Juiced ReviewCain Dornan
Its amazing how a simple film can spark such interest in a once shadowed lifestyle. Since Vin Diesel and Paul Walker graced the big screen in their hot tricked-out imports, the Western world has suddenly became obsessed with slapping a roaring turbo and a huge exhaust on anything with four wheels. The video game industry has since cashed in on the craze, with EA offering the Need For Speed: Underground and Burnout titles, Namco whipping up a rather bland experience with Street Racing Syndicate, Rockstar mixing up cars and motorbikes in the Midnight Club series and now THQ arriving with Juiced.
Juiced pits you into the role of an unknown street racer; vying to win races, gain respect and roll in cash. The premise takes on the classic street-racing theme, complete with hot cars, street-hardened racers and hordes of aftermarket parts. Unlike its competitors, Juiced does not have you screaming through tight, traffic-heavy suburban streets, rather, a limited number bland, closed-off streets are used, resulting in a rather unexciting experience that doesnt truly replicate the illegal street-racing feel. The numerous track designs are uninspired and rarely create any excitement while racing, limiting the only true reason in repeatedly racing over the same track as to obtain further aftermarket parts and eventually upgrade to more powerful vehicles.
Juiced takes on an arcade form of racing, providing a far-from-realistic racing approach. As such, cars do not control or react to situations realistically. Despite this, the cars have been designed in such a way that the racing isnt easy. For an example, speeding around a corner with a rear wheel drive vehicle will ultimately result in the vehicle under-steering, with the vehicle ultimately ending up crashing into a wall or facing the opposite direct. Although this is based off an actual lifelike possibility, the execution in such an event is extremely arcade-like. Despite this approach being frustrating at times, the arcade-type feel contributes to the overall street racing theme, sticking to the essence of the movie The Fast and the Furious, which appears to have inspired the game.
The soul of Juiced is the Career mode, pitting you into the role of a lowly beginning street racer vying for a place within the fierce racing world. Birthing into the world with $40,000 in your back pocket, you venture out to purchase your first car to heavily modify until your heart is content. As youre unlikely to win any races with a stock vehicle, your first destination is to the garage, the central place for obtaining and installing numerous aftermarket parts. Juiced offers a solid range of performance parts, ranging from induction systems, suspension, exhausts, brakes, tires, turbos and nitrous oxide systems. You can also tune some of the finer aspects of your vehicle, including the rides height and gear ratios.
Street racing wouldnt be colourful without the vibrant, uniquely styled cars. Thankfully, Juiced offers a pleasing variety of exterior modification possibilities. While their isnt quite as many variations that can be made when compared to the likes of Need For Speed: Underground 2, a satisfying variety of body modifications are on offer, allowing you to separately alter each section of the cars body. A range of decals from some of the worlds most renowned aftermarket parts manufacturers are on offer, in addition to a variety of colourful neons that produce an attractive glow underneath the vehicle. On the interior aspects, Juiced offers the ability to install a range of pumping sound systems. While essentially useless, the ability to modify your sound system further improves the underground car modification atmosphere.
Upon beginning the Career mode, you are given the opportunity to create your crews name, your name and the mobile phone that you will use to contact the other street racers. Although you are restricted with a certain collection of crew logos, you are free to create your own crew car styles, which include vinyls, decals and colour combinations, which can be saved and easily implemented onto each vehicle that is a part of your crew.
Although cash is in abundance to begin with, the game quickly delves you into a true world where cash is difficult to come by. While the initial set of races are free to enter and rather easy to win, the difficulty is quickly cranked up and has you paying anywhere from $1,000 through to $10,00 or more in order to gain a position on the starting grid. Events also become considerably more difficult, which, considering that you are required to pay for all damage to both your own car and damage caused by yourself to other competitors, and it quickly becomes a battle to remain in operation.
Juiced focuses rather heavily on the crew aspects of the game, not only allowing you to design car styles, but also give you the ability to choose as to who joins your crew, when they can race, what vehicle they can drive to race and will even take instructions from you whilst competing. As you are the boss of the crew, it is up to you to provide your crew members with vehicles, which can be quite difficult considering cash can be hard to come by. Its an interesting concept that allows for further depth and variation than what other titles in the same genre are currently offering.
You will be required to compete in a small range of different events, including circuit race, which is essentially racing around a course with a set number of laps Point-to-point involves racing from point A to point B. Showoff, which simply involves performing fancy moves with your vehicle, such as drifts and doughnuts, to capture the attention of spectators and gain respect. Finally, there are sprints, which is simply a drag along a strip of road, requiring you to manually change gears at the correct time and remain on the road. Fellow street racers will hold the majority of the races that you will attend, however, you are free to hold your own events, for a price. $1,000 allows you to select from a track location that you have locked, race type and the number of competitors that you can enter, and hold this event on any open day that is not already occupied by another event. You are even capable of holding crew-based races, allowing two-on-two races to occur between certain racing crews. While interesting at first, competing in these events repeatedly quickly becomes old, with the only variation being the occasional race to obtain a new prototype aftermarket part or the ability to host events in new locations.
In addition to the career mode, Juiced also offers a solid Arcade mode, which allows you to compete with pre-modified vehicles. Surprisingly, the Arcade mode offers a considerable amount of gameplay life, allowing you to compete in numerous series races. Each series race offers a different theme, such as classic muscle cars competing against todays smaller performance vehicles. Completing the races within each series unlocks new tracks and vehicles to be used in the Custom Race mode, which essentially allows you to create a race from scratch, choosing everything from the race type, vehicle, number of laps and the weather conditions.
Finally, Juiced offers full multiplayer support, both online and offline. The multiplayer mode allows you to choose from a large range of stock or pre-modified vehicles and then race them against friends in any selected track. The most interesting aspect of the multiplayer mode is easily the online pink slip race mode, which allows you to bet your own vehicles in place of cash. This heightens the stakes and makes for interesting competition, as losing a race can result in losing your beloved vehicle.
Visually, Juiced is far from the impressive eye candy that was have seen in the likes of EAs Need For Speed: Underground and Burnout series. While car designs are accurate, there is nothing truly impressive about their designs. The track designs are even worse, offering a bland assortment of urban tracks that appear to be repeatedly re-used in almost every track. The only visually interesting aspect of Juiced is the characters facial animations during race bets, which are animated in a realistic fashion. Apart from this, though, Juiced is somewhat of an ugly duckling amongst racing games.
The sound effects are equally as bland and generic as the graphics. Vehicles sound boring and unrealistic, whilst the screech of tires and the sound of metal crunching is far from satisfying. Voice acting, on the other hand, is quite commendable, with each character serving up an interesting, unique voice and personality that clearly shows their mood and respect for you. The music is also rather pleasing, mixing up a variety of catchy and odd tunes that aids in the presentation of the menus and during race action.
While the developers intentions on creating an atmospheric, unique street racing title is evident; the execution in doing so is far from satisfying. The end result is an average, outdated and uninteresting title that fails to successfully complete anything that is sets out to do. The inclusion of your own crew is an interesting and an often-enjoyable aspect of the game, however, it fails to repay for the boring gameplay and bland visuals. Its back to the drawing board for developer Juiced Games we can only hope that their next title is a more pleasing experience.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.