Juiced review

PC Gamer hops in for a ride and finds that THQ's racer is not quite ripe...

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Racing for 'pink slips' might not sound terribly dangerous or macho, but Juiced's take on street racing offers far more thrills and spills than EA's comparatively safe Need For Speed Underground series, on which Juiced is clearly based.

Great, right? Thrills and spills... that's what we want. We want a game in which we can gamble away our winnings and lose the cars we've modified and raced for hours on end... don't we?

We've been mollycoddled by our games in recent years, lulled into thinking that they exist only to serve us - not like the old days when games existed to beat you to a pulp, or be beaten by our acts of intense concentration and skill.

Juiced is old-school. It starts out innocently enough: buy a car, tweak it a bit, enter a race and win some cash.

But this is far removed from NFSU's comfortable cycle. If you lose, you lose - there's no opportunity to try the race again, and no option to reload a game. If you bet against a racer and finish behind them, your stake is gone. And worse, if you bet your pink slip - the ownership of your motor - that's gone too.

Not a problem, of course, if you win every race, but like any decent racer there are plenty of factors that can derail your charge to victory.

Shunts into scenery, barriers and other cars will cause damage that not only costs money to repair, but can also slow your progress. Other drivers won't spare their own paintwork if they spot an opportunity to stymie you.

Finally, Juiced's handling is a little quirky: rear-wheel drive cars suffer from oversteer and are best avoided. And while understeer is only a problem over 140mph, you never feel that you're able to place the car precisely on the track.

The price for losing is heavy, but the rewards for winning are great. Accrue money and cars and you'll have a garage stacked with flash motors, and you'll also attract other drivers to race in your crew.

Car models and upgrades are pleasing, particularly the classics, and if you're consistently successful you can cover all the classes (separated by horsepower) with different vehicles and drivers, competing in most of the races.

Despite this game's rescue by THQ from Acclaim's drowning clutches late last year and the extra months' development time, it's still a rung below the games it emulates in terms of all-round quality.

The Sprint racing - almost identical to NFSU's - is particularly tricky to judge and unsatisfying. Paint jobs I applied to some cars failed to show up on race day, while absurdly granny-like "SLOW DOWN!" warnings pop up far before you need to when approaching corners.

Juiced fails to find a balance between the sweet and the sour, so will be a turn-off for those who like a guaranteed reward. But to others it'll be a tangy throwback to the old days, and for that we can't justifiably condemn it.

Juiced is out for PC, PS2 and Xbox on 17 June and will be out for mobiles later this summer

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