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. In addition to this, the phone booths are in different locations. In the final game, the booth that is seen across the road from the Simpsons House in front of the white house is on the left side of the house and the one outside the stadium is a lot further to the right, beside the tunnel.
- 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 makes sense that they'd move it to the back yard.
- 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 are not lighted up.
- Environment maps appear to be more subtle, or not implemented yet. This gives the cars a rather more cartoony look.
- 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 appear to be set 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 the view and in Level 4, one of the street races appear 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.
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 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 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 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.
- 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.
- The vent from the Duff Truck at the Kwik-E-Mart has no detail and does not produce any smoke, there is no sound effect heard when jumping off the vent and also, Homer does not say "Wheee!!" when he jumps off of the vent.
- Much like in early cutscenes, the family's models are similar to their appearances in the cutscenes in The Simpsons: Road Rage.
- Wrenches have a darker color scheme having 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, entering a vehicle, kicking objects, etc.
- 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 tires only appear inside the yard itself in the final game.
- There is a wrench seen floating above the Tire Fire in Level 1, it is unknown why it's there.
- In Level 1, Milhouse's race has been relocated from near the Kwik-E-Mart to near Moe's house in the final game.
- 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 for the background of interiors during the level. In addition, an unused red lamppost can be seen protruding from the ground.
- The Character Costumes icon in Moe's Tavern appears to be at the right side of the room in front of the Duff poster rather than at 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
Unused level differences, most shown in the scrapbook pictures for the missions. They were probably took during early into the game's development, as they show a little bit of unused textures.
- In Level 1, the trees from the Levels 1 and 6 bonus race courses are shown as the background behind the Simpsons' house, also the Evergreen Terrace sign was at the house facing the Simpsons' frontyard. Also, the dress lady pedestrian model from Levels 4 and 6 was supposed to be for Level 1.
- In Level 3, the Planet Hype 50's Car was supposed to be just a graphic merged into the Planet Hype, it however became drivable in the final game and become the secret vehicle for Level 6.
- In Level 4, the background was supposed to be a little misty. Also, you can clearly see that the Springfield Elementary School's sign was simple, and was not a notice board as it doesn't read any other text.
- In Level 5, the background was rather lighter, being a blue-ish tone.
- In Level 6, the background was a lavender tone.
- In Level 7, the wrecked playground bus was supposed to appear at the front of the school, also, the background was a deep blue and yellow tone, which later changed to a dark green scary night one with mountains. Also, as shown in the Scrapbook mission's pictures, the Kwik-E-Mart's rotating sign also read "Spook-E-Mart", like what the Kwik-E-Mart was called in this level.