Someone freshly squeezed all the fun out of this tired racer.
Underground racing has officially been done to DEATH. If it isn't about the Fast and the Furious movies, it's about the leaning of the Need For Speed franchise towards it. And then there's the countless knock-offs that come into play that kind of make you nauseated by the idea that you're racing for pink slips. And that's a big problem- something that's supposed to be generated as an exciting effort becomes DULL. Unfortunately, Juiced: Eliminator fails to really justify its existence, despite some promising aspects buried within its problematic performance.
If the title sounds familiar, that's because Juiced was rip-roaring on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox last year. Well, wait, maybe I termed that incorrectly. It tried to keep up with other driving games but failed to really carve out its own niche as a result. It was probably all those years knocking around the Acclaim offices before THQ finally picked up on the game that did it the most damage, despite some fresh development from Juice Games. Sadly, the PSP never really picks up the slack.
For one thing, the track design isn't really all that inspired. Sure, there's a few locales here and there and some hair-pin turns that allow you to show off some drifting style, but they really lack in variety and overall spark. You could race through five of these things and really don't have much to tell them apart in the long run. The graphics are by no means sloppy, but they don't really do much to make the PSP its bitch either. The menus are okay and the numerous car models do look schnazzy, but little else seems to be revving in the performance.
As for the gameplay, it too fails to rise to the occasion. The cars often feel a bit lopsided, either too loose when you're in the middle of a turn or too tight when all you're trying to do is maneuver your way to first place. It would've been nice if Juice Games could've found some kind of balance to make the game feel more natural, instead of mechanical efforts that have some confusion as a result. Worse yet, the game fails to generate any excitement, even when you're driving for pink slips. And as I said above, that's a crucial mistake.
Eliminator does have some interesting bonus features. The career mode really tries to dig deep in the underground scene, complete with team racing events, a large array of races, and the ability to customize your ride and give yourself a precise style to show off your street-racing id. However, the car customization options seem a bit limited, and some of the events in the career mode end up being more frustrating than they need to be, forcing you to start from a certain point too many times. The multiplayer aspect, where a number of players can take part in certain racing events, can be fun, but you keep running into the control problems, and that kind of takes a little spin out of the tires.
Juiced: Eliminator isn't bottom of the barrel, but it comes in at a distant third when the underground racing genre has already gone well into its life span, and that's not good news. Perhaps for the next Juiced game, Juice Games can start over from scratch and give us the defining underground racing experience we deserve. For now, though, the only thing eliminated here seems to be most of the fun.
What's Hot: Multiplayer can be fun; some racing events are a blast.
What's Not: Controls are inconsistent; bland track design; frustrating career mode.