Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a surprisingly bold move by Beenox and Activision.
Originally released on the PlayStation back in 1999, Crash Team Racing is a game that is very fondly remembered and cherished by a lot of people, so the possibility to completely cock this up and leave a very sour taste in peoples mouths will have been an ever-present during the development of Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, and players were equally worried.
Thankfully, I’m happy to report that Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is an example of how to bring a classic title up to today’s standards and introduce it to a whole new audience of gamers.
Crash Team Racing was always Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s karting dominance of the late 90’s, and whether you’re an old or new player the glaring similarities are still blindingly obvious for all to see. Take the games excellent Adventure Mode, for example, which lets you drive around the world from race to race, completing challenges, unlocking karts and characters, and unlocking new doors to progress to the next area as you go. Each area has a set number of races to complete, and winning all races will grant you access to that areas boss battle, in which victory will reward you with progress to the next area, and so on and so forth until you can eventually take on the final boss, Nitrous Oxide, in the final race to save the day. This mode is heavily inspired (bordering on stolen) from the fantastic Diddy Kong Racing, and while I have always felt that Diddy did it better, I much prefer this approach than the simple ‘go to the menu and pick a race’ approach of Mario Kart.
Speaking of Mario Kart, the world’s favourite Italian plumber’s influence is clear to see all over the place. Items are practically direct copies, from bombs that act like green shells, homing missiles that act like red shells, and a mask that grants you a speed boost and invincibility much like getting star power on Mario Kart. Equally, being further back in the race always grants you better power-ups, while being at the front is likely to see you granted beakers which act like banana skins or TNT crates most of the time. Being in the middle of the pack can often be a frustrating experience, as you’ll find yourself being constantly bombarded by homing missiles, so dropping back to try and nab a better item is often a good idea, as is the case in Mario Kart.
Mario Kart’s influence is also clear to see in the tracks, with speed boost pads on the floor all over the place, a couple of tracks in particular feeling reminiscent of Boswer’s Castle and Rainbow Road, and Papu’s Pyramid featuring venus fly traps on the side of the track that gobble you up if you get too close, bearing striking similarities to Piranha Plants from Mario Kart 64. Despite these glaring influences I still find Crash Team Racing’s tracks more fun to play, particularly due to the numerous shortcuts that are there to be found and used if you have the skill (or the correct item) to execute them correctly.
Another feature that is taken from Mario Kart is power-sliding to grant yourself a speed boost, but Crash Team Racing takes this concept and makes it its own, improving on it in every way. In Crash Team Racing, to correctly perform a speed boost you must hop and slide around a corner and then press the opposite shoulder button at the correct time to execute the boost. The later that you execute the boost the faster you go, but try and leave it too late and you’ll mess it up and spin out. It adds a much-needed level of skill to the game and provides players with a risk reward system to play with – become an expert at timing your power-slides and you’ll beat your adversaries more often than not.
Whether you’re critical of the games obvious influence from other karting games or not, one thing that can’t be denied is that Crash Team Racing does almost everything with a great level of polish and success. Tracks feel varied and fun to play, items feel relatively well balanced and all useful in their own right, and the game features tight controls that let the karts handle sharply. The games Adventure Mode is fairly short-lived if you’re just ploughing through races, but you can revisit each race to complete CTR token challenges and relic races. CTR token challenges task you with winning the race and finding the letters C, T, and R on your travels, which often forces you to explore the games shortcuts, while the relic races challenge you to complete three laps within a set time, grabbing time boxes as you race around that freeze the clock for one, two, or three seconds. Both challenges are fun and are a welcome change from the usual races, and the relic races in particular are very challenging if you’re trying to earn the platinum medal.
Outside of the Adventure Mode there are other things to sink your teeth into to prolong your playtime, such as the games various Battle Modes (hello again Mario Kart) or Time Trials. The obvious new addition for the remaster is the ability to play the game online, which frankly didn’t work at all at launch, as you literally couldn’t get into a game. Those teething issues have since been fixed in a post-launch patch, and while the online is fun to play, if you aren’t playing it against friends then you may as well be playing against the AI. Playing against friends is still a great laugh though, but I always think that multiplayer karting games are much more fun when you’re playing on the same couch in the same room, mainly because it means you can cover your adversaries eyes if they’re winning. Thankfully then, split-screen multiplayer remains as an option and works tremendously well, but playing against your buddies online is a worthy alternative if couch multiplayer isn’t an option. Sadly, playing online currently serves little purpose other than for a laugh or to earn some coins, and I can’t help but feel that it could have benefited from having some kind of leaderboard.
Also brand new are a load of customisation options for your kart, allowing you to pimp your ride with all sorts of new wheels and decals, and you can even unlock new skins for your characters to try and give yourself a unique look. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly Forza Motorsport, but it provides players with something else to aim for and adds some more modernisation to the remaster. Thankfully, all of these customisation options are earned through playing the game or by unlocking them with coin, which can only be earned by winning races and completing challenges. It would have been very easy for Beenox and Activision to try and shoe in some microtransactions for some extra cash-grabbing here, but there isn’t a microtransaction in sight, and that should be applauded.
Speaking of characters, there are some extra characters that have been brought in from 2003’s Crash Nitro Kart, and there are a number of tracks brought over from that sequel too. The result is a remaster of a classic that is filled to the brim with content, making it a celebration of all things Crash Kart related. Graphically, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is superb, maintaining the cartoon art style of its originator and bringing it well up to scratch for today’s standards. The game looks and sounds like it belongs on this generation of console, and each of the games tracks—all of which are fantastic—has been brought up to scratch with meticulous detail and precision, so much so that you could easily think this game was completely original from the ground up if you didn’t know any better.
Unfortunately, one thing that Beenox didn’t manage to get right was the games loading times, which are criminally long at times. Getting in and out of a race feels like it takes an absolute age, and while it doesn’t majorly detract from your overall enjoyment of the game it does become very frustrating when you just want to get on with the next race.
Overall though, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled allays the fears of all those who remember the game so fondly, those who saw the news of the remaster and begged them to leave it well alone. While those fears were justified, Beenox has pulled off the task with resounding success, giving the classic a modern day makeover worthy of this generation of consoles and introducing it to a whole new generation of gamers. There are very fair criticisms to be directed at the games obvious borrowing from games such as Mario Kart and Diddy Kong Racing as well as the frustratingly long loading times, and your time with the game could be pretty short lived once you’ve beaten the Adventure Mode due to the lack of incentive to play online, but one thing that is for sure is that you’ll have great fun with the game for whatever amount of time you play it, particularly if you’ve got some buddies to play with, and isn’t that what gaming is all about after all?