I played the original Crash Team Racing years ago but never fell in love with it like others had. I later played the quasi-sequel Crash Nitro Kart and its success Crash Tag Team Racing, but they also didn’t come close to the standards set by Nintendo’s Mario Kart series. Thus, both fell to the side after a few sessions and I never gave them much thought again. Fast forward 14 years from that venture, and I’m now sitting down with a combined remake of all three games titled Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. After a lot of thought, the thing that gets me the most is that I seriously believe it may be the best kart racer ever made.
I realize that can sound like hyperbole. Mario Kart is very much the bar that every kart racer strives to hit, and many will disagree because there’s more of a challenge in the way Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is laid out–resulting in it being less accessible. But anyone that grew up with Nintendo’s kart racer will find this game to be an evolution the formula laid out in those games. This Crash Bandicoot-focused take on the genre is surprisingly deep, lovingly crafted, and just plain fun.
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The studio responsible for Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled is Quebec City’s own Beenox. The studio is best known for working with a number of licensed properties and ports for Activision, ranging from Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions to the Bee Movie Game. Lately, Beenox has begun earning its keep though, delivering Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered before taking on this project. Looking at Nitro-Fueled, it’s shocking that it has taken this long for the team to be given this opportunity to shine.
So, you’re probably wondering what sets this game apart from others? It’s a range of things, with the core mechanics and level design of the CTR remake being the most reoccurring benefits. But Nitro-Fueled also drops an entire campaign on you as well, adding fully-voiced dialogue and animations that only further draw you into the world that Beenox has strived so hard to breathe life into–and what a world it is.
Each map is filled with personality, as enemies and creatures from the Crash Bandicoot games wander around the environment. It’s easy to focus on the action of drifting around a corner or pegging someone with an item, but any time I pulled my eyes away from the track I was greeted with little details that bring the world of Nitro-Fueled to life. It’s applaudable and adds further depth that makes me want to continue to explore Crash’s world.
None of this would mean anything if the gameplay wasn’t solid, though, and it’s exactly that. Drift boosting isn’t a hand-holding experience, as you’ll have to chain boosts with simultaneous trigger taps. As you drift, a meter fills up at the bottom right of the screen, and you’re able to put three boosts together–each with varying degrees of effectiveness depending on your timing. This takes getting used to and is essential in later races in the campaign, but it feels like an evolution of the mechanic and is much more rewarding as a result.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is an unforgivingly challenging game. It will test your mettle and patience unlike any other kart racer on the market, but the payoff is well worth the piss off. Since the races are broken down into single tracks, losing doesn’t topple an entire endeavour like that of a four-track cup in Mario Kart. You just get back in there and try again. That’s not to say that there aren’t Cups to participate in, but the premise of the campaign is to focus on single races–and the difficulty is turned up as a result.
Once all of the main trophies have been won, there is plenty of post-game content to drive into. You’ll be able to take on Time Trials, CTR Challenges, Crystal Challenges, and Relic Races at your leisure and they’ll provide you with additional unlocks and racing opportunities. It’s still equally as challenging as every other facet of the game too, so I wish you the best if you’re eager to 100% the story mode.
The constant carrot strung up in front of gamers are the unlocks Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled features. There are a number of characters, costumes, and kart customization options for you to unlock. You can play through the campaign to get a number of them, but Beenox has also added a storefront called the Pit Stop where you can exchange Wumpa Coins (faux currency that’s earned while playing) for characters, skins, and other cosmetic items.
Don’t worry, there’s no sign of microtransactions here. These are all items you can earn by playing, so the only investment required to earn everything in Crash Team Racing is your time.
Best of all, the unlockables and additional content are set to continue arriving in the months post-launch and all of it will be made available for free. Activision has announced a Grand Prix Roadmap that lays out plans to continue releasing content for fans for free. These races will offer you the chance to add Crash Bandicoot characters Baby T. and Tawna, as well as guest racers like Spyro the Dragon. It’s a wonderful incentive to keep playing and will help ensure that this game has legs long after you’ve washed your hands of the campaign.
All of this makes for a great game that will keep you entertaining for months, but the online itself is where Nitro-Fueled falters. After hopping on for a few games, the other players a matched up with would constantly jump around the track, making it a very sore spot for anyone that wanted to get serious about online play. It’s possible that this will be fixed in the near future, but the current state of this game’s online mode is simply unenjoyable.
Despite this, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled manages to stay on track thanks to everything else that has been added to the game. The unlocks, challenges, vistas, and gameplay make for a love letter to Crash Bandicoot fans that have been longing to see the kart racing spin-off return. With plenty of free content planned for the months ahead, this amalgamated remake of a classic racing series shouldn’t be passed up. It’s a true evolution of the genre that pushes the boundaries of its successors, and while the accessibility is less it is a natural next step for karting aficionados that want a little more challenge.
Like Crash Bandicoot? Here’s another for you: What Comes After the Spyro and Crash Bandicoot Trilogy Remakes?
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is currently available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Activision provided Okay, Cool with a copy of the game on Xbox One for coverage purposes.
You can find Riley on Twitter at @TheRileyLittle where he’ll probably tell you that he thinks Crash Bandicoot should be in Smash Bros. or something else. The guy won’t shut up.