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 about in PC ZONE, 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-million-selling 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 á 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.