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.
- The unused Station Wagon found in the files of the game can be seen driving past Homer in Level 1. It is shown in place of the Glass Truck found in the final game.
- 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 the usual red and green arrows.
- The phone booth has a 2D sprite of a telephone on top instead of a rotating 3D model. In addition to this, they are also in different locations like the booth that is seen across the road from the Simpsons House in front of the white house in Level 1 is on the left side of the house, the one outside the stadium in Level 2 is a lot further to the left beside the large concrete block with the statue in the stadium's corner and the phone booth in Level 6 is situated beside where the gas pumps are at the gas station instead of being located across the road from there.
- Also, the phone booth that appears on the path in front of the cemetery entrance is missing.
- 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".
- There appears to be a collector card on top of the Wiggum house in Level 1, as seen at the very start of the video. As it's impossible to actually get on top of most houses in the final game, it is possible that the card was moved to the backyard.
- The light cone of the street lights in Level 6 appear to be at an angle, as opposed to facing straight down.
- The street lights in Level 4 haven't got their lights on.
- The sky in Level 2 looks cloudy.
- The sky in Level 6 has more noticeable clouds with a less vibrant Maroon color and the large moon shown in the level is missing.
- Environment maps appear to be more subtle, or not implemented yet. This gives the cars a rather more cartoony look.
- The grass looks more brighter then it does in the final.
- What appears to be a mansion gate can be found in front of the house facing the Simpsons House which does not appear in the final game.
- Milhouse, Nelson and Ralph sport 2D sprites over their heads instead of a sprite of two flags and they seem to be stood in different locations than in the actual game as shown in Level 6, one of the street races appears to be set in front of the broken down concrete mixer at the gas station down the stairway from the Noiseland Arcade, but the character who leads the street race cannot be seen due to the wall of the stairway blocking its view and in Level 4, one of the street races appears to be set at the blue house in front of the entrance of the Springfield Cemetery, but again the character holding this race cannot be seen due to it being to far away in the distance, besides the low quality of the video.
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 palette found in the final.
- The sign above the door leading to the school interior reads "Springfield Elementary" instead of "Springwarts School of Magicry".
- The flag is purple-tinted with yellow spots as opposed to red and white.
- Ralph Wiggum can be seen sporting the early street race icon above his head indicating he handles one of the street race 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.
- In the final product, the bridge leading to the richer side of Springfield was blocked off with military installation and the Power Plant is shut off with a metal door, 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 Springfield Downs advert seen in Levels 2 and 5 can be seen on the billboard at the Grocery Store as in the final game, the billboard is replaced with a sign reading "KZMB All Zombie Radio".
- The grass looks brighter then it does in the final.
- The trees in front of the school have leaves, while they do not in the final game.
- The sky looks darker and cloudy.
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.
An E3 demo gameplay video shows a mostly complete version of the game, although with a few noticeable changes from the final game:
- Much like in the IGN video, environment maps don't seem to have been implemented yet. In addition, there doesn't seem to be any lens flare effects from the sun in the first three levels of the game.
- Also like in the IGN video, the unused Station Wagon found in the files of the game can be seen driving past Homer in Level 1. It is shown in place of the Glass Truck found in the final game.
- It is shown that originally, pedestrians could walk across roads, but in the final game they never do so in any level, it is unknown how this became cut.
- The vent on the Duff Truck at the Kwik-E-Mart has no detail and does not produce any smoke, and the sound effect heard when bouncing off of it sounds different compared to the final game. Also, Homer does not say any of his usual quotes, like "Wheee!!" or "Bouncy bouncy!!" when he bounces off the vent.
- The telephones seen on top of phone booths look different slightly resembling the 2D sprite of the telephone shown on top of phone booths in the prerelease video released on Sizzle Reel.
- Much like in early cutscenes and screenshots, the characters' models are similar to their appearances in The Simpsons: Road Rage.
- Wrenches have a darker color scheme making them look more of a brown color than a yellow color.
- A lot of sound effects heard in the demo sound very different than they do in the final, sounds heard when jumping, kicking objects, etc.
- There were originally sound effects heard when the player entered/exited a vehicle and they shut the doors of it, but in the final game, no sounds can be heard at all whilst entering/exiting a vehicle.
- Collector Cards appear to have a question mark symbol on them.
- Wasp Cameras are not as detailed and appear to be brighter. They lack the metal texture they have in the final game. In addition, their wings are not opaque, and no electricity can be seen from their stinger.
- Piles of tires can be seen near the Tire Fire which are not found in the final game as in the final, tires only appear inside the yard itself.
- There is a wrench seen floating above the Tire Fire in Level 1, unknown of why it is there.
- The lamp-posts on the street dividers near the Bowlarama in Level 6 had an entirely different design.
- In Level 1, Milhouse is shown stood in the middle of the path in front of the first house in the line of houses in-between the La Maison Derriére and the Kwik-E-Mart, but in the final game he has been relocated to near Moe's house.
- In Level 4, Nelson is shown stood in front of the Springfield church, but in the final game he has been relocated in front of the Solid Gold House on the 939 district.
- The sky in Level 2 is cloudier and has rays of light shining from the sky.
- The sky in Level 6 has a larger moon with more noticeable clouds, and the maroon colour is less vibrant than it is in the final. Interestingly, this background is used as the background of interiors in the level in the final game and is also the background of the Level 6 bonus race track.
- The Character Costumes icon in Moe's Tavern is located at the right side of the room in front of the Duff poster instead of on the left side of the room.
- In Level 6, the interior of the observatory appears to use the same lighting used in the building in Level 3, there is also a dusk background shown outside the window instead of the usual night background. It is unknown whether this is Level 6 or not, but it could be possible that Bart is being played as in Level 3.
- Also, the large telescope seen inside the observatory is not detailed and is coloured red instead of grey.
- Much like in the IGN video, there is a mansion gate in front of the house facing the Simpsons House.
- There is a fence with bushes placed between the blue house to the left of the Simpsons House and the fence beside the playground in Evergreen Terrace.
- The phone booth situated in the middle of the path going down the hill from the gas station to the Aztec Theater in Level 6 is missing.
- The Itchy balloon in Level 2 has red gloves instead of white, red-gloved Itchy however did appear in the Level 5 bonus race track in the final game.
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
- The comic strip panel was replaced with pictograms illustrating the objectives.
- The font was squished and resized.
Phone Booth 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.
GameSpot (September 2003)Edit
Published on September 5, 2003, GameSpot's coverage of both the Xbox and Playstation 2 version comes with little info and very low quality JPEG images.
- The unused vehicle "WagonA" can be seen in this shot.
- This contains another early image for a mission (This Old Shanty), however this time the font is shown as it was in the final game
- Almost identical to one of the pictures from "Worth Playing" except with the final font
Other things of noteEdit
- The article says to start a Wager Race by talking to Fat Tony, however in the final, the player talks to Louie instead. This was likely a mistake though.
- The article makes a reference to the scene from the E3 version of the "Flowers by Irene" cutscene where Kent Brockman shows a clip of a robot being eaten by an alligator.
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 is also a screenshot showing an early version of the radar.
The text that appears when the player gets a Hit & Run also appears to be different, being all in caps and in a slightly different font.
The radar also appears to be a lighter colour around the edge and the road is white instead of grey.
2003 Prerelease Disc AssetsEdit
Two prerelease asset discs of the game were found in 2016, which contained several information changed in the final game, dated around June to August 2003 as well as concept arts and artworks of the characters, vehicles and locations. There are several pink notes regarding editing out or correcting some parts or red notes indicating changes.
- Originally, the newspapers displayed on a loading screen contained a second variation instead of one. Some actually went through slight changes.
- Level 1's second headline was "First Day of Spring - Ants, Nitpickers reach last minute accord" along with a screenshot from "Trilogy of Error".
- Level 2's original first headline was either "Nameless Assailant Harasses Burns - Says Burns" or "Local Man Chased By Dogs - Mistakes Harmless Pizza Van for Sinister Surveillance Van".
- Level 3's original headlines were "Slow News Day Grips Springfield" and "Local Truant Gone Truant - Honor Student Searches for Dumber Brother".
- Level 4's headlines were "Mysterious Shape Found In Farmer's Field - Scientists Perplexed; Some Say Signs Of Rapture - Flights Booked", which was later shortened down, and "Missing Boy Found Safe - Has No Memory of Abduction".
- Level 5's original headlines were "Springfield Goes Crazy for Crazy New Cola" and "Boring Housewife Unpopular - Marge Simpson Attacks Another Fun Fad".
- Level 6's original headline was "Local Crackpots Warn of "Alien Cola Plot"" with a picture of Apu and Bart shocked.
- Level 7's original headline was "Local Housewife Says "I Told You So"" with a picture of Marge.
- Bonus missions did not exist originally and were part of the storyline.
- "Petty Theft Homer" had an unused lose-the-tail segment.
- "The Fat and Furious" originally involved driving to the Power Plant's parking lot to find Smithers, who was parked next to a Surveillance Van.
- Originally, Bart needed a toilet plunger instead of a satellite dish and hemorrhoid cream for the Truckasaurus. "Dial B for Blood" was originally part of the storyline in order to get the cream.
- There was originally a mission where Bart escaped in the Ferrini from the Truckasaurus in a boss fight.
- "Bonfire of the Manatees" originally ended with Apu talking to Lisa and Lisa making her own way to the Observatory.
- "For A Few Donuts More" involved destroying the Donut Truck. The mission stage dialogue still exists for this in the script.
- "The Return of the Nearly Dead" involved racing Grampa instead of racing Chief Wiggum to the Retirement Castle.
- "Wolves Stole My Pills" was given by Jasper originally and involved him explaining the crop circle, a possible leftover for this being a stage message that reads "Talk to Jasper" that still exists in the script in the final game's files.
- "Incriminating Caffeine" took place near the Monorail Station and involved avoiding black sedans while chasing the Cola Truck.
- "Duff For Me, Duff For You" involved avoiding black sedans while getting to the Duff Brewery.
- Much like Truckasaurus in Level 2, the T-Rex Fossil shown in the Level 5 cutscene was originally a boss fight in addition to a cutscene.
- "Kang and Kodos Strike Back" was entirely different, Homer and Bart were originally meant to fight against Truckasaurus in a boss battle with the 70's Sport Car.
- Originally, in "Alien "Auto"topsy Part I", Mr. Burns sold the remaining nuclear waste to the Black Ferrini driver.
- The final cutscene of Level 7 was much different - When the UFO crashed, a tentacle came out of the hatch, before shriveling up, with Homer mocking Lisa's belief of nuclear waste. It then cut to Kent Brockman interviewing Homer, who tells him he has "big plans" for the future. Two weeks later, Homer's house is surrounded by Rigelians, some of whom are stealing from the house, while he naps.
- There was originally an option to watch the credits in the Options menu.
- The HUD icons for characters were originally in the same CGI seen in manuals.