IGN Review of Juiced: Eliminator
Released a tad over a year ago for the PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC, Juiced Games' somewhat self-titled Juiced raced to store shelves to capitalize on the growing car modding community. The game certainly wasn't without flaws, but it did bring with it a rather interesting career mode setup and some nice customization features. The game has finally made its way to the PSP in the form of Juiced: Eliminator, a largely-improved take on the console game with a slew of new features.
Juiced: Eliminator's strengths lie in its original concepts. Its singleplayer career mode is a great take on what simply amounts to strung-together races in other games, though like its console counterpart, it too isn't without flaw.
Its biggest problems revolve around the driving mechanics and track design. Being that this is a driving game, it doesn't do well for its overall design, though neither are crippling to the point where the game isn't any fun - in other words, they're just okay. The driving controls feel both too tight and too loose at the same time. Heading into a turn and applying the breaks, your car will tend to skid out too much and fishtail all too often. You'll get used to the mechanics and wrangle them in of course, but they still don't feel quite right. Being that the game is a stylistic racer in large part, you're not intended to break early and then accelerate as you exit the turn like you would in a simulation, so you have to abide by its slippery control scheme. Again, it's completely manageable, it just should have been tweaked a good deal more.
Its style races play more into its control mechanics, however. As you'll want to throw your car into a spin more often than not, it works pretty well for this. There are a number of moves that you can perform to earn points, like 180s, 360s, J-turns and many more, though they take a while to nail down and become comfortable pulling off. Luckily the game includes a nice tutorial mode that helps explain how to perform these, so while there's a bit of a learning curve, it isn't without assistance.
Juiced: Eliminator's course design basically revolves around test tracks or street tracks specifically set up for racing. In other words, you'll find hard barriers against the rails, clear markers of where you need to turn and so forth. It looks as if the city has been entirely retrofitted for racing, and in the end it makes the course design feel quite stale.
You won't find many compelling courses in the game - in fact, they're so repetitive and lackluster that it's almost impossible to recall any track off the top of our heads. You essentially need to rely on the on-screen map in order to tell how hard an upcoming turn is as you won't see many memorable markers in the game anywhere. It's not that the track design is bad per se, as you'll find some nice segments here and there, but they're so bland and flat that they don't seem all that interesting as you're racing through them.
Luckily, the game does have a number of different race types that spice up the all-important driving segments of the game. Aside from standard races, you'll also find style races, drag circuits, the name-sake eliminator races and more. It does pretty well to change things up race to race, which is always nice.
While its basic racing mechanics are rather boring and unrefined, if ultimately manageable, where Juiced: Eliminator excels is in its overall presentation. From car upgrades to the layout of the career mode, the PSP take on Juiced has a whole lot of great things going for it. Races are set up on a calendar, with one race taking place each day. Any open day means that you can set up your own event for that day - pick the track, race type, car level and so forth. You're even allowed to set up races for car levels that you don't have and simply watch (and even bet) on the computer racers.
When you actually take your car to the streets and compete in some races, that's where things get interesting. Before each race you're able to place a bet with one of the competitors if you'd like, and then you're off. Depending on how you perform in the race, what kind of car you're driving and how it's been modded, how clean you drive and more will all affect the respect that other drivers and teams have for you. So it's not simply your performance that matters, but all of the other things that surround a race as well.
Respect earns you the ability to join races set up by other teams, race for pink slips and even recruit other drivers for your crew, which you'll need for team races. All of these things are set up in a nicely set up series of menus that are easy to navigate and reference, which is important with how many things you'll want to track. The amount of respect you have is essentially your marker for how far you've gotten through the game, and being as there are numerous ways to earn it, you can basically progress with a focus on whatever you want. If you want to spend your cash on faster rides and simply beat everyone else off the line, you can do that. Or if you want to paint up your car, throw on spoilers and impress the other teams with your ride in order to earn respect, you can do that too. There's a nice balance here between all of these elements that makes for Juiced's strongest aspects.
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