Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Racing
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Juice Games


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PS2/Xbox/PC Preview - 'Juiced'

by Tim "The Rabbit" Mithee on May 12, 2005 @ 1:49 a.m. PDT

Juiced will fully immerse players in the lifestyle and culture of the street scene. Drivers will start with the dream of building a crew of 'driving gods' and work towards domination of the established street-racing scene of Angel City. Showing off racing skills in show-off mode will help players gain 'respect' from rival crew chiefs, allowing them to attend other crew's events and eventually bet against them for cash as well as challenge drivers 'for pinks.' As a racer's notoriety grows, new drivers will ask to join the team, opening up never-before-seen 'crew races' where the players ability to manage a crew of drivers is key to beating rival crews. Juiced will feature more than 50 real cars with more than 100 real mods for a total of 7.5 trillion car customization possibilities. The game will also offer a full on-line feature set complete with six player races and world leader boards.

Genre: Racing
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Juice Games
Release Date: June 15, 2005

Pre-order 'JUICED': Xbox | PC | PlayStation 2

Racing is a simple sport at the lowest levels. In order to make up for a rather simple design, the upper layers are often the more spectacular elements. NASCAR, alcohol burners, mud bog racers, and more run their laps or do their sprinting to the raucous approval of hundreds of fans. One of the newer entries in the field is the underground style, also known as "ricing," where normally uninspiring cars are made into demons of neon, chrome, and audio power, just to be thrown down darkened city streets at insane speeds.

Juiced is another player in this still fledgling realm, finally out of the mire caused by Acclaim's bankruptcy in January. Providing an arsenal of vehicles, Juiced aims to, at the very least, one-up the few competitors in the field (Need For Speed: Underground and Midnight Club 3: Dub Edition are the only titles bearing much mention) via a slightly different approach to the world at large.

As with NFSU, you'll start off at the very bottom of the heap. With only meager funds and a vehicle that would make your mother snicker at you, you'll try to dominate the local "underground" racing circuits. This variety of racing, for those not familiar with it, is about raw speed and technical skill, plunging tweaked rides at 100 miles per hour down streets not intended to be taken at 30; expect dozens of powerslides, spin outs, and a bit of airtime here and there for good fun Underground racing is all about looking as good as well as winning, so performing well is every bit as necessary as simply crossing the finish line.

What Juiced tries to do over its competitors is create a "league" feel, like the crews seen in "The Fast & The Furious." While NSFU pits you as a loner with a nice car and throws dozens of anonymous racers at you over the game's run, Juiced tries harder to give everyone around you personality. While it does not provide a city to explore (unlike NSFU2's Bayview), an Event Calendar gives you easy access to every event coming up at a glance. You can even set up your own events on open dates, charging entry fees and setting up rules as you see fit.

One of the things that got to several NSFU players was the "one car" theory it projected. It was quite possible to take a single car through most of the game, tricking it out with mods and gadgets, creating no need for a garage of cars. Juiced is going to force players to think differently via the Class system: each car, depending on performance and its modifications, is given a class rating. In turn, each event is for a specific class. If you don't have a car for the class required, you'll simply have to skip that one, or just go and watch. You can place bets as a spectator, but it won't exactly be as exciting as racing it yourself. It'll take some degree of strategy to keep that catalogue of eight or more cars in good shape and ready for any challenge, while not absolutely driving you into bankruptcy.

On top of all that is a Respect Point system. Sort of like Metropolis Street Racer or Project Gotham Racing and their Kudos, respect points are gathered for doing simple things like taking a rank or winning a race as well as doing crazy stunts, running clean laps, or pulling far ahead of the pack. In turn, you can lose them just like any other - bang people around, spin out, or get left in a cloud of dust and you'll fall below zero quickly.

Unlike PGR, Juiced doesn't cash in the points for prizes and unlocks, instead using them to handle your relationships with the eight major "crews" in the city. Each one tends to respect a certain style of racing or aspect of your garage: the Delta Tau Fratboys like "bling" in cars, while N.W.B. is impressed by pure speed and dominating leads. Scoring points with each crew lets you move into watching and eventually participating in their hosted events; after enough quality performance on your part, they'll even come to your own events and hang out or compete. All the while, you'll be getting calls from wish-they-were racers who'd like to join your crew and compete alongside. It's another strategic level that NSFU simply doesn't have.

You'll probably be saying to yourself, "Wow, he's mentioned Need For Speed: Underground a lot," and you'd be very observant in that. The similarities between the two titles are undeniable, since they tap the very same source material - underground-style racing - and there's only so much to be done within the realms of semi-realistic design. Juiced also carries along some of the same baggage; while it uses dozens of licensed cars and sponsored parts, cars take damage on a meter only, with absolutely no damage modeling or performance degradation.

Juiced stands a good chance of success in the racing field, given its different approach to race handling and the entire crew system. It still has the fast and loose racing structure that many players have grown to love in the past few years (there's a strong split between your Gran Turismo fans and your Burn Out players), with enough strategic foresight to make it unique enough overall to shine on the shelves. I, for one, am happy to see Juiced come back from the edge of extinction (multiple times, even!) to finally make it to a full-fledged release.

Now if only I could smash out all of my car's windows …

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