Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled: Classic Karting
Ben Sheene / Jun 20th, 2019 No Comments
Two years ago I sat in a room previewing Crash N. Sane Trilogy in a hotel room at E3. Activision had a group of developers from Vicarious Visions there to show off some new features and talk about bringing the game to a new generation of fans. As the presentation came to a close, our group was asked if we had any questions. After an awkward moment of silence, I raised my hand to ask a question I already knew the answer for. “If the Trilogy does well, can we expect, perhaps, Crash Team Racing to get the same treatment?” Something along those lines.
Of course, the developers said that the N. Sane Trilogy was the focus that week and that they would love to continue to work on Crash. Since a remaster of the famous Bandicoot was revealed, fans have hoped it was Activision’s way of testing the waters for a potential new game. If the N. Sane Trilogy wasn’t a success, there would have been little incentive to remaster 1999’s Crash Team Racing. So here we are with Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, a faithful, loving recreation of that kart racing classic for fans both new and old.
Crash Bandicoot is making a comeback. I can feel it in my bones…
Slide Into First
Let’s just do a crash course through Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled‘s story. Not-so-subtly-named Nitros Oxide is an alien being who touts his claim of being the fastest racer in the universe like a badge of pride. Apparently it’s a bold-enough claim that he bets the fate of Earth on his skills. Nitros challenges Crash and friends (and foes) to a race. If they lose, Nitros will transform the planet into a parking lot and enslave its inhabitants. If they win, he will buzz off.
Much like Diddy Kong Racing on the Nintendo 64, Crash Team Racing‘s plot is whimsically bare bones. But what do we expect out of the racing genre? In fact, the platforming entries of Mario, Donkey Kong, and Crash are similarly lacking in complex story. There’s a threat that must be overcome and it’s a race to the finish line.
What’s really on display here is the gorgeous world first established by Naughty Dog. Like Vicarious Visions, developer Beenox has done an astounding job at translating Crash’s overly polygonal world into a plethora of vividly detailed racetracks. Beach-side pirate ships, underwater tunnels, jungles, and lava-filled ruins were impressive on original PlayStation hardware but are brought fully to life on current generation.
On a PlayStation 4 Pro, every detail was crisp and sharp and the speedy action of racers, exploding items, and busy environments never missed a beat. The Crash cast remains unique to this day but with added detail and animations, their personalities truly shine.
The bold color palette used for Nitro-Fueled, N. Sane. Trilogy, and the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy have been a wise choice to reintroduce these worlds to players. The developers of these installments could have taken the level of detail too far and eschewed cartoon-like fun for realism. Thankfully, the playful spirit of these PlayStation-era mascots is not only preserved but given a distinct style that will hopefully carry over to any future remakes or new entries.
Unfortunately, Crash Team Racing has existed in a world where the kart racing genre is practically synonymous with Mario Kart. If it hadn’t been for a friend with a PlayStation, I would have never touched the console’s “other” racing series (Gran Turismo will always be king of that castle). But as a Nintendo kid, I was intoxicated by the allure of Mario Kart through the 64 and Double Dash era.
Living in that shadow may have prevented Crash Team Racing from soaking up the appeal it deserved but make no mistake, this game is a similar but different beast from Mario Kart.
Players will drive into boxes to collect power-ups meant to help themselves or hinder other players. 11 total items (two exclusive to the Battle mode), will give players a speed boost, protect them from harm, or lay waste to whatever is ahead or behind them. Most of these power-ups have their Mario Kart counterparts as well but in Nitro-Fueled they have unique differences. During a race, players can collect wumpa fruit. After collecting ten, maximum top speed will increase and power-ups become “juiced up”, making them more powerful.
Power-ups in Nitro-Fueled scratch at one of the core issues some might have with the game: its difficulty. In its own way, Crash Team Racing can be a punishing game to those expecting something more casual, especially from its kid-friendly look.
When playing on anything above easy difficulty, the AI opponents during the race are ruthless. Don’t expect a power-up to magically boost you from last place to first, they don’t exist. During my first few races where I came in first place, I eked out victory by a maximum of three seconds. Players will be pummeled by weapons and lag behind AI who know when to slide and boost through turns.
More than anything, Nitro-Fueled is a game about honing your skill. In Adventure mode–the game’s version of a story mode–players must come in first place in four races to unlock a race against an area’s boss. Win that boss race and get a key that can be used to unlock a new area. Rinse and repeat, easier said than done.
Again, this is no easy task because the AI gives players no quarter. To succeed one must master the game’s reliance on power sliding and turbo boosting. When heading around a turn, players can hold down a shoulder button (L1/R1) to start power sliding. A meter at the bottom of the screen will turn red or the wheels and smoke on the kart will begin to change color. By pressing the opposite shoulder button used to initiate the slide, players will get a boost of speed. Doing this three times in succession will give an additional boost to the kart.
Mastering this technique is absolutely crucial towards progressing in Adventure mode and excelling against opponents both human- and AI-controlled. While this may present a challenge towards easing players into the game, especially when boss races rolls around, it is worth mentioning that it separates Crash Team Racing from the pack. Races are minutes long and go extremely fast. It’s a pace that feels exhilarating when you begin to get a feel for twisting tracks and small shortcuts meant to shave seconds off your final time.
To keep the game entertaining, Beenox has packed Nitro-Fueled with a ton of modes, most of which are expected and some which truly shine. Adventure mode has two options: Classic or Nitro Fueled. Classic offers no character customization, the racer players pick is there until the end, the cast of racers is only from the original Crash Team Racing, but in-game rewards can still be earned. Nitro Fueled is definitely the way to go as players get an updated HUD, the ability to choose any character, and customize the look of karts.
Selecting different characters is important because each one has their own driving style. These styles are divided between beginner classes, intermediate A- and B-types, and advanced. Each class focuses on proficiency in speed, acceleration, and turning. Depending on player performance, selecting Nitro Fueled mode is the best way to select a new character that caters to a track’s difficulty.
The game’s 31 tracks are collected from Crash Team Racing and its sequel Crash Nitro Kart. Several of these tracks are exclusive to battle modes where players compete to capture the flag, collect crystals, or use power-ups in a fight to the death (or top score).
The stand-out among these modes are CTR challenges and Relic Races. In CTR challenges, the letters “C”, “T”, and “R” must be collected while coming in first place. This mode requires players to go off the beaten path, extending the life of a track. Relic Races act similar to a time attack mode. Players must beat the track in a certain amount of time but can stop the clock by hitting numbered crates that pause time for one, two, or three seconds. It makes a race even more tense and more strategic.
Nitro-Fueled embraces player customization and slight monetization by introducing the Pit Stop. It is here players can spend Wumpa Coins earned through racing to unlock new paint jobs, wheels, character skins, and more. While some of these items are awarded through accomplishing certain tasks in the game, the range on display is impressive. Kart customization does not affect driving performance as it is only cosmetic-related. Wumpa Coins are fairly generous at this stage in the game and players should gain a lot of traffic out of the Pit Stop store.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled deserves its moment in the spotlight. Now that the game can be played online in addition to local multiplayer, there’s no excuse not to test your mettle against others. Don’t let the colorful look fool you, this is a challenging, mechanic-heavy game that asks a lot of players wishing to excel on four wheels. But it is another gorgeous, breathtaking remaster that makes the need for a new Crash game even more apparent. Addicting, charming, and fun, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is one of the best racing games you sink your time into.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro using a code provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
tags: activision , Beenox , Crash Bandicoot , Crash Team Racing , Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled , Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled review , playstation 4 , PS4 Game Review , review