When a company like Activision spots a section of the market that’ll make some cash, it’ll exploit it. Coming off the back of the recent Spyro remake as well as the Crash N. Sane Trilogy, Activision and developer Beenox (who we know best for their work on older Spider-Man games), Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is here. A remake of Crash Team Racing, from the PlayStation One, Nitro-Fueled has been around for twenty years. Technically speaking.
Only Beenox has been rather busy to bring the game up to date. Rather than a collection of jagged angles that require reflexes that aren’t as sharp as they used to be, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a gorgeous rendition of the game world we know and love. The devs have improved everything from visuals to lighting, dropping in customisation and online play to update this classic to something modern audiences will find a lot more palatable.
Which does mean that it’s now scraping up against the very best in the business. There’s a reason Mario Kart 8 has been released more than once, after all. Do Crash and friends have what it takes to take the crown from the be-hatted red-clad plumber?
Off on an Adventure
If you’re coming to Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled without having played the first game, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the Adventure mode. Ripping through some 17 of the game’s 31 tracks (the others are taken from Crash Nitro Kart, which released during the PS2 era), players have an open world of sorts to explore when they’re not racing against Crash denizens. The campaign mode owes more than a little of its DNA to Diddy Kong Racing and has us questioning where all the racing story modes have gone. We were quite fond of those.
But Adventure mode, despite its name, isn’t that much of an adventure. Instead, it is an exercise in skill and patience — you’re going to need the second in order to develop the first. This is made doubly hard by the advancement mechanic. You’ll need to finish first in order to move on — a podium finish isn’t going to cut it here.
And since the game’s AI is smart enough (and nasty enough) to hammer you relentlessly from the get-go, you’re more likely to embed a controller in the TV screen than you are to walk away with your blood pressure intact.
Persist, though, and you’ll find yourself completing a brilliantly updated Adventure mode. Beenox gives players the ability to change characters through the whole experience, and there are customisation options aplenty to help you feel like you’re making at least some progress. Even if you just can’t help hitting the finish line in second place. Blast you, Cortex!
Cornering the market
It might be running at a lowly 30fps but you wouldn’t believe it. Crash Team Racing feels like your standard kart racer. It’s big on speed and handling, with loads of action taking place throughout. Oh, yes, and also sheer bloody chaos everywhere.
Where it leaves other racers in the dust, though, is with its powerslide mechanic. Just like Mario Kart, you can initiate a slide around any corner you like. Unlike Mario Kart, though, you’re not focused on maintaining a slide for the resulting boost. Instead, you’re looking to jam a button — Gears of War-style — that can be chained. Hit the button perfectly three times and you’ll rocket away from the competition. Provided you can handle your kart at those speeds, that is.
And you’ll have to because Crash‘s AI won’t be very nice to you. At all. But the powerslide system is great, once you get a handle on it. It’s dragged backwards a little by the old-school physics powering the whole game. It’s a remake, and that means concessions to age. Slides take getting used to, and nailing them feels amazing, but it’s not quite as fast, fluid and fun as Mario Kart manages. Still, if you can powerslide well in Crash, you’re already at an advantage against the rest of the pack.
Crash time: no time-out
Developer Beenox offers players the option to go online — something that was absent the first time the game was around. It’s not surprising that the system isn’t exactly high-end, with private matches and basic matchmaking being the order of the day. It’s also telling that lobbies aren’t as full as we’d like them to be. Getting enough players together for a game can be a mission, but once you do you’re good to go.
Weirdly, you can’t crash into other players — which prevents us from using our patented ‘shunt’ method of cornering. It’s probably to reduce stress on the game’s netcode, or perhaps has something to do with how the game originally handled. You might actually battle more with the game’s AI than human opponents, but if you’re out to sample everything that Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled has to offer, online could be the place to do it. You’ll get to all the things Nitro-Fueled features far quicker if you’re not slogging through the tough-as-nails Adventure mode. Arcade also works for this, if you’re anti-social.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled Verdict
It’s Crash Bandicoot so you know it’s going to be a little tougher than the competition — mostly because the title’s difficulty and design comes directly from the late 1990s. Stacking up against Mario Kart 8 or the more recent Sonic Racing stable, track design is a little dated. But it’s also rather obvious that Crash Team Racing‘s acted as an inspiration in places as well.
As for who should play Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled? Pretty much anyone with a head for 90s nostalgia, including all of the folks who played the recent Spyro and Crash Bandicoot remakes. If you’re hankering for prettier versions of the games that entertained you on the PlayStation One, Nitro-Fueled is another entry that has to be on your must-play list. Younger gamers, though, might find themselves bumping up against an old-school difficulty spike that’s too much to handle. Pity, though, as pushing past that point is very rewarding indeed.