THQ picked up the rights to publish Juiced after Acclaim went in to receivership just a matter of weeks before the penned release date last Autumn, causing a delay of more than nine months and giving some vital time for last minute tweaks. So can Juiced 'squeeze' anything else out of the street racing genre?
First thing that you'll notice from Juiced is the music which kicks in right from the start, featuring the likes of Roni Size, Xzibit, Lemon Jelly, Kasabian and Shapeshifters - it's a much better line-up than you'd get from other street racing games which usually rely on poor unsigned indie/rock bands which only serve to annoy. It's nothing particularly groundbreaking, but it's certainly better than most games we can think of.
Some four gameplay modes are on offer, ranging from Career and Arcade to Custom Race where you can pick and chose what sort of driving takes your mood - including Race, Sprint, Showoff and Solo. A complete multiplayer mode with both offline and Xbox Live online play also features, giving the same range of options as you'd expect from any other Live title.
It's the Career mode that you'll most likely start off in, mainly because you have to play through it to unlock the cars beyond the basic makes and models that you are given initially. Before long you'll find yourself coming up against a brick wall due to the way races give you the one chance to get it right or face a stiff penalty such as losing money, or in the case of Pink Slip races where you can simply lose your car to a rival racer all together.
For a game which features so heavily on repairing accident damage between races you expect the damage model would be spectacular, but unfortunately it seems to be nothing more than an impressive shower of sparks and only minor denting of your vehicle - not really what you want when you're trying to justify the cost of fixing your vehicle.
A "mixed-bag" is probably the best way of describing the locations on offer, and whilst they're not the ghost town that you'd find in some other street racing titles such as Project Gotham Racing - crowds line the pavements with their arms raised cheering you on, giving it an almost legal feel to the illegal street racing - it does feel as though there's something lacking from the atmosphere of the cities, possibly down to the fact that they're not real-life places.
Despite all this the cities in Juiced are visually pretty impressive and whilst not from the photo-real mould of games like PGR and Gran Turismo, they've got a certain appeal to them which feels similar (when played during the day) to the bright and cheery streets of the original Crazy Taxi - albeit massively more detailed here - and packing plenty of that juicy goodness sun-drenched feel-good factor which the title appears to be aiming to provide.
A choice of morning, afternoon, evening and night is all on offer, as are dry or wet races, and the different in lighting really does make quite a difference - especially at night if you take any notice of the "slow down" and "brake now" text which appears but is far too early and really is best to be ignored on all accounts, otherwise you'll end up taking a corner too early and smashing in to the armco barrier.
Handling of the cars is much better than that experienced during Game Stars Live last year, although it's still got a strangely arcade-like feel to it which isn't at all natural compared with other more serious racing and it's possible that developer Juiced Games had to go for a compromise with the handling, allowing for both high speed racing and also the slower speed "showoff" driving where you're rewarded for pulling doughnuts, 360's, bootleg turns and generally acting like the sort of loon that fills supermarket carparks after dark.
Juiced is one of those games which you can tell has clearly had a ton of effort put in to it and should have every reason to do massively well, with the well chosen soundtrack, appealing graphics and the sort of atmosphere that you'd expect from an arcade racer where you see gamers pouring pound coins in to it like there's no tomorrow.
Unfortunately however there's a few aspects to the game which don't feel quite right, although it's hard to work out quite where things go slightly wrong - possibly the handling, or maybe the damage model, or possibly even the fact that there's simply been some outstanding titles come along in the recent months which have raised the bar. Either way Juiced is an impressive title which racing fans will want to experience, and for everyone else it'll be one of those games which must not be ignored when you find it on sale for a knock-down price.Overall score: 7 out of 10
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: NowBuy Juiced for the Xbox from Amazon