Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled review: a well-made remaster

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is an excellent recreation of the original and reminds us why we still love kart racing.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is Activision’s second remaster of Crash Bandicoot games after 2017’s well-received N. Sane Trilogy, and just like the first release, it’s a well-made remaster with a few problems. Nitro-Fueled largely succeeds at bringing what was fun about those games to a new generation of players, but a mix of unfortunate design choices both old and new hold it back from being the definitive mascot kart racer.

All of the tracks and characters from the PlayStation classic, Crash Team Racing, and its PS2 era sequel, Nitro Kart, are here in glorious HD, with a few character skins and karts from Crash Tag Team Racing thrown in for good measure. Additionally, if you’ve played the previous games in the series, Mario Kart, or any other game in the genre, you’ll be right at home with this latest offering.

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Nitro-Fueled is all about racing around bright, cartoony courses, collecting power-ups, and using them to slow down your opponents in new and annoying ways. What sets Crash Team Racing apart is the emphasis on chaining together power slides for more boosts. Nailing power slides requires hitting one trigger just as you’re releasing the other, so it takes a little more skill to master than the typical kart racer. 

But as with most games of this type, how much you get out of it is going to depend on how much you play with others. An updated version of Crash Team Racing’s adventure mode is included, but it’s only worth playing through to unlock a few extra characters. You can get through these 16 tracks in an afternoon, but if you want to see everything, that requires going through each track two more times: once to collect three hidden CTR coins, and again to beat a time trial and collect a relic.

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Unfortunately, the single-player difficulty is horribly unbalanced. Right from the start, the AI doesn’t hold back on medium difficulty, with all sorts of rubber band speed boosts and cheap hits with items. Setting the difficulty to easy resolves that issue, but at that point, it’s almost impossible to lose, although the last two boss races can get frustrating if they get ahead of you and start spamming attacks.

The uneven difficulty and annoying secondary objectives after initially beating each track quickly drain the fun out of an otherwise well-made racing game. Once I was done with adventure mode, I had little urge to go back.

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Thankfully, Nitro-Fueled redeems itself in multiplayer. Free from the confines of poor AI, Crash Team Racing is just a flat-out fun racer with strong course design. And the online multiplayer worked flawlessly. 

There are also five battle modes and 12 battle-specific courses included, but battle mode isn’t nearly as entertaining as the racing. Your mileage will vary.

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Of course, part of the enjoyment of a game like this comes from how much you like the characters, and while Crash was once one of gaming’s top mascots, those days are long behind him, and the supporting characters in his games never reached the same level of popularity as Mario or even Sonic.

There’s a good number of characters included, and it takes quite a bit of racing to get the coins necessary to unlock them all. Curiously, the Pit Stop where you buy these characters changes every day, so if you miss out on a new character one day, you’re out of luck until the next time they come around unless you have a lot of coins on hand to buy everything you want at once. That said, I barely remembered the henchmen Zam and Zem from the old games, and I never really felt motivated to save up my coins for them.

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But at least Crash Team Racing‘s graphical update is consistent, even if a lot of the characters have pretty generic designs. That’s not the remake’s fault, though, and it’s clear that Beenox has a real passion for the original. In translating this game from 1999 to modern consoles, there were bound to be some growing pains. Like the games it’s based on, Nitro-Fueled is an above average kart racer that shines on the track in multiplayer, but poor AI and a couple of other design quirks keep it from the top spot on the podium.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is out now on PS4, XBO and Switch

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4/5