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The following document aims to outline the prerelease coverage of The Simpsons: Hit & Run and the changes made to it during late development.
The earliest report of a "mission-based driving game" starring the Simpsons can be traced back to a brief article published by GameSpot on April 24, 2003. Not many details are revealed aside from the cast, the gist of gameplay and the platforms it will be released on. Given the short length and the "As part of its release of pre-E3 information [...]" portion of the text, it is likely that this information was simply relayed from a press release document.
Hit & Run would later make an appearance at E3 2003, running from May 12 to 14, within the vast portfolio of then upcoming games from its publisher, Vivendi Universal. Not much else is known about the state of the game at this stage.
A GameSpot feature from July 8, 2003 allegedly describes a GameCube build of the game showcased at a non-descript press event from Nintendo. The demo featured appears to have been limited to the first three missions of the first level, which seem to be unchanged from the final product. It is suggested that gameplay elements and interactions appear to have been finalized, although camera issues are present.
A significant number of publications were granted access to late builds of the game since E3 and until September for previewing purposes. Contents have been sorted by outlet chronologically.
IGN (May 2003)Edit
The first footage released to the public was a sizzle reel made from the GameCube version published by IGN on May 15, 2003 shortly after its appearance at E3. The video itself depicts driving and minimal character control within the first, sixth, fourth and second levels, starring Homer, Bart and Marge respectively. Despite lacking sound, a handful of aesthetic differences can be noticed when compared to the final product.
- A green radar is in place of the transparent minimap and the "Hit & Run" meter. The textures can still be found in early copies of the Windows version.
- Stop signs cannot be destroyed, but can be rather pushed as a single entity.
- Light blue chevrons can be seen highlighting Marge's vehicular path instead of red and green arrows.
- The phone booth has a 2D sprite of a telephone on top instead of a rotating 3D model.
- The evergreen trees shown in Level 1 and Level 4 look more cartoon-styled and less detailed than they are in the final.
- There is seemingly no indication whether the player is about to get a "Hit & Run".
Level 7 ScreenshotEdit
In addition, a batch of screenshots were submitted to the game's PlayStation 2 hub on the site on May 6, 2003. While most of them are HUD-less captures which are very similar to the final game, a particularly intriguing one is present, depicting Homer in front of the Springfield Elementary School on a vastly different rendition of the seventh level.
- A completely different radar/minimap can be seen. The texture for the blue circle is still present in early copies of the retail Windows release.
- The building itself is textured with more varied colors instead of the mostly light-brown and yellow pallette found the in the final.
- The flag is purple-tinted with yellow spots as opposed to red and white.
- Ralph Wiggum can be seen sporting a 2D sprite over his head indicating he handles one of the racing sub-missions. In the retail version, zombies are the NPC who prompt you to race in line with the whole Halloween aesthetic of the level meaning that Milhouse, Nelson and Ralph were originally meant to be the race hosts of the level but were all replaced by zombies.
- In the final product, the bridge leading to the richer side of Springfield was blocked off and the Power Plant could no longer be accessed from the inside, essentially leaving Homer with half-a-level to explore. The illustration on the minimap suggests that level 7 was not intended to be this way, a fact which appears to be substantiated by some of the unused content.
The Next LevelEdit
Dated July 7, 2003, Next Level's preview of Hit & Run for the PlayStation 2 features a handful of early screenshots. While it details the game's storyline, the remainder of the article is just a paraphrasing the announcement press release. Most of the imagery included is not of much interest except for the first snapshot, which has Bart standing on one of the second level's setpieces alongside the early radar seen in the previous video. Interestingly, at least three out of six pictures can be found on IGN's page for the game, suggesting that they may have been provided by the publisher.
IGN (August 2003)Edit
On August 8 and August 23, 2003, IGN released a whopping 17 videos depicting the PlayStation 2 and GameCube revisions of the game. These range from snippets of gameplay to full cinematics, all from the first level. Of upmost interest are the prerendered cutscenes, some of which are noticeably different to the ones in the final game.
Opening Cutscene Edit
- The logo has different lettering as opposed to the final which resembles the one used on the show. The trademark symbol was swapped for a Copyright.
- The family's models are very similar to their appearances in the cutscenes from The Simpsons: Road Rage rather than the softer renditions seen in the final game.
- Homer gasps before destroying the wasp camera.
- The wasp has additional sound effects on its demise.
Flowers by Irene Edit
- Homer is seen eating a donut he reached from his back, whereas in the final version he is sitting still and drinking a Duff Beer.
- The TV is zoomed in, as opposed to the final in which the knobs and grill are visible.
- Much like the Simpsons family in the previous cinematic, Kent Brockman resembles his Road Rage appearance.
- The illustrations Brockman is describing are slightly different, featuring additional elements and different gradients.
- The crowd attending Mayor Quimby's speech is much quiet in the early render.
- The "exclusive footage" of the Black Van were removed along with the robot being eaten by an alligator.
- A music cue plays when Marge tells Homer he is sexy (when he's paranoid).
Published on August 31, 2003, Worth Playing's coverage of Hit & Run is perhaps the most interesting, as it features a wealth of self-produced screenshots from the PlayStation 2 version, some of which show discrepancies not seen in the previous materials. Referred as a "limited beta copy", this particular demo allegedly includes a "character select screen" with a limited roster and not much else.
Mission Briefing Edit
- "Stability" was changed to "Handling" in the vehicle stats layout.
- The font was squished and resized.
The gallery also reveals that the characters were displayed on the interface as 3D renders rather than 2D sprites.
Present in the manual for the PlayStation 2 (and the Xbox, to some extent) releases are a few not-quite-final screenshots displaying more of the 3D rendered character portraits. Please note that the last picture only appears in the former, as the latter uses an updated picture with the actual 2D mugshot. A date on the Load Game menu detailed on one of the first pages suggests that these pictures might be from late July/early August 2003
There are many unused objects as mentioned above. Here is a few to name. They most likely went unused to remaster the graphics of the game, or because they took up too much space.
- The crashed Cadillac convertible on the roof of Planet Hype, as shown in the third level's Scrapbook image, was not supposed to be driven and was a mere graphic. In the final level the convertible is found as a drive-able car in the same location, and in Level 3, there's no car at all, instead, the convertible can be found as a secret vehicle in Level 6.
- The Springfield Elementary School had many revised signs. The first one, shown (albeit rather small) in Level 4's Scrapbook image, was made of black stone and simply read the name of the school without any other text. The second one, shown in many prerelease screenshots, was a yellow sign that also read the sign and featured no other text. In the final game, the sign is much more detailed and features a bulletin.
- In prerelease videos and screenshots, the evergreen trees in Evergreen Terrace were less realistic and featured no layering.
- There were originally piles of old car tires outside the Springfield Tire Yard, whereas in the final game the tires can only be found inside the yard.
- A rotating Spook-E-Mart sign can be found in one scrapbook image for Level 7. Although it did not go fully unused as two signs for the Kwik-E-Mart have this logo in the final game's Level 7, but the rotating sign does not feature this.