|System: PS3, X360, PS2, PC, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Juice Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 22, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
On the surface, you're bound to wonder what else you could expect from Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights. It seems to have it all: great graphics, lots of cars, tons of interesting tracks, and a good selection of modes including online racing. It's even streamlined some of the tedious gameplay elements of the original such as having to fork over your cash to enter races and pay to fix damages. But closer examination under the hood reveals a game that is little more than a rebuilt engine with a fresh paint job. It's not just my job to kick the tires, I can also piss on them.
It's difficult not to be impressed by the game's graphics at first. The car models look simply stunning. There are a host of customizable options, especially in the cosmetics department. Paint jobs, flares, flames, stripes, decals, scoops, chrome, and wild rims do nothing to improve your vehicle's performance, but it can sure make your carriage look amazing. Even moving at full speed down the track, you'll see features of the environments reflected in your machine's high gloss paint. You can almost do the same with your driver, although he doesn't come with a high sheen option. You can modify just about any body feature that you can imagine - in good taste. Drivers come with DNA stats which indicate their driving predilections. You can choose aggressive or calm-under-pressure drivers. Like an RPG, these skills will increase with each race won. Unfortunately, like a lot of the vehicle upgrades, these increased attributes seem to have little affect.
The closer you examine the game, the more flaws are exposed. Even the graphics start to betray your initial impressions. Some of the backgrounds are blasé, with little more than generic buildings and the usual trees-and-rolling-hills countryside environment. You'll even notice a lot of low-res textures that would be more acceptable on the PS2 than on these next-next gen super consoles. At least the tracks are interesting, and really, that's something that should never be overlooked. Unfortunately a great racing game also requires consistent control. Juiced 2 just doesn't give you the feeling of confidence when cornering and drifting. It's too touchy in some respects, and not responsive enough in others. This inconsistency makes what could have been a great game simply good. And that's not good enough for my money. Considering how much fun I had playing the Midnight Club games and the other illegal street racing clones on the PS2, I was more than a little disappointed to find that Juiced 2 does not give the majority of these games a run for their money.
Unlike the original Juiced, the gameplay here is less structured. You're not forced to follow a calendar of events. You have more control over your destiny by being allowed to pick which races or challenges you want to take part in. The gameplay could be thought of as two different racing games. There is racing and there is drifting. Both have different feels, but neither feel great with the default control scheme. You can change the configuration so that it feels more natural to you, and you can also change the perspective. I found that I was able to tighten the control system by using the cockpit view, as opposed to the third-person perspective. Since you'll start the game with a hundred grand, you'll want to buy at least two different vehicles to accommodate the two driving styles. A fast car doesn't necessarily make a great drifter as you'll find out. But even with the two different vehicles, the upgrades didn't seem to affect the car's performance enough to notice.
One improvement that you can choose is to make your vehicle weightless. That's obviously not something that you want for drifting, unless you want to feel like you're driving a bicycle on a hockey rink. Improvements can be made in performance, power, and handling. Each category will only allow you one point at a time, and you're not even sure what that one point means. I can't tell the difference between 1 and 5 points in any upgrade. But it could also be that the track and the A.I. have also increased in difficulty, thus rendering any of my improvements moot.