Up until this year, there seemed to be two types of kart racing games; Mario Kart 8 and everything else. Granted, there have been some releases that came close to keeping up, like Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed back in 2012. For the most part though the competition just couldn’t keep up with Nintendo’s superior champion even on the Wii U or with its Deluxe Switch counterpart.
However, this year is a little different. Last month we got Team Sonic Racing. In spite of its overly complicated systems, it turned out to be a decent follow-up to Transformed, and just the ticket for fans of the series. Now we have a lovely little treat from Beenox, the developers of the Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time games.
They’ve tinkered with Naughty Dog’s classic Crash Team Racing from the PlayStation era, bringing it up to date with the gorgeous Nitro-Fueled. It’s a game that covers all the bases of racing bliss, offering a handful of modes for single and multiplayer alike. It does so handily, with only a few slight issues here and there. Not only that, but it’s got the kind of beautiful presentation that stands right up there with Vicarious Visions’ take on Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, which is really saying something. It leaves us wondering what will be coming next with the planned DLC.
Hitting the Road With a Great Visual Style
Beenox could’ve easily ported over what worked so well with the original Crash Team Racing, but instead they’ve given the series a proper rebirth with Nitro-Fueled. Basically re-imagined from the ground up, Nitro-Fueled takes a lot of items from the Bandicoot world and puts them into fine functional order with a number of tracks.
There are a few tracks that get tricky with the layouts, particularly tight turns, but not everything can be Rainbow Road. Overall, the team is to be commended with its work. There’s a lot of ground to be covered, and more coming from the Crash Nitro Kart games in the months ahead.
Some good characters are included from the Crash universe. A number of Crash’s friends are thrown in, like Coco, his sister, as well as a few of his colleagues. There are also villains such as Ripper Roo, a wolf in a straitjacket who can steer with his foot. There are also more characters coming via DLC, including none other than Spyro the Dragon. Finally, a crossover we’ve been waiting for. It may not be as jam-packed as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but it’s hardly shabby.
The visuals in Crash Team Racing really pop. While the speed in the Switch version is a little slower (and also plagued with slightly longer loading times), the colorful tracks and animations do a great job at bringing Crash’s world to sparkling life. The cinematic sequences are a joy as well, mixing right in with the racing action.
What’s more, the in-world hub is similar to that of the original game. You can drive around to objectives in real time and find new items. It’s pretty cool, and new portions open up as you earn new victories. Beenox opens up this world nicely, with a lot of hidden stuff to find as well. It isn’t always so easy to spot though, so keep looking. It’s also nice to have a number of camera perspectives offering different viewpoints of the race.
Great Controls, But Boosting Takes Some Getting Used To
As for gameplay, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled has a system that takes some patience. That’s not to say it can’t be mastered – it can – but it might take a few laps to get the hang of it. I assure you though, once you do, you’ll definitely like what it has to offer.
The general controls are pretty solid, and your vehicle handles like a charm with turns, jumps and acceleration. It does well avoiding obstacles, taking secondary paths and utilizing power-ups. Fair warning though, power-ups come at random and can do everything from launching a TNT crate onto someone’s head (um, ouch) to dropping a potion that can blow up someone behind you.
The interesting component here is drifting. You can launch into a drift, but only after you start a turn. By going a little too early, you run the risk of crashing into a wall. It took me a few laps to learn this the hard way, but that’s part of adapting to the system. It’s a bit frustrating at first, but fun once you get the hang of it.
Then comes boosting. This is something that comes with the drifting. You get a boost by spotting the puff of black smoke from the back of your vehicle, then hitting the coordinating boost button you’re not using to activate it, or storing it up for a possible second or third storage that creates an even longer boost. If that sounds complicated, well, that’s because it kind of is. Yet, it makes Crash Team Racing feel uniquely like its own. It works after trying it out for the first few times, and really makes a difference when dashing for the finish line. If you prefer, you can turn on the “Training Wheels” option in the menu and watch for glowing wheels on your car, which is a far better indicator for drifting than just a puff of smoke. You won’t get penalized for it.
Fortunately, this isn’t the only way you can earn boosts. Along with attaining them from random crates, you can also jump off slopes and ramps to get a quick boost, and you’ll need it. Take the time to learn the course design and where you can jump, and you’ll be better off for it.
Single and Multiplayer Options Aplenty, With Minor Setbacks
Now let’s get into the real meat of the Crash Team Racing sandwich, the options. This game has a lot to choose from, so let’s dig in.
First up is multiplayer. There is online multiplayer in Nitro-Fueled, and it supports up to eight players. However, at the moment the servers can be a little iffy. Some of the races we took part in on PlayStation 4 were fine, but there were others that caused some interesting glitches, particularly on the Nintendo Switch; racers kept reappearing all over the track. Do keep in mind this was just a day or two after the game’s initial launch.
That’s not to say Crash Team Racing isn’t worth a test drive online. Beenox is still hard at work on patching things up, so proceed with caution and don’t expect every race to go as smoothly as silk just yet.
You’ll fare much better in local multiplayer, though. As with the previous PlayStation era game, Nitro-Fueled supports up to four players in split-screen multiplayer. This is where the game truly shines. It makes the couch experience truly ideal, as you yell at your friends and make a mad dash for the finish line like a boss. What’s more, with the number of options available, you can customize each race how you see fit and choose from a variety of tracks allowing you to really make an evening out of it.
Local split-screen multiplayer performs great across the board. It seems a bit tiny on the smaller Nintendo Switch portable screen, but still makes it a party experience if that’s the only option you have available.
As for single player mode, you can partake in quick Arcade Races to test your racing mettle. The real thick of the game is within Adventure Mode where the open world hub and a wide portion of its unlockable content are. This includes stickers, car parts and racers that you can add to your collection including Ripper Roo. Over the course of the game you can earn a lot, and in online multiplayer you can keep track of your progress with ease.
New worlds open up as you continue to make your way through. You can revisit older tracks and take on new challenges, such as collecting letters and challenging tougher racing foes. It’s a nice touch and gives you all the more reason to revisit areas in case you want to conquer the game completely.
The uneven difficulty presents a setback for the younger players of the game though. Some drivers in the early portions of Adventure Mode are a pushover, which makes the game a little too easy, but then you run into drivers that are incredibly tough. It’s as if the game can’t make up its mind about adjustment. Not to say you can’t finish Adventure Mode because you obviously can, however it might take a little longer than expected. Hopefully, Beenox is working on a patch that will provide better balance.
All in all it’s great to see Crash Team Racing offer so much content for both single and multiplayer fans alike. Not only that, but it does so at a good price: $40, which is $20 off the usual selling point of $60. That makes it a whopper of a deal compared to similar racers, like the completely forgettable Nickelodeon Kart Racers. You remember that one? Yeah, we barely do either.
Gameplay: 8.5 out of 10.
As I mentioned previously, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled sets itself apart with its boost system. It’s a little more difficult than what you’d find in Transformed and Mario Kart 8, which may throw a lot of people off, but it gives the game some individuality along with traditional gameplay. It’s still a lot of fun to play, especially with friends, and has that classic CTR feeling from the PlayStation days that a lot of fans are truly going to love. Just remember to give yourself a few laps to get the hang of some of the systems, and you’ll be just fine.
Innovation: 8.0 out of 10.
Although Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled doesn’t really do much “new”, it takes a lot from Naughty Dog’s road map of the original game. Beenox did rebuild it making the game its own, and the re-imagined world truly is a piece of work. The tweaks to gameplay are something else, even if they may not be, ahem, up to everyone’s speed at first. So really, there is enough that’s “new” here, even if it is just a refresh of an old favorite.
Learning Curve: 8.0 out of 10.
The general driving of Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled won’t take long to get a handle on, but the stuff surrounding it will. Uneven difficulty in Adventure Mode, boost system mechanics, and mastering the power-ups take some practice, but it’s not impossible stuff. There are more than enough multiplayer goods for fun with family and friends, so don’t worry yourself about it. A few practice laps and you’ll be good to go.
Graphics: 9.0 out of 10.
Considering Beenox hasn’t had a chance to stretch its wings with a franchise solo since Spider-Man, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled truly reminds us how talented they really are. Even with a few slightly wonky track designs, the developer knocks this one out of the park with stunning, colorful level layouts and world designs that really do Crash justice. In fact, coupled alongside Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, it really has us itching for a new adventure with the hero.
The only downside is when you’re celebrating a win on the podium and your second and third place drivers look depressed. They’re really cute animals. I mean, how much of a jerk do I have to be to do that? Dang.
Sound: 8.0 out of 10
There’s not much creativity when it comes to sound, but Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled serves its purpose well. The game offers some fun, but mostly forgettable tunes that follow the Crash mantra, along with fun character effects and advice from your friendly Aku Aku mask. The sound effects are comical enough to put a smile on your face, since they were lifted straight from the classic PS1 game.
Value for Money: 9 out of 10.
There are some minor setbacks that may give players headaches, like the difficulty in Adventure Mode and getting used to gameplay nuances, but Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled really has some extraordinary value. While online multiplayer issues still need to be worked out, a few of the races can be great, and local multiplayer hits the spot with it’s split-screen display. As for single player, Adventure Mode is jam-packed with goodness. Plus we’ll see even more content with DLC which will add elements from newer Crash racing games, as well as Spyro the Dragon as a playable character, and we’re on board with that.
Overall: 8.5 out of 10.
While there are some things that keep the game from dominating on the same level as the almighty Mario Kart 8 (blessed is he, angry Luigi!), Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled continues Activision’s successful run of bringing classic Sony mascots back in a whole new light. The gameplay is terrific, albeit slightly complicated for some players, and the many options for single and multiplayer fans will keep you busy for awhile. What’s more, the presentation is a ton of fun, with visuals that pop off the screen like nobody’s business. Forthcoming content promises even more places for you to run wild in the future. This is one race that you probably won’t get tired of, even if you are driving with your foot. I mean, how do you do that?!
- Single player provides great open world hubs and a lot of unlockable content
- Great fun with online and offline multiplayer alike, with more DLC to come
- Sharp visuals bring Crash’s world to tremendous life
- Gameplay takes slight getting used to, but is great fun and has the distinctive Beenox touch
- Adventure Mode’s difficulty can be all over the place
- Online play performance can be spotty at times
- Boosting may take some getting used to for newer players
- Celebrating a first place win in front of sad animals makes me feel bad
(Disclaimer: a review code was provided by the publisher.)
Related: Crash Team Racing, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Review, Xbox One