Q&A: Cruising with Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights

We talk with Nick Clarkson of Juice Games about the improvements in Juiced 2, driver DNA, and taking the financial frustration out of the game.


When street racer Juiced came out in 2005 after a long and protracted gestation, one of the key criticisms of the game was that its in-game economy was far too unforgiving. Players were often left cash-strapped after each race, thanks to mounting car repair bills and stiff race-entry fees. UK-based developer Juice Games is promising less frustration with the upcoming sequel--Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights--which is due out on a plethora of platforms later this year. Juice Games licensing manager Nick Clarkson was in Australia recently to show off the latest build of the game, which is looking extremely polished at this stage. GameSpot AU talked to Clarkson about what gamers can expect from Juiced 2, as well as what Aussie-specific features players will encounter.

GameSpot AU: What were the key lessons you learned from the release of the original Juiced?

Nick Clarkson: We learned from the first game that it had a few problems. Probably the main one was that the economy in it was very unforgiving. It was very easy to damage your car, and unless you were performing and winning in each race, you quickly ran out of money because you were always using your cash to repair your car. It became a problem and a source of frustration. So what we tried to do in Juiced 2 is address the money, so that there are no frustrations. We never set out to actually punish a player for not performing. If you don't perform in a race, then you can try again. In the last game, failing made the game a pain to play and not a pleasure. There's no fee to enter a race now. The only way you're going to lose money is by betting and buying cars or mods. You're not going to lose money by having to repair your car; you're not going to lose money to enter a race. You'll make money by winning races and bets, or selling cars and decal packs. What we're trying to do in Juiced 2 is readdress gameplay--we're going far more down the Sega Rally type of game--we'll hold our hand up and say that there's no way that it's a real physics model. But what we've tried to address is the question: Is it fun to play? And I wholeheartedly believe so, yes.

GS AU: So Juiced 2 is still definitely more geared toward arcade rather than simulation?

NC: Absolutely. There are the Gran Turismos and the Forzas of this world, and they do what they do very well. But we're far more geared to the casual gamer--to someone who just wants to pick up and play and have fun. It's all about rewards and making you feel like you're a good driver.

GS AU: Tell us more about the Hot Import Nights connection. That's something gamers in Australia and the Europe probably aren't too aware of.

NC: Essentially, it's an organisation that promotes tuners, and it creates a scene for them to compete in but not actually race in. It's an interesting, fun day out. It almost has a nightclub feel to it. We've taken that and projected a what-if scenario. What if Hot Import Nights could come to Sydney, close down the roads, and, as well as having the events with the cars in there, have a race event? We provide them with global settings--there are seven in total for the game--and it's almost like Hot Import Nights rolls into town, sets up a race track, and you're part of that scene.

GS AU: Are you including real-life personalities from Hot Import Nights or the tuner circuit?

NC: From Hot Import Nights, there's a woman called Ursula Mayes, who is the commentator within the game. She's kind of the glamorous side of the event. Within the game, there are also a number of crews you can actually take on. Jade Motorsport is one, Team SSP, Team Hokori, and more. You'll take on, say, Team Hokori, there'll be a number of events--let's say drift events or circuit events--and there will be challenges. If you can beat Team Hokori on a challenge, for example, what you'll get is its logo to put on your car, so you become an honorary member of its team. In addition, we have some real-world drivers in there. We've got some race drivers--Sam Hubinette, who is a drift racer and drives out of the States, drives a Dodge Viper and Dodge Chargers. What you do with him is you challenge him to drift races. If and when you beat him, you'll get a decal pack and you'll win his car as well. So there are a number of celebrities that will be in the game and more in the future through downloads.

GS AU: One of the more interesting features we've heard about Juiced 2 is this idea of driver DNA. What can you tell us about that?

NC: At the beginning of the game, you'll create your avatar, and the game will ascertain from the first two races just how good you are. It looks at the way you drive, the way you corner, the way you brake, how you use your nitro, and so on, to draw in the background an artificial intelligence picture of your driving. From then on, as you progress through the game in every single race, it appraises how you drive and updates your DNA accordingly. Then through Xbox Live or PlayStation 3 networks, you will see leaderboards and see who the best drivers are out there. And you'll be able to download their DNA. You'll be able to store that and pit yourself against them in DNA races. You can say, well, that guy's at the top of the drifting league; let's see how I perform against him.

GS AU: Let's talk about the career mode. Players will essentially be involved in a series of drift and circuit races, is that right?

NC: Yes, and there are variations on those themes. For instance, there are solo drift races, but there's another one called Drift King where there will be five cars on the track, which makes it more difficult to rack up drift points because the track is populated. In circuit races, there will be the traditional first across the line, but also elimination events where the last person at the end of each lap is eliminated. In career mode, you'll start off in the rookie league, and there will only be 16 cars available. You start with $50,000, so you have enough to buy a car, mod it, and then you're into the racing. There are 10 leagues in total to conquer.

GS AU: How about tracks and real-world locations?

NC: There'll be seven geographical locations around the world. I can't tell you about the actual number of tracks yet, but there are multiple tracks for each location. There will be 90 cars and over 250 after-parts manufacturers in there for tuning your car.

GS AU: What about Australia? We hear that there is a Sydney track?

NC: There's basically a drift track set in the middle of the Harbour. Geographically it's accurate; we've even had to investigate major landmarks whether we're licensed to use them. There will also be two Australian cars in the game; there's the Ford Falcon XL8 and the Holden Monaro. Plus, we've also put in NSW license plates for an extra bit of customisation.

GS AU: Nick Clarkson, thanks for your time.

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