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I started to really get into The Simpsons when I was in middle school. I would watch the show whenever I could and, naturally, I also wanted to play the games and one of the first Simpsons games I got was Road Rage. Developed by Radical Entertainment and published by EA, The Simpsons: Road Rage was released for the PlayStation 2 in November, 2001, and Xbox and GameCube in December of that same year. For this review, I played the Xbox version.
The story goes that Mr. Burns bought all transit systems in Springfield and is creating radioactive buses. The citizens decide to use their own cars as a means of safer public transportation and to earn money to pay back Mr. Burns to get rid of his buses. The primary voice cast for the show reprise their roles but unfortunately the dialogue gets repetitive quickly. You’ll hear some classic lines from the show and characters will sometimes greet each other but then just say random things which, on the plus side, will often produce funny results.
The story takes a back seat to the gameplay in Road Rage and the gameplay is basically a rip off of Crazy Taxi. You pick a game mode, driver, and can accelerate, brake, and honk your horn. The objective in the Road Rage and Sunday Drive modes is to pick up passengers and take them to their destinations. The mission mode has you completing specific objectives. Then there’s Head to Head which is the game’s multiplayer mode. Two players compete to deliver passengers to their destinations.
The Road Rage mode is the real meat of the game. This is where you earn money and can unlock additional drivers and locations. You pick a driver and location and are given a set amount of time. The higher the difficulty, the less time you start with but the more money you earn. You pick up a passenger and must drive them to their destination before time runs out. The faster you get them there, the more bonus time you earn. Sometimes you’re given an objective like destroy a specific amount of things or avoid traffic vehicles and completing these objectives rewards you with extra time and money. The money you earn doubles as your score and when accumulate enough, you can choose to unlock a driver or location. The Sunday Drive mode is similar except there’s no time limit or rewards. It’s a good mode if you’re looking to simply explore the locations.
The Mission Mode has you playing as specific drivers and completing specific objectives. You start with one mission and must unlock the rest. Missions have you either driving to a destination before time runs out or knocking things over. Unfortunately, none of the missions are very challenging and you can complete the entire mode in under a half hour. You do unlock a vehicle for completing all of them but the entire mode feels like an afterthought.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to Road Rage and it feels like a budget title. The collision detection is awful and my vehicles would often get stuck on things in the environments. It’s also annoying when a traffic vehicle spawns directly in front of you the moment you start a mission. Once you’ve played through a game of Road Rage, you’ve basically seen all there is to the gameplay and then its just a matter of grinding through the mode to earn enough money to unlock everything. What is kind of cool is the holiday vehicles which can be unlocked if your system date is set to specific holidays or you can just enter codes. You can drive as Halloween Bart, Thanksgiving Marge, Christmas Apu, and New Year’s Krusty.
There’s six total locations or neighborhoods to drive around in Road Rage and only one is unlocked from the start. You’ll have to drive around barriers, walls, buildings, and other obstacles. You can drive off jumps and knock things down. You can also take shortcuts to get to your destinations faster. Driving through Bus Stations will grant you extra time and traffic vehicles and pedestrians populate the environments and there’s no major punishment for running people over. You will see the radioactive buses driving around very dangerously and they will often get in your way. Mr. Burns and Smithers will often appear and try to stop you by driving into you but their vehicle is easily avoidable. There’s only about a handful of destinations per location so you’re going to visit the same areas frequently. None of the locations are very big and sometimes passengers will ask you to take them to a destination that’s clearly in walking distance.
I can’t say Road Rage looks amazing but it is a decent reflection of the show. It’s colorful and things look like they should for the most part. However, I feel like the environments are a little bland and the textures are a bit blurry or muddy when viewed up close. If I’m being honest, the soundtrack consists of some catchy tunes, but on the default volume, I could barely hear them. Crashes result in sounds of typical bangs, clangs, and glass breaking. Overall, the audio work is pretty tame. On the technical side, other than some clipping, I encountered no major issues.
When I was a kid, I played Road Rage on PS2 and I remember it being better. After playing it again on Xbox, I can honestly say it’s really not that great. There is some fun to be had and I like how it lets you drive around and explore the different areas of Springfield. If you’re just looking for a casual experience and are a fan of The Simpsons, this might scratch that itch. I found it kind of relaxing to just sit back and drive people around while listening to The Simpsons cast say random shit but it didn’t take long for me to get bored. It’s not innovative, there’s no depth, it’s repetitive, the mission mode is terrible, and it feels like a cash grab. It’s just a Crazy Taxi clone. The only thing that keeps you coming back is the grinding to unlock everything. If you don’t mind doing that, I would recommend setting the difficulty to Hard just because you’ll earn more money. Alternatively, you can just use cheats. I don’t hate the game and some of the dialogue is comical but, ultimately, there’s not much here to keep the player engaged.
I would not recommend The Simpsons: Road Rage. Fans of the show might get a kick out of it but they also might be disappointed after five or ten minutes because that’s all the time takes to see everything the gameplay has to offer. If you’re interested in it and can find a copy for under ten bucks, I would say give it a shot. Otherwise, move on to something else.