There is an ongoing debate in the gaming community about violence in video games and Grand Theft Auto is at the forefront of this debate. If you're anything like me you're sick to death of hearing about it. So I intend to bypass the debate all together and talk about two games that mimic the gameplay in GTA in two very different ways. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and The Simpson's Hit and Run have both taken the GTA idea and added their own twist.
I played GTA 3 many, many moons ago and I found that I enjoyed it. There was just one small problem – there were timed missions. I am not a very good racer; I have a tendency to run into things with frightening regularity. As a result I never progressed very far in the game, but I enjoyed the sandbox feel of the game. I could steal any car I wanted and drive all over the city.
The Incredible Hulk held a very similar appeal to me. There were, of course, story progressing missions, missions for fun, and a city to destroy (there was also an army base but that wasn't as much fun). I left the story missions to my boyfriend and only dabbled in the bonus missions. I really enjoyed the ones that asked me to smash as much as I could in a set period of time. And the best part of the game was the total lack of driving. Well that and the screams of terror from the army soldiers when you picked them up. It's a bit of a toss up.
There is a plot to the game and it centers around the idea that Ron Perlman (I can't recall the name of the character he voices, but really all Ron Perlman villains are the same) is a jerk and that General Ross is the most bad ass general the military has ever seen. You get to fight him when he's in a gigantic robotic killing machine. It's awesome, but the freeplay mode was more to my liking as you got to run around The City (they never specified which city) and do whatever you wanted. As you destroyed more and more of the landscape though, you had to deal with police and then the military trying to stop you. Or at least slow you down. It's so sad watching two police officers armed with handguns get out of their car and try to contain the Hulk. It's also really funny. I soon took to calling the game Grand Theft Hulk.
Unlike the Hulk which mimics the spirit of mayhem and destruction in Grand Theft Auto, The Simpson's Hit and Run sticks closer to the automobile format but eschews the bloodthirstiness for the most part. Much to my disappointment the game almost exclusively focuses on racing and timed missions.
However, you can still enjoy yourself as you wander around Springfield knocking over the scenery. A lot of the fun comes from the comments the characters make as you drive. Homer starts singing, "I am evil Homer" after you run over a few pedestrians. And it is hard to avoid mowing people down – they're everywhere!
Since I am such a hopeless driver I enjoy running around on foot hunting for secret stuff to unlock. There are enemies and friends to kick and things to collect including odd outfits and a variety of specialized vehicles. Not a lot, mind you, but some. There are also gags to trigger, like causing a near meltdown at the nuclear power plant. While this game could certainly use more depth, in my opinion, it is still entertaining. You just need to find someone willing to run all those races for you, although if you fail a mission enough times they take pity on you and allow you to skip the mission. It seems the designers have a soft spot for us Button Mashers.
Both of these games have a currency system that you can use to unlock fun stuff. In the Hulk you earn smash point by smashing things (big surprise there), which you can use to buy more effective moves for the Hulk to use to smash more things. In the Simpsons smashing objects and killing enemies earns you money which you can use to purchase vehicles and alternative outfits for your characters, such as Homer in his underwear or Marge in her police uniform.
One doesn't need to know a great deal about the Hulk to enjoy the game. You just need to enjoy wrecking things. Knowledge of the Simpson's makes Hit and Run a lot more fun, but it isn't necessary. After all, my mother is not an avid Simpson's fan but she giggles every time she makes Homer sing.
If you enjoy Grand Theft Auto, I recommend picking one or both of these games. It may not be worth paying full price, but if you see them in the bargain bin go for it.
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