Review by subjugat0r
Juiced 2: Lukewarm Import Nights
Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights is a good example of how you can make an improvement over an original, but still have a sub-par racing game. With other racing games like PGR4, Forza Motorsport 2, and Need For Speed: Pro Street, this title starts to show it's dated appeal and tries to make things fresh by throwing in a Hot Import Nights theme and licensing. With so many other quality games that have already been released or are coming up, this is one title that you could definately do without.
The graphics are a big improvement over the original, and car detail is great, but it's no great stretch for the 360. There aren't any weather effects, by at the least it isn't nighttime 100% of the time. Car interiors are nice, but they could look a lot better compared to the rest of the game. Character avatars are a letdown, with few clothing options and no body customization, only head and hair. The illusion of speed is completely missing unless you're holding nitrous, and it was a big disappointment to feel like you're going slow when the speedometer says 186. And the feeling is compounded when playing a racing title on my PS2 and it seemed like I was going much faster than Juiced 2 when the speedometer read 120. Overall it's good, but not remarkable.
The music is horrible. I quickly got annoyed with hearing the same crap techno and hip hop over and over again, and the audio editor had no option to choose which songs were played during the race, home screen, and so forth. Engine sounds are equally bland, giving only small differences between cars. Collision and tire screeching sounds are much better than the aforementioned sounds, but still don't quite hit the bar. Overall, I'd say the sound doesn't even break into the satisfactory range.
The game progresses through "Leagues", or levels of competition ranging from "Rookie" to "HIN Elite". Each League has preset challenges and one Promotion Event, which when passed, moves you up to the next league. Multiple challenges can be met in a single race, meaning that skilled gamers can go through the career mode extremely quickly, leaving the extra races and online content to fill the rest of your time. The home screen is ugly, the racing camera is terrible, moving up instead of away when you're trying to get a better view, and during tight turns the camera ends up showing you a wall instead of the road ahead of your car making the entire turn blind. Which is tolerable unless it's a race where you can't touch a wall, then it can get irritating. The kinds of races vary, from standard circuit and drifting to "Last Man Standing", a mix between circuit and perfect lap challenges, "Drift Eliminator", mixing drifting and circuit racing, "Drift Endurance", requiring you to maintain a constant drift to a certain point range. And later in the game you'll encounter "Extreme Nitrous" races, where your NOS gauge is constantly charging, as is the rest of the field. While this could be entertaining to some, I found it to dilute any requirement of driving skill, as winning a race is 95% dependant on holding the Y button. Car damage exists, but is cosmetic only and extracts no monetary cost to repair, nor hindrance to your car. You could slam every wall in the track and the only penalty would be the fact you lost the race because of the time lost. The menu is terrible, requiring far too much back and forth than should be necessary, and the performance modification screen is horrid. And speaking of performance modification, it's uninspiring and boring. Your only real choices are brand names, and that has no direct impact on your vehicle performance. And don't unequip a package unless it's to upgrade to a better one, as you'll have to buy the package each time you re-equip it. And it annoyed me that I would pay for a "power" upgrade with nitrous oxide being part of the upgrade, but never starting a race with any NOS in the tanks. Instead you must powerslide your way into NOS, which usually ends up wasting time you could have spend taking the corners properly. Visual customization is better, but doesn't hit the benchmark other titles have set even in the previous generation of gaming consoles. There is plenty to choose from here, but other flaws keep the gameplay from being good.
There are still some good ideas that could add something different to racing games, such as a crew to race with you or betting between drivers or betting on drivers while spectating, but the few good ideas are marred by the amount of poorly thought-out or poorly executed problems that plague this game from start to finish. If you really liked Juiced, then Juiced 2 is right up your alley. But otherwise, I would only recommend this game if you've nothing else to tide you over until blockbuster titles start coming during the holiday rush. And even then, I would advise you to only rent this game, and save your money for the big ones coming out soon.
Product Release: Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights (US, 09/17/07)
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