|a game by||Juice Games Limited|
|Platforms:||XBox, PC, Playstation 2|
|User Rating:||6.7/10 - 11 votes|
|Rate this game:|
|See also:||Racing Games|
Thus Far, my experience of the modding phenomenon is largely based on three incidents. First, while on a gruelling trip back to London after watching Chester City beat Accrington Stanley away (a proper hobby), we pulled into a faceless Midlands service station hoping to secure a snack from Julie's Pantry. In an unprecedented move, the service station was closed and about 200 cars were attempting to leave the car park simultaneously. With confusion reigning supreme, it suddenly became apparent that every car was sporting spoilers, decals and neons, and was piloted by a callow yoot in a baseball cap, all of whom mocked our undressed vehicle as they left us for dead on the M6. Wankers.
Take It To The Max
Second, I was recently on a press trip with a bloke from Max Power magazine who had a copy of the latest issue. Flicking through the mag, it revealed the hitherto unknown pastime of cruises, whereby like-minded tamperers meet up in their modded monsters, smoke some cheap weed and watch girls expose their breasts. Said girls were interviewed by the magazine concerning their sexual preferences, none of which we can actually even talk abou in PC, let alone print. It's a different world.
Finally - and most relevantly - I've been playing the excellent Need For Speed: Underground, EA's multi-millionselling modding extravaganza, and thus far the definitive take on the scene.
This is a situation that the Juiced team is hoping to change, and they'll be setting about EA with gusto: this time it's personal. How so? Well, about half the development team of Juiced used to work at Rage and were putting the finishing touches to the highly promising Lamborghini, a game that had already received high praise from the press and looked a guaranteed winner. That was until EA snapped up the Lamborghini licence for use in Need For Speed, the corporate behemoth crushing the Rage game like a grape, never to see the light of day.
Feel The Squeeze
Despite that kick in the teeth, the surviving members of the Lamborghini team have regrouped and started from scratch with Juiced, a direct competitor to NFSU and one that would appear to be more than capable of going head-to-head with it. It's fair to say that a lot of similar ground is covered, and tweakers will love it, with Acclaim stating that you can modify and personalise your car with 7.2-trillion combinations.
Like NFSU, the action in Juiced is set to be city-based, specifically Angel City, which is split into eight distinct districts. Each is home to a particular crew' -such as The Wild Cats or Urban Maulerz - and it's this aspect that makes up the core of the career mode. As boss of your own crew, you must earn the respect of your counterparts by impressing them at various meets.
There are four basic disciplines: your standard Race. Sprint (replete with compulsory manual gears a la NFSU), Showoff, whereby you pull tricks for points, and Solo, which simply involves setting the quickest time. The career is a non-linear affair, enabling you to select events that suit your particular skill or car - and if you win money, you can spend it on improving your ride. Furthermore, you can even bet on yourself, or - if you're not racing - an opponent. And with the Pink Slips option, you can race for your opponent s car.
One of the areas where Juiced looks to better NFSU is in the damage model, in so much that it has one. As lead designer Richard Badger says: "All gamers know it's very rare for car manufacturers to allow their vehicles to be trashed in racing games, so we feel this is one of the great reasons that will make Juiced something special." It's also more than merely cosmetic, having a noticeable effect on the handling.
From what we've seen, Juiced is shaping up to be something of a boy racer's wet dream. As Richaid explains: It's a fully licensed game, with car models and parts that are synonymous with the modding scene, so we're hoping the modding fans will really be up for it. We're also working closely with the scene via magazines and by going to shows so they get to see what the game is about and give us feedback. Juiced is the most authentic game to embrace the street racing culture.
As for the online options. Richard claims: Online is possibly its most exciting part. Imagine being able to put the hours into the game, build your crew and make your car the most powerful beast out there - then you decide to test your skills online. You race for pink slips against Petr from Moscow. Ten minutes later your respect is in tatters and you've just lost your hotrod. However, race well and you leave Ivan crying into his beef Stroganoff." So that's what they mean by juiced'.
Ever Since The film world unleashed The Fast And The Furious upon a world of Kenwood sticker-bearing teenagers, the world of street racing has been big business. EA's Need For Speed franchise has typically been at the forefront, grabbing top Christmas sales spots for the last two years. However, should you manage to shoulder that behemoth aside, you'll find Juiced waiting in its shadows.
Bearing a striking resemblance to the film, Juiced boasts races to win pink slips, an extensive crew-based career and comes complete with the obligatory Pimp car modding. In fact, if you're the type of person who calls your car a ride', it ticks all the right boxes. However, with older vehicles things are bound to start to fail: it's too easy to find yourself out of cash, racing can feel slow compared to the frenetic pace of NFS and the graphics, from cars to tracks, could do with an added bit of sparkle. While Juiced is definitely a solid runner, it's perhaps not the street racer you were after.
Before I get started on the actual game part of Juiced (and trust me, I will get started on it), I want to address an issue I have with the presentation of the damn thing. Basically, I've never played a game in the whole 16 years I've been toiling these fields that's made such a concerted effort to alienate me.
Let me explain. Following the installation of Acclaim's answer to EA's answer to The Fast And The Furious, a dazzling young urbanite making her way in the world of UK garage music by the name of Shystie proceeds to throw lyrics along the lines of, "Tits up, clutch down, pedal to the floor" in an irritating high-pitched whine. All accompanied by the kind of low-rent music video that normally gets played at three in the morning on cable-only music channels. This is carried through the game, with the Shysters appearing as an in-game racer, the soundtrack comprising urban beats and flavas from all corners of the UK garage scene and every piece of text appearing to have been sprayed on the screen by a passing tagging crew.
Now I'm not saying youth is evil or that garage rap is a gateway genre to the horrors of trance or anything like that. But when that's the only presentation theme on offer in the game, well, you are kind of limiting your audience appeal somewhat.
Juiced attempts to ape its console brethren at every comer. But genre-defining titles like Gran Turismo, Project Gotham and Need for Speed Underground at least give you plenty of options to tailor the game's feel to your own tastes. Personally speaking, an Xbox hard drive filled with Lemon Jelly, 4Hero and Eric Cartman belting out Come Sail Away while screaming around a digitally rendered Leicester Square makes for a perfect evening's entertainment.
Instead, Juiced constantly seems to be screaming, "For God's sake OLD MAN, why are you playing this? Trying to keep IN WITH DA KIDZ are you? Sad GIF at me. Not strictly speaking the game's fault of course, but then anyone who doesn't fall squarely into the 14 to 18-year-old inner city audience bracket that Acclaim has decided are the only people worth making games for is going to feel irritated, slighted and more than a little put out.
Which is annoying as hell because a) I really, really like driving games like this, and b) I'M ONLY 32. I'm not old (and this is an autonomous collective etc etc). That said, as long as you don't mind having your tastes in modern popular culture ridiculed at every turn, there's a lot to enjoy in Juiced.
The premise, as you've probably gathered by now, is The Fast And The Furious in game form. Treading a similar path to Need For Speed Underground and Midnight Club (must be one of those 'youth trends'), here you also get the chance to sample life as leader of a 'street crew', a gang of designer label-clad drivers and mechanics trying to earn 'nuff respect to dominate the illegal street racing scene in a fictional LA-style setting.
Respect Mah Authoritah!
These elements of crew leadership and respect points are key to why Juiced scores over the previous entries in the boy racer genre. There's as much at stake off the racetracks as there is on. The way you paint, fit and mod your cars, the tricks you perform while racing, the amount you're willing to bet on races - it all has a bearing on how the other tattooed lunkheads in da hood treat you.
You don't even have to drive yourself, if you feel that your skills are under par. Although we're not talking Champ Man levels of interaction, there's just enough of a tactical edge to the game to put Juiced ahead of other street racers. There's plenty of variety too. Aside from the sheer number of cars on offer and the amount of personalisation to be had (although you can't help feeling that progress up the tech tree is a little too linear), the actual events offer plenty to keep you busy. Standard circuit and point-to-point races, speed challenges, drag races, show off modes, one-on-one challenges with money, prestige or even entire cars on the line.
much to fault here. Acclaim does need to tweak some of the car handling - especially in the higher-powered muscle cars, which have a tendency to spin out of control before you've moved three feet off the line. Also, don't even think about playing the game unless your PC is similarly muscular - you'll need Far Cry levels of compatibility at least. Saying that, if you are running at a full spec, you'll be able to enjoy some of the most spectacularlooking street racing to date. Just make sure you turn the volume down and hide the screen when the kids walk past your window - or you'll quickly feel very, very - old indeed.