Kart Racing At Its Best: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled Review
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is the latest title to put you in the nostalgia seat and bring you back to your childhood. Activision is no stranger to publishing remastered collections for modern consoles. Both the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy were met with respective acclaim by new players and seasoned veterans of the franchises.
Developer Beenox decided to take a slightly different approach to Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. Instead of revamping the kart racing trilogy (Crash Team Racing, Crash Nitro Kart, and Crash Tag Team Racing) and keeping the experiences separate, Beenox gave players the option to play the traditional Crash Team Racing, or Nitro-Fueled which includes a wide array of new features and customization options to create a truly well-rounded package.
The classic Crash Team Racing story mode is still playable, which has Nitros Oxide come to Earth and challenge the Crash squad to determine the fate of the planet. You’ll go through all 16 original tracks, best Time Trials, and Crystal Challenges. Unless you are going for a 100% completion, completion of Adventure mode is a brisk 3-5 hours. Gaining 100% completion of all tasks gives you the true ending to the story.
Adventure mode is as traditional as a remaster can get. Having played the original Crash Team Racing and continually rent the game from my local Blockbuster countless times growing up, I was surprised at how true the remaster felt compared to Naughty Dog’s 1999 original take. Despite the improved visuals and track refinements, everything felt and sounded like I remembered. Playing through the original tracks, it was interesting to test out which shortcuts remained in the game––luckily, many made the cut!
While Adventure mode was a nice trip down memory lane, the real meat and potatoes are within the Local Arcade. It’s here that Beenox went above and beyond in delivering what CTR fans really want. Every single track from the trilogy has been remastered and are playable in different game modes. You’ll find your standard one-track race or larger Cup Races. You can also take part in Battle Mode. There are even Time Trials and Crystal Challenges. It’s within the Local Arcade that I’ve found myself enjoying the most. The breadth of content is pretty substantial. Beenox has included enough variety that if you start to feel burned out on the standard races, you can jump to another game mode and loads of additional content to keep you entertained. You can also take your ride for a spin online. Online did have a few stability issues upon release, including players dropping out mid-race. Beenox has issued a patch, which did help address the issue––at least on Xbox One.
The action taking place on the track is only a small slice of a bigger picture. Looking around the tracks, you’ll see that each has it’s own unique personality. Racing through the combined 31 tracks, I was surprised at how different each felt. Even tracks like Papu’s Pyramid and Jungle Boogie, both of which are centralized around ancient temples, they are far from the same track, both in design and atmosphere. A good portion of the tracks will also feature hazards byway of creatures and other enemies from the Crash franchise.
The audio throughout the entire game is delightful and catchy. The main theme will be stuck in your head and if you’re like me, you’ll catch yourself humming along quite often. Even the soundscape when launching an item at your enemies is endearing in its own right. Each character has their own quip they’ll occasionally say at they pass you, or vice-versa. While the voice acting is limited, it does provide some personality to the characters as apposed to lifeless racers barreling towards the finish line.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is still as difficult as you may remember. The AI is cutthroat and playing through the tracks on medium or even hard is quite the challenge. Not having played CTR is many, many years, I had a bit of a struggle acclimating myself to the timing of turbo boosts and jumps. This key mechanic of the game is critical to master if you want to play the game beyond the surface level. Many of the time trials and harder difficulties require you to know how to build your drift boost to get around tricky corners.
After a few hours, I began becoming more competent in continuously maintaining boost, although not anywhere near a high-level. Part of the challenge was my own discrepancies with how the controls were laid out. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled gives you two options, neither really clicked for me. I attempted to use the standard layout for an hour or so before switching over to the alternate, which still did not feel as clean as I would have liked. Sticking with the alternate control scheme, I did adjust over time. This is of course, purely based on personal preferences. You could pick up the controller and have no problem navigating the controls.
One pain point that goes beyond my personal preferences that needs to be brought up are loading times. The loading times can really pull you out of the experience. Thankfully, in my experience, none are as long as the initial loading screen upon booting the game up. I’ve had loading times reach upwards of 25-30 seconds, which isn’t the worst by any stretch of the imagination, but it is long enough to put a halt on the excitement coming off of a race. Hopefully, this is an issue Beenox can refine.
Ride or die fans of the Crash Bandicoot series will discover so much love and care has gone into Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. The customization options give you the ability to unlock and purchase (through in-game currancy only) new characters from the franchise. Heading into the Pit Stop, you’ll find new character skins, kart skins, and more. Some of the purchases require a large amount of Wumpa coins so unlocking everything could be a grind. For me, I did not partake in the customization that much as many of the characters do very little for me, aside from Dingodile and Komodo Joe. That is until the Grand Prix releases next month and new characters, including Spyro, are introduced.
During the late 90s/early-2000s, CTR and Mario Kart were neck and neck for better kart racer. For quite a while, Crash Team Racing has had it’s emergency break pulled as other kart racers have come and gone. Now, with Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled back in the fold, we can once again make a case for getting a new proper followup to the Crash Team Racing series. Beenox’s development team seem to have quite an understanding of how a modernized kart racer should look and feel. While many players are banging the drum to get a Crash Bandicoot sequel, or a new core Spyro game, I would be interested to see if Activision and Beenox would explore a brand new entry to CTR.
The level of care and detail displayed in Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled really did put me back in the days of Saturday morning cartoons, cereal, and circuits of Coco Park. The addition of 13 remastered tracks from Crash Nitro Kart and Crash Tag Team Racing plus all the fleshed out game modes went a long way to making Crash Team Racing feel as good as I remember.
Naughty Dog introduced a brand new, challenging take on kart racers back in 1999, and Beenox respected the Crash Team Racing games enough to not change anything beyond giving players quality of life changes and visuals to gush over. Even though the loading times are a bit of a thorn in the game’s side, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is pure kart-racing fun, front to back.
Available: June 21st, 2019
Platform: PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One
An Xbox One code for Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled was provided for review purposes.