Many have tried, yet few have succeeded to stand at the top of the kart racing genre alongside the Mario Kart franchise. In 1999, Crash Team Racing successfully made its case, and twenty years later, the racing series has returned -- better than ever -- to give Mario and his friends a run for their money.
Developed by Beenox, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is the third in a series of classic remakes from publisher Activision. After the critical and commercial success of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy, it only seemed fair to bring Crash Team Racing back next. While fans probably could have expected a pretty coat of paint for the 20 year-old racer, they might not have expected the game would not only include content from the original, but from the racing franchise’s subsequent entries, Nitro Kart and Tag Team Racing.
Nitro-Fueled takes this a step further, transitioning the game into an online multiplayer-friendly title packed with progression, customization, in-game rewards and more. This isn’t just a remake of Crash Team Racing, it’s a greatest hits, from-the-ground-up reimagining -- the perfect way to revv up a former contender in the kart racing space.
Like its Crash-and-Spyro-adventure-game relatives, Crash Team Racing still feels revolutionary today. The quality with which iconic courses like Crash Cove and Coco Park have been recreated feels unmatched in the space. Each level begs to be explored beyond its paved guidelines, and every character bursts with personality.
This is matched by an incredible sense of speed and power in every race. Motion blur doesn’t feel overused here, and things like boosting, drifting and match-start advantages all have weight to them, feeling deliberate yet different enough from each other to remain exciting. The boost/drift system in and of itself feels wholly refreshing compared to other competitors in the space, making the extra burst of speed more about timing and skill than balance. You'll be clicking between bumpers to chain boost and go faster. If you mess up your timing, you lose the boost.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled also fully recreates the original game’s adventure mode, something every kart racer should have had following the release of this original and Diddy Kong Racing.
There's a hefty amount of repetition in every course hub world, as you'll revisit track after track to earn relics, CTR coins and face bosses. But this repetition doesn’t ever feel frustrating because it allows players to explore every corner of a track and teaches them skills to take into multiplayer, from timing drift and boost to holding power-ups or finding shortcuts. The hub worlds themselves are also lovingly-inspired by areas from the Crash Bandicoot games, clearly pulling inspiration from the remastered trilogy.
There are also plenty of skins, kart parts and stickers to be earned through continuous play, allowing for a bit of expression in a genre that can feel awfully mundane. This is furthered by the game’s colorful cast of characters, including heroes, villains and side characters from across the Crash Bandicoot mythos. This isn’t limited to just Crash Team Racing, but follow-ups like Nitro Kart and Tag Team Racing. There’s even a promise of additional content in the future -- including Spyro the Dragon as a guest character. And here there were fans that never thought they’d see Spyro and Crash so close together again!
As far as multiplayer goes, Nitro-Fueled has every tool it needs to theoretically succeed in the space. Local play is better than ever with split screen, though with how many effects and UI elements are baked in, it can get a little hard to see or keep track of where you’re at. Thankfully, Nitro-Fueled offers a few different options for a selection of UI elements.
The online multiplayer suite takes it all a step further, allowing you to show off your skills with players from around the world while decked out in the cosmetic items earned in single player. The adventure mode itself will take some time to master, not to mention the game’s skilled racer AI -- even on Medium difficulty -- it’s nice to know there’s plenty more to crack in multiplayer. That is, once they fix the issues plaguing some players' online experiences, including stuttering, getting kicked out and other bugs.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled not only proves it can outlive the “nostalgia” of the original, but reminds us these games now look and feel like how players imagined them to be when they first released. And in an industry with plenty new to play and experience, there’s something relaxing about seeing an old friend better than ever.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. A review copy was provided by the publisher and played on an Xbox One X.