Everyone is searching for GTA-beater. And when I say “beater” I mean “clone”. The likes of True Crime, 25 to Life and numerous other city-based, gangster-driven games litter the shelves but possibly the breath of fresh air in this wave of Rockstar tributes is The Simpsons: Hit and Run.
Last time out the Duff loving father and his family shamelessly used the template of Sega’s Crazy Taxi, now, with this follow up, you still have the whole of Springfield to roam through, on foot and in car, but now you must complete a series of missions to unravel the mystery of the black vans that have recently arrived in town.
You start the game with Homer but quickly get to play as the rest of the family, along with a level as Apu. Each has their own car and, more importantly, sound bites. All are high quality and seemingly yoinked straight from the show.
The sound bites made the game for me as throughout the samples were hardly ever repeated, and we’re talking about a substantial multi-hour period here. If you were down on your luck you’d hear “I am evil Homer” chirping from you driver as he rammed his fellow townsfolk off the road twice in a row but considering the scale of the game the overall range and variety is a great achievement.
Sound is not the only area where the attention to detail is high as the game has been packed with every possible item they could gleam from the Simpsons’ world. From the shops down on the dock side to Camp Krusty, the world is full with the show’s references and even the cars have their own personal touch; you can see the police chief’s dog sleeping in the boot, every nasty inch of The Car That Homer Built and the comics in Comic Book Guy’s car.
Most of the missions you are given are squarely set behind the wheel of a car and usually fit one of several categories: follow a vehicle; destroy a vehicle; collect items dropped from a vehicle; race a vehicle or the clock. For a real change from the norm you sometime have to collect items whilst on foot.
The timed challenges and races are usually a doddle, especially when you exploit the shortcuts that are common place throughout Springfield, with the main fun and challenge being reserved for the destruction tasks. At times you will be asked to take down opponents whilst keeping your own vehicle intact – not the easiest thing when your target is an armoured security van and you’re driving Malibu Stacy’s sports car.
As limited as the task types may sound the game uses all the franchise’s characters and settings to make the most of those simple premises; you may be doing the same things over and over but the storyline changes quickly and varies who you have to deal with.
Unfortunately the differences between the variations are not great enough to make any one mission stand out and the only way the title evolves the challenge is by cutting down on time limits or forcing you to explore for short cuts to gain the upper hand.
You do have a slight distraction from the main game in the form of staged races and collecting coins to buy new cars and outfits but nothing exciting enough to tempt me into overly commit myself to doing either.
This game has torn me as I enjoyed playing it but in the end I felt disappointed with what it had to offer: the settings, the concept and the sounds are superb, however, the cars handle averagely at best, the missions are repetitive and platforming is limited and basic. If you like The Simpsons and GTA, in that order, it will be is worth a gander but prepare for something that quick and fun but lacks the overall draw of Rockstar’s masterpiece.