Juiced, the long-awaited street racer formerly signed to Acclaim and now being published by THQ, is undergoing its final tweaks and tunes before it hits the tarmac on PC, PS2 and Xbox next Friday.
So to celebrate we strapped ourselves in with Don Whiteford, Studio Director for console and PC games at developer Juice, to get a final lowdown on why Juiced is taking the street racing genre to a different level.
After the Acclaim situation it must feel great for you guys to have such high-profile support from THQ, right?
It certainly makes up for the situation we found ourselves in, yes!
How cool is it for you to see Juiced on TV?
Getting this product to market has been a long and arduous journey; I have to pinch myself when I see it on the TV. Seeing it on the shelves is going to be fantastic.
The whole car modding thing seems to really be moving into the mainstream. Do you think Juiced can tap into this?
It's getting increasingly popular and there are different interpretations of the scene. We believe there is plenty of scope to build a solid brand around Juiced.
There's a lot of tit-for-tat stuff going on between car modding games right now. Just how deep do you think Juiced's modding component is and how does it stand up against the likes of NFS: U2 and Midnight Club 3?
Just deep enough! Juiced has huge scope for modding, and it's carefully balanced to be an engaging aspect of the game and not an overly technical chore.
Midnight Club 3 has taken a slightly different approach to the genre and it seems to have paid off. How do you see Rockstar's game and in what ways does Juiced stand apart from it?
Midnight Club is a well established brand and concept, and Rockstar continue to build on that success. Juiced takes a very different approach to the racing and career elements - it's a pure racing title, not a city navigation challenge for a start.
We've been particularly impressed with Juiced's crew system. Can you tell us a little more about why it was so important for you guys to implement successfully?
With Juiced we wanted to bring gaming elements that had never been seen before in a racing game, so team control and tactical racing seemed such a logical development. In our flight-sim days we would call them wingmen.
The Crew system works well online too. Tell us why it's so cool.
It's new and good fun!
Will players be able to form their own Crew from human players?
No reason why players cannot organise themselves to drive in a tactical way.
Pink slip racing is another area of Juiced we love - it's harsh, but that adds to the drama. Why is it so cool and aren't you afraid you'll really annoy people who lose their best cars?
Again, it's a new emotion to experience in a game... you build a work of art and then blow the race and lose it... or you pick up an amazing creation just on pure skill. That has to be good!
Taken online, pink slip racing gets really mean. Tell us how it works and reassure us that we won't get some mentalist coming around our house after we nick his pride and joy off him.
Once you have committed your car to a race it cannot be retrieved and pulling the plug on the race won't save it. You then have to race. Providing you haven't told the loser where you live, you'll be fine... it's not like nicking a real car, but it is good fun!
With the pink slip and online racing features Juiced is pushing the value of car ownership - 'that's MY unique car' - much more than other titles. How important do you think this is?
You're right - that's the whole point. Each car is a unique creation. It's very important.
Just how hardcore do you think Juiced is? NFSU2 was fairly accessible for everyone, and MC3 is very arcadey, but Juiced seems a little more specialist...
Juiced has very detailed physics and handling, but there is huge gameplay in there! Whereas simulations often just focus on driving, Juiced adds significant and ever-changing consequences to your actions. On the driving side, believability is the key word. Travelling at 100 mph through a built up area is terrifying... not at all leisurely!
You're the only street racing game to really punish players for damaging their car and the cars of others. Why is this important and don't you think it will annoy some players?
In Juiced, the damage is there to encourage you to drive skilfully... just as in real life! I don't think it will cause huge frustration as we have balanced the game to ensure it doesn't penalise excessively.
After earlier problems Juiced seems to have a bright future. What plans do you have and what would you really like to do with the series?
We have some great ideas for Juiced but we can't disclose them just yet!
Do you think the street racing genre is about to (ahem) burnout?
Street Racing won't 'burn out' but it will change. Drag racing and drifting have both developed into hugely popular, formalised sports. There are interesting developments going on all the time in this area. Even the car manufacturers are taking ideas from the scene.
And does Juice Games have any plans outside of the racing genre? Any future projects you can let us in on? Please?
Oh yes! Can't talk about that either! Sorry, but we'll keep in touch.
Juiced will be available for PC, PS2 and Xbox from June 17