Hands-onThe Simpsons Road Rage

We drive around Springfield in our PS2

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The Simpsons: Road Rage
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We got our hands on a preview build of Activision's upcoming PS2 arcade driving game, Simpsons Road Rage, and took it for a spin. The game's excuse to get the whole town into cars and speeding around is Montgomery Burns, whom you may remember from such evil schemes as taking candy from a baby and blocking out the sun over Springfield. It seems the oldest living member of Springfield, and its richest, has bought out the Springfield Transit Corporation and raised the fares. Outraged citizens decide to make enough money to buy back the Transit Corporation by hiring out their services as taxis, and hilarity ensues.

Gameplay should be familiar to fans of Sega's Crazy Taxi games, because the game borrows liberally from them. You'll pick a driver--you'll initially find just the Simpson clan (Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa, and Grampa) selectable, but it's possible to unlock a large number of recognizable characters as well--and then head out. The game display is a Simpsons-esque take on the Crazy Taxi interface: A large yellow hand points you where you need to go, and onscreen timers and meters keep you informed of how much time you have left to ferry passengers around and how much money you're earning. Control is extremely accessible thanks to the simple layout. Steering is done with the left analog stick, and acceleration and reverse can be done via the right stick or the face buttons, depending on your preference. The simple setup will find you speeding through Springfield to bring your passengers to their various destinations like a pro in no time.

The game shows marked improvement from its first showing at Camp EA several weeks ago. While a bit rough at the time, the game now sports an improved frame rate, polished graphics, and improved collision detection. Springfield is cleanly modeled, and the action moves at a very respectable rate. Fans of the show will be pleased to see many Springfield landmarks thrown in, as well as the large number of locals to transport. Everything from Lard Lad Donuts to Springfield Elementary is in the game, and everyone from Bumblebee Man to Principal Skinner needs a ride.

In addition to road rage mode, which lets you earn money to unlock new stages and characters to use in the game, you'll also find Sunday drive, mission, and head-to-head modes in the game to test your driving skills. The variety of drivers, unlockable extras, and humorous voice samples keep the game engaging in spite of its familiar gameplay. In addition, the two-player head-to-head mode lets you compete against friends for fares--it's even possible to ram them and steal their customers during the game. So far Road Rage is coming along well. Look for more on the game soon.

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