Hands-on: Simpsons Road Rage Xbox

We sample Radical Entertainment's upcoming Crazy Taxi-based driving action game.

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The Simpsons: Road Rage
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Before going into The Simpsons Road Rage any further, it must be noted that, in order to accurately map out the fictional city of Springfield and its environs, the team at Radical Entertainment spent an insane amount of time watching nearly every episode in the series, in order to get a feel for the layout of the often-surreal place. That amounts to approximately 400 hours of research. So, before anyone goes writing the game off as a simple Crazy Taxi clone, they should consider the service to culture that Radical is doing by mapping the cartoon city of Springfield in real-time 3D.

In the end, though, however you put it, it's obvious that Road Rage, from a gameplay standpoint, is heavily modeled after Sega's classic. What drives the game, though, isn't so much its gameplay, as the rich mythology from which its designers are drawing. It's true that, around every corner in Road Rage, there's a bit of Matt Groening. The Simpsons' creator, in fact, has played a large part of the development of the game, providing both guidance and input. What's more, many of the series' voice-actors have enlisted to provide the game's voice-bites, adding a great layer of legitimacy to the operation.

Twentyfive characters will be selectable in the final game, a handful of which were open in the build we played. Among them were Reverend Lovejoy, Snake the convict, the entire Simpson clan, Professor Frink, and Apu, among others. Each one has a distinct vehicle; Lovejoy drove a book-burning wagon, while Professor Frink piloted a flying car. Further, each vehicle has unique handling statistics--Apu's sportscar is much faster than Marge's SUV, as logic would dictate.

From a physical standpoint, the game is much less off-the-wall than Crazy Taxi--the cars behave more like the cars you'd find on the street than the ten-ton balloons of Sega's arcade classic. Aside from that, however, the gameplay is basically identical--you find "fares," and take them to their destination as quickly as possible. While many of the game's playmodes expand and distort this basic premise, it all comes back to it, in one form or another.

The game utilizes cel-shading to subtle effect, creating characters true to their televised counterparts, though seemingly never becoming fully reliant on the technique. The game's pace is fairly brisk, at this point--a good estimation would be 40 fps, in most areas. Needless to say, we'd love to see it reach 60 by the game's release.

We'll have a full preview of Simpsons Road Rage for you very soon. Till then, enjoy the provided screenshots. Fans of the series will definitely get into this one--seeing Springfield rendered in full 3D is definitely something else.

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