Way back in 1999, me and my little brother had this fun little game on the PlayStation One called Crash Team Racing. We would play this for hours on end, often bringing the competitive level in both of us. We never really got into simulation racing games like Gran Turismo and the like and we definitely didn’t have access to Mario Kart, CTR filled that fun and casual, take-that racing game that we really needed. And up to this date we would still talk about all the fun times we had.
Fast-forward to 2019 – exactly twenty years later and with the huge success of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, nostalgic fans have been hoping for a remake of their beloved racing game and to the surprise and delight of many, developer Beenox and publisher Activision heard your cries. Take a trip down memory lane in this overhauled version as we review Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled!
Before we start with all the hype and celebration for this game let’s make one thing clear: Crash Team Racing is by all means a definite answer (or love letter, if you would allow) to Mario Kart as it almost patterns the game down to its core elements. The concept of the game is as it was 2 decades ago – you outrace all your opponents all in a fun and cartoony fashion similar to Hanna Barbera’s Wacky Races; Not only do you have to use speed to win, you also have access to a wide-variety of items to outwit and outrace your opponent, all while dodging around the many dangerous obstacles the tracks bombard at you. This formula is the bread and butter of its obvious inspiration and competition Mario Kart. And for what its worth, it definitely gave MK a run for its money during its heyday.
From the get-go I expected Nitro-Fueled to be a fresh coat of paint from its original brother. I was partially right on this but what I did not expect that the game also gives the long-time fans something to smile about as they included content from all its previous entries namely Nitro Kart and Tag Team Racing.
They really wanted to give the ultimate throwback but it does not stop there; They went the extra mile in including all the bells and whistles you would expect in modern kart game. Not only can you expect customization and story progression with Adventure Mode… You can now duke it out with other players online! This is certainly a welcome addition to an already decorated and established racer.
Even with its 20-year age, Crash Team Racing still feels iconic and revolutionary as it was when I first picked up the title. There’s an incredible sense of thrill and excitement in all aspects of the game – right from the match-start advantages to the very fun gameplay system specifically on how they handled the boost/drift mechanic, a feature that I still get a kick of after so many years. While it brings us back to the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” for some reason this feels refreshingly new to me… Maybe because of the previously mentioned new coat. They really put some thought and attention to an already solid control mechanism that in this new game I really felt that fine-tuning and balance and an even greater emphasis on “timing things right” which is crucial in any racing game.
In terms of replayablity, there’s a myriad to had here as you will have to revisit every track to get the mats you need, which can reward you with kart parts and similar aesthetics that for some reason is are all the rage nowadays. Honestly, I really like the way they handled this as it didn’t feel much of a chore but rather, a really great way to explore areas of the track that you previously might have passed or overlooked like those all-important shortcuts. Not only does this give the player a definite AHA! moment, over time it can actually improve a player’s skills as they bring their chops in multiplayer, which is really the heart and soul of the game (or any couch-racer for that matter).
Speaking of multiplayer, Nitro-Fueled delivers its best mode in spades. Local play feels good in split-screen but as one can expect it can be quite busy. It might be my own personal thing but with split-screen gaming, I tend to get distracted on what’s happening on my opponents side which can throw me off sometimes. Another nitpick is that I also didn’t find any option for playing multiplayer with two of my friends in the same room and, simultaneously with another friend online.
Online takes a step further where it allows you to showcase your cosmetics and skills with players from around the world. While the overall experience was smooth, there was always the occasional stutters and framerate slowdowns expect when playing online. I would expect that the developers flesh this out with future updates. But for the most part this mode will definitely test out all your skills and competitiveness more than any other feature of the game.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a great example of an old game that can still be at par (if not, better) with all the recent releases out there. Fast-fuel 20 years, the is everything I would have expected in a remake and more. It really took me back to simpler times with my brother, which I think is really the intention of this great little kart racer. Pure nostalgia.