Wait till they get a load of me..
Crash Team Racing, back when it released on the original PlayStation some 20 years ago, was a title I couldn’t stop playing. Where many of my friends were still far more into Mario Kart 64 at the time, I simply found CTR to be the more impressive kart racer and a game that I kept coming back to. While Nitro Fueled is a decently crafted remake of the classic original, It just didn’t offer that same sense of enjoyment that I so fondly remember. While I still enjoyed my time with this gorgeous remake, it just didn’t capitalize on the nostalgia i had for the original.
This remake of Crash Team Racing brings with it more than just the packaged contents of the 1999 original as it includes tracks from the 2003 sequel by Vicarious Visions, titled Nitro Kart. That said, with the game offering up 31 tracks across both games, the adventure mode frustratingly only dips into just over half of them, leaving the remainder solely for versus play. Nitro Fueled also brings with it modern enhancements such as online matches and the ability to customize your own kart and outfit your racer in a variety of skins, which are lifted from 2005’s Crash Tag Team Racing.
The aforementioned Adventure mode allows you to swap between kart racers as you compete in races, relic hunts, CTR token collecting, and racing against several boss characters in an effort to add them to your ever growing roster. You can beat the thinly prepare story with just competing the races, but the true ending hides behind collecting all the time relics, even if it’s really not much different than the first ending you’ve already seen. Adventure mode also grants you the choice to play with just a single character and a basic kart, allowing you to relive the classic game as it was all those years ago. Apart from this mode, you’ll have local and online play, battle and challenge modes, as well as a cosmetic store where you’ll spend the coins you’ve earned through races. Thankfully, at least for now, this store is devoid of any real world money transactions and items are purchased solely through said earn-able coins.
I usually wait until the end of my reviews to talk issues I had with the title, but I’m going to change it up here and address a few of them early. Nitro Fueled has some fairly long load times that feel really unnecessary given how many modern games can almost load instantly and the fact that these courses are not giant sprawling environments. Combine this with the inability to skip celebration scenes, which shows your character performing their entire celebration dance, it just feels like you’re spending too much time waiting around than playing the game. It’s worth noting that while I played CTR on an Xbox One X, the load times on the Switch version are more than double, even in docked mode, and that’s with the game also looking visually inferior.
The last big issue I have with the game, at least an issue that did affect my enjoyment, is the rubber banding given to the AI characters and more importantly, the bosses. No matter your level of skill, it’s pretty much impossible to lap any of the AI characters, even on easy, and the boss races consistently have you racing neck and neck for pretty much the entire race. While there are a few boss encounters where their items are a huge nuisance, it is the rubber banding given to the AI that really stands out as a poor way to introduce challenge. AI racers don’t really have the intelligence to offer up a realistic challenge and feel largely generic in their efforts against you.
Nitro Fueled has just under a dozen items to use against your fellow racers in an attempt to slow them down, even if the rubber banding will simply bring them right back. You’ll have boosts, rockets, beakers and TNT boxes to drop behind you, and even shields and invincibility as well. There are also the wumpa fruits that act in very much the same way as coins do in Mario Kart, giving your kart an extra speed boost when you collect 10 of them as well as boosting certain items effects like adding rain clouds to the colored beakers, or making the TNT crates explode instantly instead of giving your opponent time to bounce them off. The items sadly don’t really have the effect they need to really slow down your opponents or offer you a chance to catch back up, something the Mario Kart games have always been good at offering. Items rarely are responsible for your victories, and instead, it’s mastering things like the power slide and boosting that will really contribute to your first place finishes.
Power sliding is easily the deepest mechanic in CTR as it can rocket you ahead with a boost should you time the power slide meter just right. As you fill up your turbo meter, you’ll have to tap the opposite trigger to set off this boost. If you wait to fill up a second section, you will boost even further. If you chain these boosts together, you’ll perform an even stronger boost yet again. It can be a bit tricky to pull off while also navigating the track and avoiding items in front of you, but is something advanced players can use to really rip through the competition. While the boost does help against AI players, despite the rubber-banding, it’s when you take your battle online against real players where the boost is pretty much required to finish anywhere near first place. In my efforts to win any online battles, I’ve seen players pretty much boosting through the entire course, preventing any chance of non-boosters to even finish in the top 5.
Each of the 31 tracks are wonderfully crafted and have several turns and jumps that really compliment not just how the karts themselves handle, but the ways you can trigger your boost or lay down a perfectly set trap. There are also environmental hazards like large rolling barrels, or plants that will snatch you up should you drive a little too close to them. Each track is set with several short cuts that require either a fast detour, or a perfectly placed jump to even stand the chance of reaching. These short cuts really come in handy during relic races and usually hide the C, T, and R letters when you are on the hunt for them. Some courses do favor better than others, specifically the longer and more detailed courses, as the shorter ones are over before you know it.
Apart from your traditional races, you do have 12 battle courses to take part in across five modes, that see you laying waste to opponents with a series of weapons, playing a game of capture the flag. or collecting crystals while avoiding enemy fire. The battle mode is ok, but I found it to be mostly a one and done affair and nothing to really add value or that much entertainment to the game.
Developer Beenox has done a remarkable job at recreating and adding new life to each of the original game’s tracks. Given the advancement in technology, it’s the 1999 original’s levels that see the most of this visual upgrade. Level’s have a wondrous sense of color and detail that just didn’t exist and despite my issues with rubber-banding and loading, the visuals here do not disappoint. This added layer of detail translates into the karts and characters themselves. Karts have a ton of variety in the wheels, body, and colors you can apply, offering a sense of customization that is very welcome here. Characters have fun skins that change up their look, with a few characters getting entirely new outfits complete with new celebration dances, which are fun to watch one or twice, but become bothersome after seeing them for the 40th time. Unlocking new cosmetic items in the Pit Stop is there if you want it, but some items are priced way too high for how fast you earn the coins to spend on them.
Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled is often a great game, but just didn’t really capture me as much as the original. While most of that is more than likely me growing as a gamer or probably thinking I enjoyed the original far more than I did, I just never once felt captivated to keep playing. The racing is fun, but the AI just isn’t terribly enjoyable to race against, and unless you master that boosting power-slide, then online battles are just not going to be satisfying. Playing alongside equally skilled friends has been fun, but frankly, we ended up just booting up Mario Kart on the Switch afterwards and it really is just the better game. What I hope Activision learns from CTR is that people want a new entry in the series and Beenox certainly has a handle on what to offer from a visual standpoint. Should a sequel see the inclusion of better items and more interesting modes, then CTR could very well be the contender to Mario Kart it was all those years ago.
Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled was purchased by the reviewer and played on an Xbox One X.
All screenshots were taken on an Xbox One X.