What do you get when you take a year-old PS2 game, add some badly needed upgrades, toss in some wireless multiplayer and throw it all on the PSP? You get Juiced: Eliminator, a game that manages to outrace its console cousin in pretty much every single way, but sputters out before reaching greatness.
Like all elite underground street racers, your life starts off at the bottom of the food chain. You're given a basic car and a few thousand bucks, and from there you're on your own. Two things are needed to take on the big boys: money and respect, both of which you earn by winning races.
Money can be used to trick out your ride with a mind-boggling array of aftermarket parts and mods. Publisher THQ has gone out and licensed a ton of real-life brands, so if you know your Rage from your AEM, you're going to have a field day with the customization. Besides individual parts and pieces, you can even upgrade your car with system-wide packages, change its paint job and apply decals and other vinyl decorations.
But money can't buy you everything, and that's where respect comes in. The system is simple: win races or come in second, and you'll get noticed by the eight "crews" who run Angel City's street-racing scene. With the right amount of respect, they'll eventually start inviting you to their racing events. Each crew is interested in different things, though; one might be impressed by a nice car, while another will pay attention to how well (or how recklessly) you bet your money against the other racers.
With enough respect, you'll even start fielding requests from rookie riders to join your crew, which is a mixed blessing. You can recruit up to four other computer-controlled racers, and once enlisted, you can enter them in race events. But their skills need to be cultivated, which takes tons of time. If you have the dedication to stick with it, you'll net yourself some extra respect and cash, but the rewards are seriously outweighed by the sheer frustration of trying to train a greenhorn.
Then again, training yourself to win races isn't much easier, thanks to the game's clunky controls. The PSP's analog nub ends up being a liability, making really fine-tuned movements nearly impossible (and hairpin turns that much more difficult to navigate). Basically, the controls themselves feel too loose, making things like cornering an adventure in frustration.
Continuing the trend of disappointment is the actual race tracks themselves. Incredibly boring design makes for some truly uninspired racing experiences, and you'll probably find yourself unable to really tell the tracks apart. The bland look of the tracks - gray is overused - certainly doesn't help, but the visuals for the cars are actually really detailed. You'll get some nice motion blur when hurtling down the track, and while the PSP's screen is small, you can usually see even the tiniest modification on your car well enough.
Make no mistake, Juiced: Eliminator improves on its PS2 predecessor. It has more modes, more customization parts, and makes for a respectable single-player experience. But the sketchy controls and oftentimes sleep-inducing levels and presentation keep it from being the king of street. If you're a die-hard street racing fan, you'll probably find quite a bit to have fun with. But if the street racing scene doesn't get your turbo kit all hot and bothered, you'd best steer clear.