2004 really is the year of the racing game and there are some big ones coming this year such as Gran Turismo 4, Burnout 3, Forza motorsport etc, but under the radar Acclaim is steadily working on its entry into this highly competitive market with Juiced. Juiced is about building cars, selling cars and having the hottest wheels around with numerous modifications made to stock, road cars giving you that edge. Juiced is the first game from Juiced Games and from our hands on time with the game they are off to a very impressive start.
Juiced will revolve around gaining respect from other racing crews featured in the fictional city they have constructed for the gameplay. You start off with a budget and must buy a car and perform modifications to it, to get it up to speed with the other players before slowly working your way up the respect ladder of the various teams featured throughout. The game will ship with three main game modes; custom race, arcade and the career mode. The custom race mode allows you to choose how many laps, how many cars, what time of day and other aspects to be implemented on tracks upon which you have already unlocked in other modes. The arcade mode is the pick up and play section of the game and during our time in here, it appeared that this is where most of the unlocking of cars and tracks will be done. However the meat and potatoes of the game is definitely going to be the career mode.
We sat down for a few hours in the career mode and our first comments are that this is a game that will not be finished in a day or perhaps even a week. The career mode is incredibly deep and has aspects that even the most ardent racing fan would not have expected in a hardcore simulation. You start off with a fairly generous budget and have to buy a car from the lowest category available. Doing so however allows you to modify the car right away buying parts such as a new bumper or neons as well as performance parts such as new brakes or turbo. Once you're happy with the car you are then offered to compete in a variety of meets. They have different categories and you can only compete those that you qualify for in terms of respect and also the make of the car. Some events have entrance fees but at the beginning this is not a factor.
Something that will come as a surprise perhaps is the fact that initially it looks as if the aim of the game will not be to collect all the cars. Rather until you are completely established with respect etc it seems that a much better system is buying cars which are damaged, doing them up, and selling them for a tidy profit. This allows you buy better cars quicker. Also you can purchase both used and new cars with the former being cheaper but obviously in worse condition then the new cars. The way to modify and tune a car is incredibly in depth. You can adjust the horsepower of the car with tuning as well as the brakes but the area which shines is the dynamometer which pushes your car to the limit and then provides a graph for those who know cars like the back of their hand to read and make changes.
To move up in the fictional cities world, you have to gain respect and this is the area which teaches you to race properly. This is because as you gain respect from other teams, they will offer you to come visit their meets and also eventually race you for pink slips so you can win a new car or lose your pride and joy in an instant. Respect is given or taken away for a variety of things. If you crash all the time you will lose respect, if you crash into other cars you will lose even more but if you win races and have a hot looking car you will quickly gain respect as long as its not via a dodgem car system.
The cars will be raced in three formats; race, showoff and sprint. The race is a typical race around a circuit or point to point race mimicking a rally stage, showoff where you perform moves such as donuts to win points and sprint which is a drag race to the finish. The handling system is a mix between simulation and arcade and feels much like Project Gotham Racing except with modifications added to make the cars go even faster. One nice touch is when you fire up that nitrous and hit high speed, the controller will start to shake making the car harder to control which simulates the real life response that a car has to high speed.
Juiced will contain a multitude of licensed cars however during our time with the game we only got to see a small portion. The game will have old favorites such as the Subaru WRX, Mitsubishi EVO, Honda Civic and others for you to play around with and all the cars are licensed and can take damage. The damage adversely affects the car as well. For instance if you sustain a nitrous leak, nitrous will slowly pour out meaning if you don't use it soon you lose it all. This is where the depth of the career mode really shines. Between races you have to repair your car and after a few groan inducing numbers on bills you will begin to care how you race. Another surprise was that between races you have to buy new gas for the nitrous systems if you have previously used it. A small touch but nonetheless realistic.
The city which the developers have put together suits the game well and is divided into a number of sections. As mentioned before the city is fictional but does have a replica of the golden gate bridge featured. Each section of the city features numerous tracks, as well as mirrored tracks and they will all offer a different challenge. One of the sprint tracks for instance has a slight curve which at high speed increases the difficulty and other sprint tracks are quite short meaning you have to put the pedal to the metal right away or be blown away.
In terms of the visuals the game is already looking great and features a rock solid frame rate, however this seemed to drop during a multiplayer split screen session. There is no popup to speak of and the draw distance is quite long with objects fading-in rather than suddenly appearing. Racing takes place in daylight and the evening, with the evening races providing some stunning graphics to match the superb blur given at high speeds. The cars themselves look just like their real life counterparts and once modded up look even more stunning. The sound effects of the game are already sounding good with each car featuring a unique engine sound. Multiplayer will be available in the final game via split screen and Xbox Live/PS2 online. The split screen multiplayer appears to cut the graphics down and slow the frame rate
Juiced is a racing game that any fan of the genre should be interested in. the respect system and modifications and a great deal of depth to the career mode and the numerous cars featured should have even the most cynical racing fan wanting a crack at the game. Online play will give the game limitless replay value and all in all it looks like Acclaim and Juiced Games have put together a solid package which should keep racing fans glued to their Xbox and PS2 shortly after release in September 2004.