Juiced is a game that has been held in limbo for quite some time. Juiced was originally going to be published by Acclaim. However, Acclaim went bankrupt and the future of Juiced was in question. THQ picked up the title and allowed Juice Games to polish and spit-shine the title.
Juiced places you in the shoes of a rookie street racer, working his way to the top, gathering a crew, and earning respect from your peers. While you start out with a single car, you expand your garage and get a crew to fix up the cars. You not only have to win races to earn money, but you need to place bets as well. This earns you money to customize your wheels, adding mods to your enhance your engine and exhaust, and decals and neon lights on the body to make it look hot. While the setting isn’t new, the respect and betting systems are. With licensed cars and a number of tracks, Juiced looks like a winner, but does it play like one?
Juiced features several licensed cars. Some cars are from more common companies like Honda, Ford, and GM. Other cars come from more exotic companies like Fiat, Holden, and Vauxhall. All of the cars look to be created accurately. Details like decals and hood scoops are easily seen.
Without a sense of speed, a racing game won’t hold up very well. The blur effect that was famous in the Burnout series and the latest Need for Speed games shows up here as well. It does help give you a greater sense of speed during the game. While driving, it’s inevitable that you will hit a barrier or other car during the races. These will result in a burst of sparks. Granted, they don’t spark like Burnout 3, but it is a nice touch. You will also see damage to the car in the area that it was hit. If you aren’t careful, you can end up with a mangled heap at the end of the race.
Unfortunately, the graphics are rather bland. The backgrounds look flat, with the same people at different spots in the course. The aliasing of the graphics is terrible. Jaggies fill the screen, especially in the backgrounds, but it’s very noticeable on the cars too. The paint jobs on the cars look rather plain, even with decals on them.
Juiced has all of the typical music you’d find in a game like this. There is a mix of rap, hip-hop, and alternative. It does provide a nice mix, but it’s mostly noticeable during the menu screens. During the races, the music is overpowered by the racing.
The engines are most audible during the races, and they provide useful cues. You can tell when the engine is revving too much by how hard the engine is working. The Nitro makes a high pitched sound when thrusting you forward. Tires squeal when the brakes are hit hard. The crashes crunch your vehicle, and you will hear it. While these noises are nice, there is a weird silence to the game. There aren’t any background noises to speak of.
I’ve always had a lot of respect for people who could play racing games on the PS2 DualShock 2 controller. While the Xbox controller has triggers that can more accurately control braking and acceleration, while the DualShock 2 doesn’t. However, the DualShock 2 is able to create the driving experience on games such as the Gran Turismo series. However, the button configuration is confusing.
Steering is handled with the left analog stick. X is the throttle while Triangle handles reverse. Square is the regular brake and the Circle is the hand brake. L1 gives a rear view while R1 releases Nitrous. L2 and R2 gear down and up, respectively.
The cars control differently. You’ll easily be able to tell the difference between driving a front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive. However, because there aren’t any triggers, it’s difficult to control the amount of acceleration or braking. The acceleration doesn’t seem fast enough and the braking seems too slow. However, Juiced does support racing wheels, so serious racers should be able to get all the control they want.
Juiced has four game modes: Arcade, Custom, Career, and Online. Arcade mode lets you race all the cars and tracks in a championship mode without worrying about damage to the car. This is where you should start when first loading up the game to get used to the controls and the cars. Custom mode lets you use the cars and tracks you unlocked in Arcade mode and set up races the way that you want to. The Career mode has you taking your skills to the street, earning money and respect. Once you have busted your chops in Career mode, you can race for fun and pink slips online. Juiced also lets you play split-screen with one other person, or six people can play by linking six PlayStation 2 consoles together in a LAN.
There are four different types of races in Juiced. Circuit races are held in the street or the more traditional racetracks. Point-to-point races have you finding the quickest way from point A to point B. Sprint races have you race against up to three others in a drag race. Show offs incorporate tricks in with the racing, where you need to impress the crowd with your driving skills. A video tutorial is available to show how to pull off these moves.
In the career mode, you start off new to the underground circuit, trying to work your way into races and upgrading your wheels. Earning respect will get you into races and earn you a crew. If you don’t have enough respect, you can attend races, but you can’t actually race in them. However, you can bet on the outcome of the race. Once you get good enough, you can host your own events.
Damage does come at a cost in the career mode. You have to pay for repairs with your hard earned cash, and you lose respect because of the bad driving. Juiced also has a DIStress system, or Driver Induced Stress system. If a driver has an exclamation point over his car, they will most likely end up crashing in the near future. This allows you to plan some strategy while you drive.
If you get enough respect, other drivers will call you on your cell phone and ask to drive for your crew. If you do, then you can control your crew from the sidelines by adjusting how aggressive they are during the race.
All the racing in the world won’t do unless you have the wheels to impress. In the workshop you repair and maintain your car, customize the body style to make it look cooler or drive faster, and give it a new coat of paint. A Dynamometer checks any modifications you have to see if the performance is better or not. Juiced claims to have 7.5 trillion car customizations, but that number is high for the actual amount of customization you can do.
While Juiced has a lot of nice features, it doesn’t mean anything if the racing stinks. Unfortunately, here is where Juiced has some major issues. First of all, not being able to control the acceleration and braking accurately made the driving difficult. I found myself pressing down and releasing the acceleration to try to go the correct speed. The braking also seemed to be much harder than what I would expect. However, pressing the handbrake ever so slightly almost always resulted in an instant wipeout. The control issues make the game more difficult than it should be. Juiced also gives you visual clues for braking and slowing down. However, I’ve never been told to slow down on a straightaway so much before in a racing game. Not only that, but the indications to brake were so early that I often found myself in the rail from following the screen advice instead of going with my gut instinct of when to brake and turn.
While the computer does occasionally mess up while driving, the AI seems to like to group together when racing against you. There is no rubber-band logic, and if you wipe out, you can expect to be out of the race. Your best bet is to squeeze ahead at the very beginning and not screw up for the rest of the race.
One thing that Juiced should be commended on is the damage modeling. If you run into a rail or another car, you can physically see the damage, not like some other racers on the PS2 *cough*Gran Turismo*cough*. If you do enough damage, you can see your Nitrous leak or have your steering adversely affected. It is possible to damage your car so much you can’t drive straight. This should provide extra incentive to drive without slamming into the railing.
Juiced has a lot of replay value in that you can play through the career mode in different fashions, betting different amounts of money, hiring different members for your crew, and customizing your car. However, once you complete through it once, you’ll be hard pressed to find a reason to play it through again.
The game does have an online component, so if you and some friends have the game you can race each other. With 50 real cars and 30 aftermarket brands, you should have plenty of opportunities to impress your friends with the wheels you have.