Juiced Review

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Graphics: 8.0
Sound : 7.0
Gameplay : 6.0
Multiplayer : 7.5
Overall : 6.8
Review by Andy Levine
There’s a plethora of street-racing videogames on the market trying to imitate the style of popular titles such as the Need for Speed Underground or Midnight Club series, but a lot of these replicas fail to live up to expectation. Juiced is yet another release to fall into this category, offering little by way of innovative expansion to that which has already been achieved. In what is becoming a tired genre, the much-awaited release of Juiced can be better described as a flawed Midnight Club clone.

Anyone familiar with these ‘tuner’ games will immediately understand the rags-to-riches process involved in the career mode. Starting off with the lower-end Honda and Toyota type cars, you partake in street races in order to earn respect, unlock new mods, and gain access to special events. Even though this storyline has already been beaten to death, Juiced does manage to revitalize it while trying to add its own little twist. You begin your career with just enough money to buy a used car and a few performance parts to start you on your way. Aiming towards a more open-ended path, you can enter different race events by selecting them on your race calendar. The different race types include circuit races, a drag race known as Sprint mode, and even the newly introduced Showoff mode. While the other two types are self-explanatory, the Showoff mode puts the driver on a random circuit track and has them perform tricks such as 360s, bootleg turns, and boomerangs in order to earn the respect of other crews. You won’t earn any money from Showoff mode, but earning respect from other crews will eventually allow you to challenge them for pink slips. Having one race determine the ownership of your car is exciting to say the least, and it is typical for any gamer to do anything in their empowerment to become the victor. In some cases racing dirty will allow you to cross the finish line with ease, but other racers will take note of your trickery and be less likely to race with you in the future.

When you earn enough overall respect as a street racer, different racers will want to join your crew so you can compete in the team races. Towards the beginning of their career your teammates will have no driving skills at all, but if they participate in enough races they will be drifting in and out of turns in no time. Outside of the career mode, there is also an arcade mode where you are given already modified cars to race across an array of locations. The arcade mode is divided into circuits depending on the car class and type, so in the American Muscle Circuit you won’t have to worry about Volkswagens getting in the way of your Viper. Completing the arcade mode will unlock new cars and tracks to be used in the multiplayer mode. Overall, you should expect Juiced to offer up everything you’ve seen before from previous street-racer games, with the exception of a rather limited Showoff mode.

Juiced tries to blend high-speed arcade action thrills with a touch of realism to make players drive more conservatively, but the end result is, perhaps, far from what was originally envisaged. The front-wheel drive cars are easily the best cars in the game because they are easy to control and can even gain a sufficient amount of horsepower. The four-wheel drive cars, including the popular Nissan Skyline and Lancer Evolution, don’t turn as sharply as you would expect them to, but it is still manageable to keep them on the road. The rear-wheel drive cars are near impossible to control, and even in the sprint races you will have difficulty preventing cars with high horsepower from wiping out. In real life rear-wheel drive cars will obviously have inferior handling to other cars, but having the cars wipe out after applying a little acceleration beyond the apex of a turn is just absurd. If the slightest bump sets you off to the side—even a little bit—you will more than likely have trouble realigning yourself and will end up facing a wall. Even slightly brushing up against a rival car could leave you sucking asphalt, which is especially infuriating if you are being cheated out of a pink slip race.

To improve on the occasionally horrid controls, you can purchase new mods for your car that will improve both handing and speed. However, the customization options are a joke compared to that seen in Need for Speed Underground 2. The same performance parts can be purchased for every car, and even the same three body kit brands are used. The only variation in customization between cars is the size of the spoiler, but even the colors are unified. There is no option to truly fine-tune your car. You can still lower your car’s height and adjust the gear ratios by using a slider, but apart from this you will have the same setup as every other guy. In career mode, there are special events that will reward Prototype Mods to the winner, which cannot be purchased from any store. These mods offer a significant increase in performance, but are still ineffective when it comes to solving the severe handling problems found in the high horsepower and rear-wheel drive cars.

Visually, the environments in Juiced are above average when complimented with the high frame rates, but the actual car models are somewhat lacking in detail and design. The different level designs have a very distinct feel, from the tropical setting of one area to the NASCAR-like speedway of another. The motion blur effect is not always noticeable, but it has its high points, some of which can be extremely impressive. However, the car models, when viewed in the garage, look simply plain and amateurish. When compared to actual models of the in-game versions you can easily see how odd these cars look. While most racing games on the PS2 can’t brag about a damage modeling system, shaking front bumpers and flashing neon lights are nothing to marvel over. Slamming into a wall at over 200mph will not always lead to a significant damage problem, so there are obviously improvements to be made here. For the most part, in a high-speed racing game it is hard to pick out some of the bad qualities, which is party what makes this game look as good as it does.

The sound effects could stand to use some work, but the soundtrack is fitting for the game’s target audience. The cars themselves all sound fairly generic before any modifications have been implemented, and even after applying new parts they still all sound virtually identical. In games, such as NFSU2, it’s easy to discern the blow-off valves and upgraded exhaust systems from the stock cars, but in Juiced there is very little change. The engines don’t sound authentically close to what you’d expect to hear from the respective real-life cars; the end result being that much is left to be desired in terms of aural execution. Musically, the urban beat that accompanies every menu and race flows nicely with the game and is typically what you would expect for anything in this genre. However, the cars are the main focus of Juiced and, while the sound effects might be crisp, they stray far from what has become not only expected but fair demanded.

The multiplayer mode does have its high points, but is still lacking compared to other titles. You and your crew can race against other people online for pink slips and respect. This whole concept makes the player feel more like a street racer when viewed with all of the risk and gambling involved in the process. The greatest difference from the single-player mode is the crew racing, where you and a few friends can race against another enemy crew. The winner of these races is the team to get all of their cars across the finish line first, and in the shorter circuit races the battle to the checkered flag is often intense. However, one of your teammates wiping out, which is more than a slight possibility, is absolutely heartbreaking for the rest of the team. While this sense of involvement is a sign of a great multiplayer game, the general lack of online innovation means that, overall, multiplayer mode isn’t enough to make up for the already glitch-plagued control system.

In conclusion, Juiced is yet another street-racing game geared toward the car tuner market. There are definitely better racing games available offering much more customization and personal expression, which is what the foundation of these games is based upon. Juiced doesn’t present any notable change or improvement from that which has gone before it and, unless you are a big fan of the street-racing genre, it is hardly worthy of your time.