take most shortcuts. There are plenty of shortcuts and knowing those really helps. Often they aren't easy to take though.
Seeing that the core of the gaming is driving, driving must be pretty great. WRONG! The driving engine is horrible, the cars handle really bad - like the worst car you had to drive on GTA. The roads are bumpy and you get thrown all over the place, getting stuck in the wall is not nice, even mission cars get stuck there and you can watch them try to get out of that situation while making sandwich. The other driver's alone are the worst drivers in the world. You have a really hard time steering your game (and I hope you have a gamepad, keyboard for this game might even reduce the score by one more) and not hitting anything. The streets are littered with objects you can destroy by accident, including people that will simply bump in front of your car and complain. No blood here. Your car takes damage really quickly, and after a few bumps it explodes. In longer missions you have to be more careful or pick up the wrenches places around town. Sometimes they are in short-cuts you are taking anyway, sometimes you have to go out of the way little. Other than damaging your own car you raise the police meter. In the first couple of mission this is never ever full, but later missions you the same objects you destroyed earlier will fill the meter a lot more. This means the police come chasing after you really quickly. They aren't the best to hunt you down, but can be, yet again, annoying. You get charged $50 and have to stop your car. Most of the time the game then respawns your car at the same spot, facing the opposite direction. What gives? That might have just cost you the mission. After they fine you, they just leave. It makes you try and pay more attention to the road, but as you will soon find, it is much easier to not care about that all, get the police to chase you, try to outrun them without getting hit too much, then hope that when or if they do fine you, they respawn you the right way.
Outside of your car there are not much actions to do. You can jump, mainly for ledges and things up in the air. There is some weird double-jump that does not make any sense, it is also not well designed. You can run around all the time, in fact you should. Simply keep the run button pressed to get around. Every few seconds your character will make a joke about how they aren't fit enough to run. Yes, every single time.
Camera movement is another con. It can be moved by the player but doesn't move past walls or other objects. You have to zoom in and out and several times there is no way to see your character properly. If you are high up on a ledge the camera may be at fault that you cannot see where to jump next.
Of course even before you do missions you could hunt for collectibles. The game might appear similar to GTA (referred to as Sandbox Games) where you can free-roam and do things on your own. Sure, there are things to do, but they aren't fun, and they aren't worth doing. Comparing this to GTA is not ideal, those games are not even in the same dimension of gaming. But they have similar collection processes. In GTA you would pick up 100 items to boost your weapon stash at home, in this game you collect cards, kill wasp cameras and find gags. Gags are fun, once. They are all from the show's episodes here and there. Now the problem is that they are pointless to look for, but I see how they can still be nice to look for. But the bigger problem is that they tend to be the same over and over again in the next levels. Wasp cameras are also spread over the levels, high and unusual places are not unusual. They will drop coins so that is ok, you may still want to find them if you have no seen those boxes and vending machines in plain sight everywhere - d'oh. The cards are often even harder to get to, but there aren't so many. When you have collected all of them you can trade it in for a ticket to watch a special Itchy and Scratchy cartoon especially created for the game. Of course you must first finish the game to unlock this. It is not really worth it, but gives you something to aim for and make that darn collection worth doing at all. When you are done with all the collection you feel kind of accomplished, yet you still have to buy all those cars and outfits. The outfits are not worth it at all, just a neat skin they put on the player. They are all kind of expensive and if you don't have money towards the end of the game, just leave it alone already.
Apart from missions and collecting you can also do racing missions. The racing blows, because most tracks are badly designed. You must have a much better car than the other drivers to even have a chance in this. Most people recommend the Zombie car but it breaks easily. Racing, once again, has no point but to add % to your completion stats. The final racing mission available is a wager where you bet money to get higher winnings should you succeed. This may actually we worth doing if it weren't so hard and you end up losing more money than making it. Besides, they are not really returning much money you could intead get from bumping into lamp posts much quicker.
In the end you get a failed Simpsons game that really tries hard to have many things to play around with, but they all appear pointless in the long-run. Even the die-hard Simpson game will get annoyed with the repeating jokes as well as the frustrating missions towards the end of the game. The value included in this title should still make it all right to at least give it a look but it is all wasted opportunities. Let's hope they come up with a better game next time.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 09/17/07
Game Release: The Simpsons: Hit & Run (US, 11/13/03)
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