Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is the second Kart Racing game released within a couple of weeks. In an age where Mario Kart 8 has set a new benchmark for Kart Racing game, is there any chance for this Remake to hit the mark, or is it doomed to fail?
Activision has slowly started to bring back their classic IPs and Crash Bandicoot was the first one that managed to make a big splash with its remake that was based on the original trilogy of games. Naturally, what it should have followed was the second game in the series which turned out to be Crash Team Racing.
Back when Mario Kart was well known as the best Kart Racing game but remained exclusive to Nintendo platforms, Sony wanted to have their own game in the genre. The result was Crash Team Racing, which was developed by Naughty Dog who is now owned by Sony Interactive Entertainment.
Crash Team Racing was designed with the similar drifting mechanics of Mario Kart in mind but it offered a lot more depth with the ability to provide a manual boost. It not only added strategy to a simple racer but it also made races far more exciting with timed speed boosts basically rewarded skills instead of luck. Each of the level offered in the game also had secret shortcuts, some of which often required a difficult move just to reach them.
Crash Team Racing was famous for its Adventure mode which made the Kart Racing experience not just fun for single-player, but also for offline multiplayer. Since back then, the concept of playing games online didn’t exist, it was a great co-op game for offline play among friends. It supported split-screen multiplayer with up to four players and you could also duel in different modes aside from the Arcade mode; like a Battle mode, Challenges, or Cups.
Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled has brought back everything to modern platforms with this Remake. While this is a remarkable achievement on its own, what is impressive is how the developer Beenox has not just remade the game with new visuals but also added content like new characters, new tracks, customization for karts or skins, and an online multiplayer mode. The Adventure mode has been brought back and enhanced with some new features but if you still want to retain the classic Adventure mode, the choice is given at the start to play using the old progression system.
Gameplay wise, this Remake closely sticks to its roots with minor quality-of-life changes made in order to facilitate the newcomers. If you have played Crash Team Racing in the past, getting used to it is almost as easy as fitting into a perfect size shoe. You just slip right into the action and start to feel the nostalgia of playing it in the past. Drifting is a very important core of the gameplay that is essential to winning most of the difficult matches and challenges, and all it takes is one race to get back into the rhythm again with this remake. The new addition of the Kart tires glowing to signal a boost chance can also be toggled off, but honestly, it was something that is hard to notice if you are used to seeing the Kart smoke as the signal for a speed boost.
The Adventure mode now has multiple difficulty choices where Easy should be avoided, because it is, far too easy. Medium feels easy in the start but as you make progress to new tracks, it can start to become more challenging especially on the difficult tracks. Hard is just near impossible for newcomers and even if you are an experienced Crash Team Racing player, Hard is something that will break your spirit and starts to feel unfair. It requires you to nail down every shortcut, every speed boost, and make sure to avoid getting hit even once. This difficulty can also be adjusted in the various gameplay modes where you can bring in computer AI controlled characters.
The classic Crash Bandicoot characters are playable from the start however, to play as some of the other characters including bosses, you have to go through the Adventure mode and unlock them. There are more than 10 new characters that have been included for the first time in this remake. In addition to this, the number of tracks has been increased by including the tracks from Crash Nitro Kart in the mix. As a result, this feels like a full-on remake that adds almost a whole game worth of new content in addition to getting everything from the original game. Even the cheat codes have been kept intact, which is something that is quite rare to see in a video game these days.
Leaving aside Adventure mode, you can play split-screen multiplayer with up to four players at a time. This covers the regular Arcade mode where you pick a track and race, CTR, Crystal, and Time Attack challenges, in addition to the Battle Mode. Every race allows you to customize various options like enabling computer AI, changing the difficulty of them, or picking race specific options. There is even a mirror mode that works in the same way and basically makes every track feel like a new one. The customization here helps make the experience better for multiplayer matches if you are playing with friends and supports you ib setting your own rules.
If there is anything that the Remake fails to deliver on, it is the online multiplayer mode. For some reason, the net code is just not that great so if you are thinking of playing it online, you will get a terrible result from it mostly where players start to suffer from lag making them disappear into the ground, walls, or just appearing out of nowhere. Matches seem to still finish despite this issue but the result is less than satisfying.
Another issue that I felt was present in the online multiplayer was the lack of customization and gameplay modes. You can only pick from Race or Battle mode, which means that you can’t do anything else here like CTR, Relic, or other challenges. In this way, the online mode feels disappointing compared to the rest of the package, which is almost perfect. Private matches are supported thankfully and from what I tested, they work out better than playing the game through matchmaking. Apparently, the host is the one which benefits the most with a better result so if you join a game, the net code is just not that great right now to provide a seamless experience.