In all the talk of graphical downgrades no one seems much preoccupied with 'why?'. Why build something and then proceed to tear it down, piece by piece, in the hope that ever more diminished expectations about the final product won't be severe enough to...
This will probably be a very rare review, as I'm not going to use one single line that you just know is taken from this very little known cartoon called "The Simpsons". I'm just saying it so that the shock won't kill you.
In any case, The Simpsons: Hit and Run is a perfectly OK game to waste away a weekend on. Mainly because for once, they made a Simpsons game which actually contained some of the Simpsons spirit. Including something as revolutionary as using the proper voices from the show. And having the writers from the show write the plot. Will the wonders never end?
Oh, and they made sure to make a decent recreation of Springfield. If you allow for that the relative locations aren't exact, the buildings and characters themselves are just as they should be, in their moderately simplistic 3D forms.
Of course, if that doesn't do anything for you, then the best way to describe this is as a passable car adventure game. You do different kind of missions with the Simpsons family (plus Apu) to get through the plot, which ranges from collecting stuff within a time limit, driving to a place within a time limit, beating another car to a place, and of course destroying other cars. It's fun stuff at first, but it kind of wears thin near the end, and you'll pretty much play through to see what happens. There's a couple of times you need to walk, but walking is otherwise limited to get on top of some buildings. Which is just as well, because that's rather boring anyway.
And instead of one big city playground, you'll basically have three different "circles" with only a few alternative routes. You'll do seven missions (and one optional one) before moving on to the next circle. and then the last one is used once again, although with some changes to it. Perhaps one big integrated city would have lessened the repetitive feeling...
When you're in the car, the controls is as simple as they come. Gas, break, turn, and handbreak. You'll get access to a lot of different cars, and they do in fact handle very differently. The controls may not be as tight as in a real racing game, but on the other hand, it's often a bit more forgiving on stuff that would send you spinning. Of course, this is all pretty much as expected, and I would think that anyone who actually wanted and expected realistic car driving in this game must have some really strange issues...
In a way, the game feels both crowded and empty at the same time. There's plenty of other cars and pedestrians in your way, but you can't just stop and have a chat with people. The only people to talk to are whoever's next on your mission list, plus a few that arrange some races.
But, let's not forget that this is The Simpsons. Hey, the game certainly won't, because there's plenty of stuff to collect and find, and pretty much all of it will have a reference to something from the show. Like how you can open the door of the bomb shelter in Flanders' back yard. Or buy the poncho for when Homer turned fat. It's small and silly stuff (of which there is a list so you can keep track of how many such things you've discovered), which means it fits perfectly in. And collecting all the trading cards will give you an Itchy&Scratchy cartoon. Which is of course something you shouldn't miss.
In short, there may not be anything special gameplay-wise, but what is there gets the job done a good part of the way, and the rest of the way is cowered by the gags, the voice actors, and the hitting and running... Hey, wait a minute, that is actually not such a big part of the game! It's merely that if you run over too many people or into too many cars of small trees, the cops will chase you down and give you small fine. Which only hurts if you're saving money to buy all the extra costumes and cars. Oh well, it's still a very good rental, but maybe less so worth owning, unless you're a really big fan, of course.