Good games never die. They just move to new publishers. Such is the case with Juiced, a car modification racer that we originally awarded a very respectable 8.0 to way back in Issue 33 of OXM. And that would have been the end of the story, if it wasn't for the fact that Juiced's original publisher, Acclaim, promptly went bust, sending what should have been a fine driving game spiralling into a state of perpetually unreleased limbo.
Enter THQ stage right. Having rescued Juiced from the eternal fires of damnation, it set about stripping out all the rubbish bits (but why ditch the genius intro starring MC Shystie?), tweaking the so-so bits (the handling) and improving all the bits that weren't that bad to start off with (the graphics and general gameplay). And the result? Yet another solid racer that's easily as good as anything else the car-mod genre has to offer at the moment.
But before we get down to explaining exactly how THQ has gone about improving the game, here's a brief recap for those who may have missed Juiced first time around. Pure and simple, Juiced is a modification-skewed racer based around the increasingly popular underground tuning scene. Where it stands out from all the others, though, is that it bases itself around the concept of 'crews'. Essentially small gangs of like-minded racers, the idea is to hit the city, race well and perform flashy manoeuvres to gain the respect and racing privileges of other crews while at the same time building up a top quality racing crew of your own.
From a modification point of view, Juiced features everything you'd expect from an accomplished mod racer, like an excellent list of fully licensed Japanese tuner cars, and literally hundreds of real-life performance and appearance modification parts. Mix them altogether and you've got your usual three trillion possible car combinations. Throw in a unique, calendar-based race system that lets you pick and choose between race meets as well as host your own and you've got a game that certainly knows how to carve itself a decent niche.
Where THQ has really improved matters is in the handling of the cars themselves. Gone is the overly sensitive handling that caused frustrating spinouts on every other corner, replaced by a far more forgiving, arcade-style handling system in line with games such as Need For Speed Underground 2 and Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition (see page 70).
The graphics have also been considerably tweaked. Juiced oozes bold colours, bright, airy race tracks and a real sense of speed thanks to its clever use of blurring. And let's not forget to mention the sound either, with some beautifully throaty engine roars helping to give the impression you've really squeezed the most out of your engine.
Yep, there's no denying it: Juiced has come a long way since the fall of Acclaim. It's still a huge undertaking, full of masses of depth, but it now plays and looks a damn sight better too. Our only complaint is we can't work quite out what market Juiced is pitching itself at. Given the ridiculous nature of hooking up with other 'crews' via your mobile phone, you'd imagine something aimed at rat-boy racers, but the depth of the modification and career system suggests a game that desperately want to be taken as seriously as Gotham or Forza (see page 078), the result being something that can't quite justify itself to either crowd. Great stuff, just lacking a bit of a focus is all.
Another good all-round car modding effort with a seriously complete set of Live options. Not quite as hip as MC3 though.