Over the last few years, we’ve been seeing a swath of quality remakes coming from a variety of developers giving players old and new a way to play classic titles from yesteryear. Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Shadow of the Colossus, and more have gotten a second chance to wow players or bring a new smile to their faces. Next up, is Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, a remake of the cult-classic spin-off from the PS1. While faithful, developers Beenox bundled in content from the sequel, modernized the graphics, and kept (and even upped) the difficulty for a fantastic addition to the kart racing genre.
Crash Team Racing has always lived in the shadow of Mario Kart in most player’s eyes. The dedicated fans, of course, understood that CTR had moments of sheer brilliance, and even bested the competition in a few areas. One of the ways was the introduction of a story mode. CTR’s story is simple, an evil racer known as Nitros Oxide claims to be the fastest driver in the universe. He challenges Crash and friends (even enemies) to race each other for a chance to race him in hopes of saving Earth. Pick a character and race until you get to face a boss such as Ripper Roo and Komodo Joe before facing off against the evil Oxide.
Unlike Team Sonic Racing, which also features a story mode, Crash Team Racing’s cutscenes are fully animated and voiced (where appropriate). This really brought a sense of life to the adventure and left me wanting more, even though the story is simple. I couldn’t help but gaze in awe at some of the classic character’s modern designs during these moments. It’s much appreciated to see a team take the extra step when designing single player content like this.
The incredible graphics and design doesn’t stop at the characters, as the tracks featured in the game are beautiful. One of the best things about these modern remakes is how they stylize the worlds, tricking my mind into believing that these tracks and levels are just spruced up from what they were 20 years ago. In reality, they’ve been designed to keep the spirit of the original, but give new wonder and detail. Each track in the game is amazing to stare at; I found myself taking a second on multiple tracks scouring the details. Returning tracks like Dingo Canyon nail the “western” desert, while Papu’s Pyramid makes you feel like you’re racing through a southern jungle. Tracks can have multiple shortcuts that can help you cross the finish line first and hazards that’ll stop you cold. Original developers Naughty Dog understood what made Mario Kart tracks incredible and improved where they saw necessary.
Crash Team Racing also introduced a skill-based turbo system. By pressing and holding either L1 or R1, you will initiate a drift. Hold the drift long enough, and a turbo gage builds up. Press the opposite button at the correct time to initiate a boost, do it three times in total, and you’ll power forward with greater speed. Timing is critical though, press the button too soon, and you’ll miss a boost. While I always appreciate the simple boost system that most kart racers implement, it allows for easier access for casual players, making the boost system skill-based provides greater depth. When I would struggle in a race, I knew that holding a drift for just long enough wouldn’t shoot me to first place. It doesn’t help that most power-ups in the game don’t knock out the entire field when you fall behind.
And struggle I did. For the adventure mode, you can choose easy, medium, or hard difficulty. I usually select medium for just about any game I play, and I almost immediately regretted my decision. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is brutal, and it doesn’t care that it beats you down and takes your lunch money. Any time I had a lead, any small mistake would allow the smartest AI in gaming history to gain back on any edge you may have had. The rubber-banding is a blast from the past (as most racers from the time had), and I wish someone would have stopped the developers from implementing it. You can choose to dial the difficulty down, of course, but I found that races were too simple. Better difficulty balance would have been much appreciated.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled also includes kart customization options that are purely cosmetic. Every aspect of the kart can be customized from the frame to the tires and paint job. Even what character you select have different skins available to use. As you progress through the adventure mode, you’ll quickly unlock more kart options and characters to use. You’ll also earn Wumpa Fruit that can be used to purchase more characters and kart parts. The store refreshes every so often, which makes it frustrating if you want to buy the summer version of Tiny and he isn’t there that week.
The online has been great so far. Before a match starts, it takes a few moments to find a game, and you can customize your kart and character just as you can in the adventure mode. Races are fast and furious with little to no lag, at least none that I’ve experienced during my time. Activision and Beenox are committed to updating the game by giving players a Grand Prix “season” worth of unlocks and challenges. One is currently ongoing, and unlocks are done by filling a progress bar by winning and completing races. If you’ve played any game this generation that features a Battle Pass (CTR’s content updates are free), you’ll know how this works.
In addition to the adventure mode, there is a bevy of time trials and challenges for you to face. Time trials, of course, require you to race around the track as fast as possible, but taking a page out of the mainline Crash games, crates are littered around the track pausing the time. Break every crate and earn a bonus at the end of the run. It’s a fun give and take, maybe you’re posting the best lap time you’ve had, but you missed a crate. Do you start over or do you just continue on in hopes of getting the best time? CTR challenges hide the letters around the track in different (sometimes difficult to find) locations in addition to winning the race.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is an awesome remake of a cult-classic game that really shows the world how incredible the original game was. In many ways, this game outperforms the competition with a skill-based turbo system, amazing track designs, a fun story, and plenty of kart options and characters. It’s just a shame that the game is far more difficult than you could imagine without playing, just be aware of that going in.