Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Juiced Eliminator (PSP) - First Draft

The original Juiced for the consoles and PC got somewhat medicore reviews and really wasn't a great game, but turned out to be one of my favorites. And a game I played more than far better games like Forza or GT4. In part because of two features that set Juiced apart from other racers, firstly team or crew racing (which has since been copied by some later titles), and secondly, the ability to set up your own races according to a large variety of criteria, make the already non-linear gameplay almost completely free-form.

So when I heard Juiced was headed towards the PSP, I was quite eager. In fact, it was one of the reasons I got a PSP in the first place (though not the sole reason). Unfortunately, while Juiced has made the jump to the PSP, it's gotten slimmed down, removing most of the features I liked the most about Juiced. It's still an okay game, and probably one of the best racers on the PSP right now.



Like the original Juiced, gameplay is largely calender based. That is , you progress through the game day by day. On each day there is either a race or a free day. You can either enter or watch the race if there is one, or if there is a free day, you can host your own event. You then take the money you win and either buy new cars or mod the ones you have. And just repeat until you get sick of playing (it's open ended).

There are 3 basic types of race: Circuit, where you do laps around a track; Point to Point, where you start from point a and race along the track to point b; Sprint, which is basically a drag race in a straight line. Also introduced in this game is "Eliminator", which is simply a circuit race where each lap the last place car is eliminated. There's also the "Show Off" event, which is not a race, but a timed drifting exhibition. Basically you go around the track and drive stylishly to earn points.

You can race up to 5 opponents in a race (3 in a sprint), and cars are divided into 8 different classes based on their horsepower. There are 9 different track regions, with about 4 different layouts each in each region for circuit races, plus one for point to point and one for sprint races (pretty much the only variation there is the length of the track)...

You may or may not be able to race in an event on a day, you need a certain amount of reputation with the crew holding the race to do so. Respect is earned by doing well at the thing that that given crew respects. One crew likes circuit races, one likes pink slip racing, one likes drifting, one likes your car collection, etc.

If it's a free day, you can hold your own race, either on your home turf or one someone elses if they like you enough. In the regular Juiced, you could set the entry requiresment of the race very specifically (like only a certain make or region of car), but in this you can only pick the class of car and the type of race.

Which is rather disappointing, because some cars just don't stack up well against others from other regions, but are competitive with others. For instance, the 2 Australian cars were meant to race each other, but are too big to compete with other cars in their horsepower class. And the trouble with the original Juiced was the requirements weren't specific enough; there are a large number of older cars in the game, but much like the Australian cars, are too heavy to be competive against newer, smaller cars with the same horsepower (not to mention their gearing is different).

The track selection in the original Juiced was pretty bland, mostly level and straightaways. This adds 2 more track areas and removes two. One of the added ones is pretty nice, reminds me of some of the fictional tracks from Gran Turismo, and has a lot of elevation change. The other is China Town but is incredibly bland, the only thing Chinese about it are some lanterns strung across the track (and only one string of those)

Driving Model

The original Juiced learned towards simulation, but was not real realistic. But this version seems more in the arcade category - you can turn a lot more than real life cars can. In fact, this causes some problems, there is a very big tendency to oversteer, which can cause you to spin out (particularly in rear wheel drive cars). So as a result, control in this is rather touchy - you are expected to go around corners pretty fast, but at the same time, it's very easy to misjudge things and turn too much, resulting in a crash. Not impossible, but takes a lot of practice.

Rear wheel drive cars in particular hard to drive, at least when they are high powered, because the game doesn't seem to have any sort of traction control (which even the Gran Turismo series has added) to help keep you from spinning out.

Cars do take damage, but it's mostly cosmetic. The most serious problem is you can lose all your nitrous due to a leak. (Supposedly your turbo also goes about, but this really is only a minor slowdown at worst). In the original Juiced you had to pay to fix your car, but in this you apparently have a really great car insurance company and don't have to.

Crew Racing

Juiced's real innovation to the racing video game genre was the idea of team or "crew" racing. Basically instead of just racing youself against 5 other opponents, there are races of 2 teams vs 2 other teams of two, or a team of 3 vs a team of three. In the original version of Juiced, you could give your crew members some basic orders on how to drive while the race was going on.

This keeps the crew racing, but removes the ability to tell your crew how to race during the race, both making it rather hard for your crew to win a race, and reducing your role from player to spectator.

This maybe have been because the PSP lacks the 2nd analog stick, but the original Juiced mapped the crew control to the D-pad, which the PSP has. While some people might prefer to drive with the d-pad, I don't think anyone drives with both the d-pad and the analog stick, so whichever the player doesn't use could have been assigned to control the crew.

And of course, when you aren't racing yourself, you don't need any buttons, and so it could have been implemented when only your AI crew is racing (again, something done in the regular version of Juiced).

Similarly, you used to have a free camera you could rotate around while only the AI was racing. Which was pretty cool. That feature has also been removed, though you can at least from from in front instead of behind.

Arcade Mode

There's also an arcade mode in which you simply compete in pre-arranged races with a car you are given. Typical of the arcade modes in most driving games, which I don't think anyone ever uses.

Cars and Car Modding

Basically, this works the exact same as regular Juiced.

As mentioned, cars are divided into 8 different classes, based on horsepower. So you want to sort of max out the horsepower in a given class.

Each car generally has 4 different upgrades in a few basic areas: intake, tires, turbo, exhaust, suspension, nitrous. The first level is unlocked from the start, but the 2nd and third get unlocked by using that car model in a race. Just racing it unlocks the part. The 4th level of upgrade is special, "Prototype" and has to be won in a special race which happens a couple times a month.

Body part upgrades basically work the same. But generally at start, only the stock parts are available, racing the car model will unlock an additional option each time it is raced. At least for bumpers and hoods and sideskirts, different wheels and neons are all unlocked at start. Most the cars have 3 different hoods, bumpers, and side skirts, but a few only have one or no options at all (mostly the older cars). Somewhat bizarely, for the '67 Mustang, you are forced between the slats on the back window and a spoiler.

You can either fiddle with permutations of the various parts on your own, or you can take the car to a tuning shop, where they will automatically figure out which combination of parts will give you the best results in each class. This saves a lot of time, and is useful, since you will likely have a lot of cars for the crew races. (Something like this is really needed in Gran Turismo, where it can take 5 minutes to mod a car with all the best parts, as opposed to 10 seconds here)

There are basically 2 neat features to visually modifying your car. First off, the decals of the upgrades you use are automatically applied to your car. Like if you use Nos, Bridgestone Tires, AEP brakes, etc, their sticker goes in a certain spot in your car. Kinda neat, though you can toggle this off if you don't like it (you can also adjust the color).

The paint system is good on paper, you can pretty much pick any out of a huge palette (based on RGB values). Then, you can pick the "metallic" color (sort of the shiny color), and on top of that, the "pearlescent" color (sort of a different color at a different angle). But the results tend to look rather bland.

There's only a limited number of decals (or vinyls), none of them all that attractive. So, overall, if you are mostly interested in customizing cars, then Juiced really isn't the game for you.

As far as "tuning" goes, that is, tweaking the settings of the car's various parts, well, there's not much to be done. Pretty much just lower the car and slightly adjust the transmission. The latter is just a slider, with one end being "Top Speed" and the other "Acceleration". So very basic indeed.

It's also very hard to find out much about the car in terms of stats. There's very little feedback on how fast the car is in the game, or how it handles. Basically just the option to put it on a dynometer, which will give you the top speed, but that figure is really only reachable in ideal conditions. If you want to figure out 0-400, or 0-60 times, then you are pretty much out of luck.

The car list in the game is pretty good. Probably one of the best mixes I've seen in a game. Most games either favor certain regions, but this has cars from almost everywhere - Europe, US, Japan, Australia. The only real exception is the apparently lack of Hyundais (from Korea).

On the other hand, while the mix is nice for the most part, it's lacking at the top end. There's really nothing that can compete with the Viper. Because the car classes in the game are grouped by horsepower, the Viper is generally put in the same class as the various Muscle Cars. But the Muscle Cars are much heavier, and thus much more tricky to handle.

And older cars are simply geared differently - back then, you were lucky if you had 4 gears, and so even though they have lots of horsepower, they only top out at 130-150, compared to the Viper's 6 gears and top speed of 230-250. Most games sort of gloss over this, but to it's credit, Juiced doesn't. But it also doesn't provide a solution, like say Forza, which lets you install a new transmission in the muscle car with gearing to go faster. So while they are in the game, the older cars are basically useless. Races can be restricted by make or country of origin (at least in the randomly generated races) - they should have added an age restriction as well.

Still, from classes 8 to 5 or so, the mix is fairly good. Some cars are better for short sprints, some are better for long ones, others are better at handling, so better in circuit or point to point races.


The game looks quite good. Cars are fairly well detailed, the environments sort of bland but have decent textures. Lighting is pretty nice, there are 4 stages of lighting (Morning, Afternoon, Evening and Night) and at least in some modes, there are some nice reflections off the cars. There's also some very nice rain effects, drops of water rolling across the screen.

The pearlescent paint effect (where the color changes depending on the angle of the viewer) is somewhat muted though. At first I didn't think that feature was even working, but I can sorta get it to show up sometimes.

I haven't seen any sort of slowdown at all in the game, even in races with 6 cars and rain.


The sound is pretty good actually. You can tell the difference between a muscle car and a tuner.

Most of the speech in the game occurs when you are either doing a team race, where your crew members will talk, or when you bet against an opponent, where they will talk when you pass them or they pass you. For the most part, it's pretty good. And more importantly, largely cliche free. No "Wassup Dawg!" or "Yo, Pimp!" or what have you.

The music is basically 5-6 licensed tracks from reasonably popular artists (Limp Bizkit, Queens of the Stone Age, All American Rejects, Cole Porter, Hoobastank), combined with about 10 generic tracks. Mostly 2000 era alt-rock sort of stuff, which I quickly turned off, but you may like if you like that sort of thing. (Sadly, there were a couple trance tracks, which I do like, in the original but they were taken out).

Loading times

As this is important to PSP owners, it gets its own section. Basically to load a race, it takes just under 30 seconds, and after its down, about 20 seconds to get back to the main menu. Most of these races last pretty long (at least 3 minutes, generally, some can last 10), so you do spend more time racing than loading. When you go into the workshop, it takes about 20 seconds to load that, then about 2-3 seconds when you change cars you want to work on. Not great, but definitely bearable.

When you use sleep mode, it goes right back where you left off imediately.

Final Thoughts

I don't know what to think. On the one hand, they basically took out most of the features which made me like Juiced so much, and the already hard to control RWD cars of the original Juiced are even harder to control. But on the other hand, it's still pretty fun and frankly, most of the other racers on the PSP are pretty bad, so I'm giving it a 7/10.