Developer: Juice Games
Release Date: May 2005
Growing out of our passion for uniqueness and competition is a budding industry in the United States – aftermarket automobile enhancements. With over 141 million passenger vehicles in the United States, there can be a lot of cars that look like yours, and a heck of a lot of them that are faster too. So, what's a car-loving American supposed to do about it?
The days when you just bought a car and drove it the way it was from the factory are numbered, as rims, low-profile tires, spoilers, graphics kits, lighting enhancements and special tints are becoming the way to make a personal expression through your transport. Drivers can dump thousands into vehicles to give them more power all the time, or to give them a sudden burst of horsepower that feels like it should rip the engine mounts right off the frame. As this market continues to grow, movies like "The Fast and The Furious" glamorize the lifestyle and pace of this small but growing segment of society. Following like a pace car in the streets of L.A., Juiced continues the theme and brings the street racing experience to a console near you.
Although many of us know of street racing, there aren't many of us who have participated. Sure, when you get your new car, you might take it out to a deserted road and drag your buddy for a mile or so to see what she's got, but you don't really street race. This is left for the enthusiast who is ready to take the car they just bought and retool it from bumper to bumper. Often, this can mean spending upwards of 50% of the car's initial value to get it street-ready. So, if you think you just dropped a wad of cash to get that $15,000 Civic, wait until you drop another $8,000 to beat that gearhead with the GTO who lives down the street. This is the life we are talking about, and Juiced aims to take those of us who are too cheap or too timid into this world through the PS2, Xbox and PC.
It's a school of hard knocks, but the life is simple. You bet, you win, and you get more money for a hotter car. As you win, you get some street cred(entials), and people begin to take notice as to who you are. Juiced takes this simple theme for the basis of its career mode, but there are enough twists and turns to the story to not only give you a chance to pick yourself up after a nasty loss, but also to keep you from getting smoked by a 600-hp monster your first time out.
Course layout is as expected – an urban setting – and thankfully one of the courses we played was set at night. After all, does anyone really think many of these races happen during the day? Of course not. Tracks twist and turn through the city streets, with more square corners than we were prepared for. The result is an experience that feels extremely fast-paced, and gives you a healthy sensation of speed.
How does Juiced look? Well, the night scene was obviously more forgiving, but it already looked very smooth. Daytime on the Xbox was pretty sexy, and the PS2 looked to be solid, with both of them focusing on rendering the active parts of the game and leaving the spare processing power (if any) for the background environment. Needless to say, the PC version will outperform both consoles, although a steering wheel might be recommended.
Ok, that's all fine and dandy, but you say Juiced is a street racer? Does that mean it's a simulator or arcade racer? Simply put, there's a real, live physics engine in there, but with 52 licensed cars, and the tight city streets, Juiced looks to be developing as an arcade racer with a good dose of realism. In what we saw, there were several invisible barriers, but it won't matter whether these are removed from the game by release. This isn't GTA; Juiced is a game where you are seriously racing, and there's no reason you should be driving around on that sidewalk unless you don't have the guts to stick out the race to the end. On the other hand, some of the walls on the corners are a bit too forgiving, allowing you to pull some strategic bumps. We hope this forgiveness will gradually disappear as the game progresses, and the competition expects that you really are getting better.
In the end, Juiced looks to hit the shelves amid a recent swell of racing games for consoles, but we don't think they will be following the recent party line rhetoric. Instead of saying something about creating the best or most realistic driving simulator on the market, Juiced is positioned to be a challenging drive that is still fun to play, even if it does feel more realistic than most arcade-style racers. This may make Juiced the "in-between" game that lives comfortably amongst the two extremes – making it fun enough to pick up, and tough enough to keep playing – and securing it a nice spot in THQ's 2005 lineup.
Stay tuned for more when we get our sweaty, greased covered hands on our next bottle of nitrous, and we take Juiced for another spin before it hits the shelves in May.
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