The 90s marked the dawning of a sub-genre that is still going today, and will likely forever be known as the heyday of kart racing. That said, this particular year is giving them a run for their money. Although the genre is still dominated by Mario Kart, we’ve seen the release of at least three different competitors since last autumn alone. The first was Nickelodeon Kart Racers, which was decent but unspectacular, then there was SEGA’s solid Team Sonic Racing. Now we’re here to talk about the return of Crash Team Racing, which has been rebranded as Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled, for its re-release onto Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Switch.
Having been brought back to life by Activision and its wholly owned subsidiary studio, Beenox (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled promises to be a blast from the past. Literally, if you take its name that way. At its roots, though, it’s a remade kart racer with retro elements, and one that does a pretty good job of bringing the 90s to 2019.
Before I continue with this review, I should make something known and be transparent about the fact that I don’t remember ever playing the original Crash Team Racing, or its sequel, Crash Nitro Kart. I’ve been regretful about that over the years, because I’ve heard and read so many good things about the original game. My childhood was filled with another kart racer, that being Diddy Kong Racing, which was the first and only N64 game I owned for some time after being given the console for Christmas. At the time I didn’t really even know much about the game, and didn’t expect that it would be the one I’d receive alongside the coveted system. However, it turned out to be one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, and is what I still consider to be the best of its kind.
In my opinion, Diddy Kong Racing was better than Mario Kart 64. I also feel like I would’ve thought the same about Crash Team Racing had I played it back then. Rare’s venture into the kart racing sub-genre was just that good.
Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled sells for below full retail price, and is advertised as being a remade version of the original game. As its name suggests, though, tracks, characters and other items from Nitro Kart also appear within this update. As such, you’re essentially getting two games for the price of one, though they’ve been combined. The stuff from the original game is also more prominent than that of its sequel, as Nitro-Fueled‘s main adventure mode is taken from the original and not its sequel. The second one’s tracks are available to be played through the main menu’s local arcade option, which is where you’ll find things like single races, time trials and user-selected cup, crystal, CTR and relic challenges, not to mention a battle mode with several different game types.
Although this is a modern release for current platforms, it retains its retro roots and — based on what I’ve read — plays a good amount like the original. It brings a different approach to kart racing and, more accurately, drifting too. You see, while Mario Kart 8 and Team Sonic Racing reward players with boosts based on how long they drift for, Crash Team Racing has its own type of boost mechanic that isn’t based around just drifting. That is a part of it, yes, but it’s very possible to drift around a large corner without receiving any speed based benefit at all.
How is this possible? Well, this particular game requires you to press two buttons to get a boost, and only one of them makes you drift. When you’re about to make a turn, if you press one of the two drift buttons (which will differ based on your control setup) your selected driver will do a hop and then start to drift. While drifting, his or her kart’s smoke will change colours. When it turns black, you must press the other drift button, resulting in a boost. This can be done three times per drift and requires one to get a rhythm down. Don’t worry, though, because it’s pretty easy to get down pat and, after only a short period of trial and error, you should be doing it like a pro. The original hop takes some time to get used to, however, and can throw you off.
The tracks are designed around that drift and boost mechanic, but there are straightaways and other areas where it’s more difficult to boost. It’s important to try to do so as much as possible on any difficulty above easy, because this is a rather difficult and punishing game.
As mentioned before, the main crux of this remake is Adventure Mode, which has been brought back from the original Crash Team Racing. Like Diddy Kong Racing, it features an interactive world map, which one can drive around and practice on. It just doesn’t have the collectible balloons or as much variety as that game did. Then again, this is limited to just karts, and doesn’t have planes, hovercrafts or any type of boat to use.
The idea behind Adventure Mode is that the player must complete four regions, earn four different keys and then take on the big bad alien who threatens to destroy earth if its greatest racer cannot best him on the track. What this boils down to is coming in first in four races in each of the map’s different areas. Each of these has its own boss, too, meaning that you can also look forward to duel races against unique characters who currently hold the keys you need. One is a mafioso rat, another is Papu Papu from the original Crash Bandicoot, and a third happens to be crazed Ripper Roo from Crash Bandicoot 2. These boss races may be one on one events, but the bosses have the upper hand because they’re able to repeatedly throw items back at you. Thus, staying in front of them is almost more important than it already is in these types of games, if that makes sense.
Adventure Mode is not limited to just straight races. In fact, its sixteen traditional races (not counting the five boss battles, of course) comprise just one part of the campaign. Like a lot of past games, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled has a two-tiered main mode, meaning that once you beat it the first time you’re tasked with going back and completing more difficult challenges before you can take on the big bad once and for all. The credits may run after your first win against alien Nitrous Oxide, but he challenges you to another race just before they do.
If you’re good at this game, or are able to get good enough over time, you’ll eventually go up against the bad guy again. Before doing this, you’ll have your work cut out for you, because the second go around is definitely more difficult than the first. Upon completing Adventure Mode for the first time, you’ll unlock two different challenges per track. The first is a CTR challenge, which requires you to collect the letters C, T and R and come in first place. The second type is called Relic Races, and those fill the tracks with crates labeled with the numbers 1, 2 and 3. Your goal is to finish the course under a set time limit, and doing so will require you to hit as many of these crates as possible, because they freeze the clock for the amount of seconds that their individual numbers correlate to.
Last are the crystal races, which can be completed on your first go around, or taken on later. These give you a short period of time to race around an arena, collecting the 20 different pink crystals that exist within it. As you’d expect, some crystals are easier to get than others, and some take precise jumps to reach.
I don’t know if I will ever be good enough to fully complete the Adventure Mode in this way, but that’s okay. I’m pretty good at kart racers, but I’m not great at them.
For the most part, the racing is fast, frenetic and fun. This is a good kart racer through and through, and one that has its own quirks and mechanics. I’m not just talking about its unique drift and boost system, either. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled also incorporates a wumpa fruit system, which makes use of the series’ iconic red fruits. If you collect 10 during a race not only will your kart go faster, your items will do more damage as well.
Speaking of items, let’s take a moment to talk about the roster. It’s a varied list, and one with some uniqueness to it. For instance, racers can shoot out massive bowling ball type bombs that can be triggered to explode at any time. Shields can also be shot forwards, while beakers of strange chemicals can be left on the course for others to drive through. The same is true of nitro crates, which sit atop the racer’s head and explode after a certain period of time. These can be gotten rid of by repeatedly hopping, but that’s not always as easy as it sounds.
Other than the above, one can look forward to rockets, speed boosts and a mask that acts like Mario Kart‘s star power-up.
Don’t be fooled by this game’s colourful facade, because it’s not easy. In fact, it can be downright devious and shows its retro roots through challenge. Those who play on normal will not find a typical medium difficulty, and will find that they’ll have to work for their first place trophies. This means learning how to drift and boost and do so well. Meanwhile, folks who play on hard will be signing up for quite a challenge. Some have said that they feel there’s a problem with the difficulty, while others have said that they expect patches. Some even say that normal should be called hard and hard should be called extreme.
At the very least, this difficulty promotes practice and getting better. Easy can even be a bit challenging at times, though not to much of an extent. It’s just not as easy as you’d really expect it to be.
Unlike Team Sonic Racing, which was fun to play but lacked gameplay options, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is a pretty jam packed affair. There’s the 3-4 hour long Adventure Mode (which is made longer by its second tier and more challenging difficulties), single races, cups, time trials, online play and multiple battle events. The online suite has had some issues, but is being worked on and should be better soon.
In addition to the above, there’s lots to unlock. Through playing and completing races, challenges and the like, you’ll earn new karts, skins, racers, paint jobs and stickers. Others can be purchased in the pit stop shop, but doing so requires tons of coins, which come at a premium in Adventure Mode. Only certain items can be purchased at any given time, too, because the shop is set up in a daily deals kind of way where it only sells several things at once.
As this is a remake of an almost twenty year-old game and its almost sixteen year-old indirect sequel, it’s no surprise that the visual leap is incredible. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled looks a lot better than those it precedes, but it’d be crazy if it didn’t. In comparison to other modern racers, however, it’s good but not great or incredible looking. I say this because, in some ways, it looks slightly dated. Sure, it’s colourful and has some really great looking facets (like the winter tracks, for example), but some of its textures aren’t the best and things can look a bit muddy at times. It doesn’t look anywhere close to bad, though, so don’t think that. I also played it right after playing Forza Horizon 4 and its amazing LEGO Speed Champions expansion, both of which are in another league.
The sound is as you’d expect. It’s colourful in audible terms, boisterous and full of energy. The same is true of the sound effects, which give off an appropriate arcade-y feel. Simply put, it looks, sounds and plays like a kart racer, and doesn’t hide its retro roots. That means some questionable, cheesy and sometimes bad voice acting, but it’s par for the course. It actually adds to the genre’s charm.
This thing ran well on our Xbox One X, but the loading times were still pretty long. We’ve heard that they’re quite lengthy on Nintendo Switch, and have also read about a save corruption bug that is currently plaguing some PS4 users. We (thankfully) didn’t experience anything like that.
Overall, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is a fun and quality remake of a classic racing game. It’s challenging and can be pretty cheap, but it’s also fun and offers quite a bit of content. There are flaws, though, and I’d be lying if I said that — after waiting for so long to be able to play this game — I thought that it lived up to all of the hype. It didn’t. That doesn’t mean that I disliked it, think it’s bad or am unable to recommend it, though, because that isn’t the case. I simply feel that it’s a good kart racer, as opposed to an amazing or impeccable one.
**This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we purchased.**
- Fast, fluid and fun
- Story mode plus lots of additional content
- Tons of courses, from both CTR and its sequel
- Not as incredible as hoped
- Some muddy visuals and textures
- Challenging to the point of cheapness, at times