Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is as much fun as it ever was. Without beating around the bush here, Crash Team Racing is brighter, faster and even more infuriating than we remember – and that’s absolutely brilliant.
20 years of evolution has done the karting sub-genre the world of good, by modern standards the original Crash Team Racing looks… well like a game made in 1998. While still technically sound, the quality-of-life perks we take for granted nowadays were just not around.
The team behind Nitro-Fueled, Beenox Studios, have gone to great lengths to not only bring the game pulsing into modern times visually, but also improve upon the cult classic in other ways. Thankfully, the Activision owned studio have gone through the original with a fine-tooth comb and come out with one of the finest remasters of any game to date.
Let’s break it down; The first thing you’ll notice, is that this game is gorgeous. Each of the original 18 tracks, as well as 13 from Crash Nitro Kart are alive with atmosphere, dripping in distinct visceral colour palettes. So too, are the 26 racers, each with their own charms that will sate the appetites of old-hands but will delight new, younger players.
It’s worth noting here as well that each character comes loaded with their own unlockable skins (this is 2019, after all) and racer karts can be tweaked and twisted to your personal preference using a bevvy of palette-swaps. These are all unlocked through playing the game or by using in-game currency, so there’s no need to crack out the credit card and they add nothing to the game if you don’t want them to.
Racing still feels deliciously frenetic and is genuinely incredibly challenging, even on medium difficulty. The speed of the game has been, if you’ll excuse the hack-job of a pun, nitro fueled, giving the game a whole new dimension of reflexes and kart management out on the tracks.
While it can certainly feel unfair with opponents getting an unjust amount of helpful powerups that always seem destined for your rear-end, or the rubber-banding issues that permeant each game, it all adds to the pulse-pounding action. It would be nice if sometimes it felt more weighted in favour of the player, but likely I just need to get better at those tricky turbo drifts.
The main meat of the original Crash Team Racing (outside the racing itself) was the Adventure mode, and that remains true in this mostly-faithful remake. You’ll still be out to beat the nefarious alien Nitros Oxide who’s hellbent on turning the planet into a parking lot unless Earth offers up her best go-kart racer, because the 90s was a lawless wasteland and plot justification happened at breakneck speed.
You’ll have to win a succession of races to progress through the game’s huge tally of 30 plus maps, occasionally doubling back for things like time trials and collectables.As you potter through the semi-open world doing your thing, you’ll periodically come up against an unfairly faster boss character sporting unlimited powerups.
This means you’re left with the luck of the draw on random power-ups to get you ahead which, depending on what the crates spit out, could leave you eating dust through no fault of your own.While frustrating – you will undoubtedly rage quit and quietly return to the challenge minutes later – it’s that adrenaline appeal that will draw you back time and again.
Of course, there’s always the option of bumping down the difficulty if you get REALLY stuck, but who wants to do that?As with most racing games, CTR:NF is easy to get get the hang of, but the learning curve is steep, especially for newcomers.
Even if you’re an old hand, you have to pay attention to the new way the karts handle and small nuances in the track redesigns will force you to re-assess your nostalgia. More than once I flew off the track at unexpected speed or was left snagged on a new polygon, stopped dead in my tracks as other racers whizzed by, being mocked by their avatars.
This will force you to approach tracks a little more cautiously at first until you’ve learned the new dynamics but it should help even the playing field for online racers, at least early in the game’s life.
Once you get out of Adventure there’s a smattering of single player races, head to head duels, last kart standing style game modes as well as the aforementioned online mode to get your teeth into and are all as you’d expect.
It’s nothing more or less than you’d want from the game and everything works as it should with minimum fuss.The added ability to play couch co-op means that Nitro-Fueled is breathing down the neck of Mario Kart for the first time in almost three decades as the kart racer of reckon, and that’s surely saying something considering they’re sharing platform space on Nintendo’s own console.
The one thing I was hoping Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled would be able to latch on to, and I’m very happy to say that it certainly does, is a ripping sense of fun the original harnessed so well. Beenox have done a stellar job of capturing the charm of the original and adding their own tweaks, which to be honest is just about everything fans could have asked of them.
Mark is the Gaming Editor for UNILAD. Having grown up a gaming addict, he’s been deeply entrenched in culture and spends time away from work playing as much as possible. Mark studied music at University and found a love for journalism through going to local gigs and writing about them for local and national publications.