The Simpsons: Hit & Run
|The Simpsons Hit & Run|
US cover art
John Zhongyi Wang
|Release date(s)||PlayStation 2, Xbox & GameCube
NA September 16, 2003
JP December 25, 2003 (Xbox)
Nintendo optical disc
The Simpsons: Hit & Run is an action-adventure video game based on the animated sitcom The Simpsons. It was released for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube and Microsoft Windows in North America on September 16, 2003, in Europe on October 31, 2003 and in Japan on December 25, 2003. The story and dialogue were crafted by writers from The Simpsons, with all character voices supplied by the actual cast.
The game follows the Simpson family and the citizens of Springfield, who witness many strange incidents that occur in Springfield. When several of the citizens take matters into their own hands, they discover that two aliens Kang and Kodos are filming a reality television series about the populace. To make the show more interesting, the aliens release a new version of the popular soft drink Buzz Cola into Springfield's water supply—however, this particular version causes insanity. With help from Professor Frink, Homer is able to destroy the aliens' spaceship, and Springfield and its inhabitants are returned to normal.
The game received generally favorable reviews from video game critics. Praise focused on the interpretation of the Simpsons television series as a video game and its parodical take on Grand Theft Auto III, while criticism mostly surrounded some aspects of gameplay. The game received the award for Fave Video Game at the 2004 Nickelodeon Australian Kids' Choice Awards. As of June 2007, over three million copies of the game had been sold.
Hit & Run has seven levels, each with missions and a unique plot. The player can only control one specific character in each level. The game's playable characters are Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and Apu. Homer and Bart are played as twice. When traveling by foot, the player character can walk, run, and perform three types of attacks: a normal kick, a jumping kick, and a smashing move. To drive, the player can either commandeer one of the vehicles that litter the road, a feature taken from Grand Theft Auto III, or use a phone booth to select a car. The game's driving missions are also similar to those of Grand Theft Auto III. In both games, the player races against other characters, collects items before a timer runs out, and wrecks other cars.
The game has a sandbox-style format that emphasizes driving, and the player controls their character from a third-person view. The character can perform certain acts of violence, such as attacking pedestrians, blowing up vehicles, and destroying the environment. The Simpsons Hit & Run has a warning meter that indicates when the police will retaliate for bad behavior. Located in the bottom-right corner of the screen, the circular "hit and run" meter fills up when the character runs people over or destroys objects, and decreases when they cease doing so. When full, several police cars chase the character for the duration of the hit and run.
Each level contains items the player can collect, such as coins, which can be gathered by either smashing Buzz Cola vending machines, Buzz Cola boxes or wasp cameras, the latter of which become more elusive as the game progresses. The coins can be used to buy new cars and outfits, some of which are required to progress through the game. The player can also collect Itchy and Scratchy cards. By collecting all 49 of them, seven in each level, the player unlocks a special The Itchy & Scratchy Show video. Several events can cause the player to lose coins; because the character cannot die, injuries cause the player to lose coins. If the player is apprehended during a hit and run, they will be fined fifty coins.
Mysterious happenings are occurring in Springfield; a horde of robot wasps descend upon the city at the beginning of the game. After a tractor beam kidnaps Bart outside a stadium, Lisa attempts to find her brother by exploring the town for clues. She learns that the black sedans that have been appearing around town are connected to Bart's disappearance. Lisa eventually finds Bart on a ship in Springfield harbor. He appears to have memory loss and is mumbling unintelligibly while occasionally mentioning the sedans and Buzz Cola, the "new and improved" cola drink recently launched by television personality Krusty the Clown. Marge sets out to learn what has affected Bart. As she investigates a crop circle that recently appeared in Cletus Spuckler's crop field, Abraham Simpson tells Marge that the crop circle is an exact replica of the Buzz Cola logo. Marge gives a can of the cola to Bart, which snaps him out of his stupor. Bart reveals that the new Buzz Cola is a mind-control cola produced by aliens. Marge decides to purge Springfield of the cola, but in spite of her valiant efforts, the drink still maintains its popularity.
Inspired by Marge's efforts and remorseful for selling the cola in the first place, Apu tries to discover the source of the cola. Snake Jailbird tells him that the cola trucks are registered to the Springfield Museum of Natural History. Apu and Bart decide to go inside the museum, where they find a meteor as the source of the cola. They eavesdrop on a conversation between aliens Kang and Kodos, who are masterminding a scheme. Apu and Bart learn that the wasp cameras are filming the antics of Springfield for an intergalactic reality show, Foolish Earthlings. The aliens are using the cola to make people insane, by which time Kang and Kodos will distribute laser guns among the populace to drive the town to a violent massacre sure to draw many viewers.
Bart takes it upon himself to foil Kang and Kodos' plan. He asks Krusty for help, but Krusty informs Bart that he has already helped the Duff Brewery set up free laser gun stands around Springfield. Bart then goes to his father, Homer, for help, and the duo quickly pursue Kang and Kodos to the brewery. However, the aliens escape, and before departing, they reveal that they have already released Buzz Cola throughout Springfield's water supply. As the cola seeps into the ground, it releases the un-dead from the Springfield Cemetery, who invade Springfield. When Homer collects supplies to protect his family and home from the marauding zombies, he decides to pursue a black sports car—which he believes belong to the aliens—to the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. The car, however, belongs to Professor Frink, who has discovered the aliens' weakness: nuclear waste. He plans to use the space ship's tractor beam to suck up cars that are loaded with drums of nuclear waste. After successfully loading Frink's car, along with three more, into the aliens' tractor beam, the ship explodes. The following day, Springfield is returned to normal.
The game's developer, Radical Entertainment, received the rights to create games for The Simpsons franchise when they demonstrated a playable prototype. Radical released its first The Simpsons game in 2001, called The Simpsons: Road Rage, a parody of the Crazy Taxi series of video games. After Road Rage was released, the development team for Hit & Run decided not to create a direct sequel to Road Rage; instead, Radical wanted to steer the franchise's video game series in a different direction by giving the game engine a complete overhaul. The developers felt that everything else needed a new approach, while only the driving portion of Road Rage was worth keeping; in Hit & Run, enhanced traffic artificial intelligence is introduced, which makes computer-controlled vehicles react better to the player's driving. The developers also decided to add an exploration element to the game to make players get out of the car and navigate the area on foot, so that the game offered a better experience of Springfield.
When developing the game's graphics, the team decided to include landmarks from Springfield. The player is able to enter some of them, including the Kwik-E-Mart, Moe's Tavern, Springfield Elementary School, and The Android's Dungeon and Baseball Card Shop. During Hit & Run's development, 20th Century Fox, Gracie Films and Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, played important roles in bringing the Simpsons universe into a 3D environment. All character voices were supplied by the actual cast, and the series' writers wrote the entire story for the game, including dialogue. Tim Ramage, the associate producer of the game's publisher, Vivendi Universal Games, considered it a blessing to have the opportunity of working with the Simpsons cast, along with the writers, whom Ramage called "the best there is [sic]".
The game was released by Vivendi Universal for the Nintendo GameCube, Xbox, PlayStation 2, and Windows in the United States on September 16, 2003 and in Europe on October 31, 2003. Several reviews considered Hit & Run to be the best Simpsons game to date, and it was given generally favorable reviews, receiving an aggregated score of 81% from Metacritic for its Xbox version. Praise focused on the move from the Simpsons television series to the video game format, while criticism targeted some aspects of gameplay. Hit & Run won the award for Fave Video Game at the 2004 Nickelodeon Australian Kids' Choice Awards. Over one million copies of the game were sold as of June 2004, and three million as of June 2007.
A number of reviews complimented the transposition of the Simpsons television series to a video game. Game Informer and GameSpot commented on how well the game depicted the fictional city of Springfield from the television series, and called it the most accurate representation of Springfield ever put into a game. Official Xbox Magazine said that the game did the show justice, and Play Magazine felt that it was "essentially the show in real time", summing up its review by calling the game a "truly great cross-over product". GameSpot thought that the humor that the game offered included many excellent self-referential jokes, and TeamXbox concluded its review by predicting that the game would be extremely appealing to gamers, especially hardcore Simpsons fans. Entertainment newspaper Variety surmised that Hit & Run was the first Simpsons game to include humor comparable to what was in the television series.
Hit & Run's parodical take on the Grand Theft Auto III video game was praised by several reviewers. It was considered to "deftly satirize Grand Theft Auto while being almost as entertaining" in a review by GameSpy, which suggested that Hit & Run improved several gameplay aspects that it borrowed from Grand Theft Auto, including instant mission restarts, a superior guidance system, and an easily accessible collection of vehicles. Official Xbox Magazine agreed that Hit & Run was an excellent game in its own right, and found the game to be a "brilliant" clone of Grand Theft Auto. The combination of the Simpsons universe with the gameplay of the Grand Theft Auto series was also praised by IGN as "pure brilliance".
Positive reviews of Hit & Run focused on its graphics and gameplay. Play Magazine appreciated the virtual world that the game offered, describing it as "grandiose in its expanse and artistic rendering". GameSpot found the gameplay to be very engaging. The game was found to be "very fun and very funny" by Zach Meston of GameSpy, and Game Informer called it "nothing short of astonishing". Despite positive reactions, the game also had serious issues that were brought up in several reviews, which focused on the game's bugs and glitches. Both TeamXbox and Game Revolution pointed out that Hit & Run had a few gameplay issues and graphical shortcomings that included strange artificial intelligence behavior and a broken camera system, which they felt hindered the overall experience of the game.
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