Juiced: Eliminator E3 2006 Preshow Hands-On

The follow-up to the THQ street racer is shrunk down to portable size. We take a hands-on look.

The original Juiced took a twisted path to retail stores; first set to be published by Acclaim, the street racing game was taken over by THQ when Acclaim shuttered its offices. Once the street racing game finally hit the streets, it wasn't welcomed with open critical arms, yet it still managed to pull off some interesting tricks in its own right. Now the Juiced series is continuing on the PlayStation Portable with Juiced: Eliminator, a preview copy of which we got to check out at a recent THQ press event.

Like its console predecessor, Juiced: Eliminator is a street racing game, so you'll spend the majority of your time with the game burning hot laps around its multiple racing locations (two of which are new for the portable game: Chinatown and Angel Raceway). Also new for the game are a number of new cars to roll in, including makes such as the Ford Mustang GT, the Toyota Scion TC, and the Renault Megane Sport. In all, Eliminator will feature eight new car models, as well as more than 100 new body-kit components you can use to customize your ride as you see fit.

The team-based component in the original Juiced was one of the game's highlights. In that game, you could choose to have teammates race individual races in your stead. For team events, your goal was to have your entire team across the finish line before your opponent's crew. The same concepts apply in Eliminator, and they've been beefed up a bit, as well. In addition to the inclusion of eight new teams and crew chiefs in the game, Eliminator will let you form a team composed of your friends via the PSP's wireless connection and even race rival human teams in the process. That sounds good in theory. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get a crew up and running at the event, but it's definitely a feature that warrants further inspection.

The multiplayer aspects of Eliminator look to be a major attraction for the game. One of the coolest aspects we know about the game is the ability to race for "pinks" in multiplayer sessions. Anyone who has seen the show Pinks on Speed Channel knows the concept here: Two people enter the race, and the winner of the contest takes home the other player's ride. The idea of losing a car you've spent a lot of time upgrading and customizing in the game or, better yet, winning your opponent's tricked-out ride, is certainly compelling; we're just not certain we'd have the guts to put our precious car on the line.

Other game modes in Eliminator include arcade and custom races and, the most robust single-player option, the career mode. Diving into the career mode straightaway, we were greeted by an attractive lady (and, let's face it, what other kind of women populate street racing games?) named Nina, who challenged us to a heads-up race. We had to put some money on the line and, being the high rollers that we aren't in real life, we put down the maximum amount: $2,500. Unfortunately for us, Nina was no pushover, and though we fought her and our understeering car to the finish line, we ended up losing the race and our cash. From there it was time to buy our very first car--we chose a lime green VW bug, though perhaps if we hadn't lost the twenty-five hundred bucks, we could have picked a slightly hotter ride. Producers told us that Eliminator's career mode progression has been improved over the previous game; we'll need to see more of it to determine whether that claim is true.

In terms of control, the cars in Juiced certainly felt appropriately quick, especially when you're initiating the nitrous boost with the shoulder button. They also were very apt to understeer in the corners, and, as a result, we were often braking very hard into corners to get the ideal exit in corners. Perhaps some of the models you find later in the game are a bit more nimble in the turns--at least we hope so. Eliminator has a similar look to the previous games in the series, all the way down to the isometric radar that gives you a better view of the upcoming turns.

We'll have our final verdict of Juiced: Eliminator once it's released to stores in June of this year.

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