STAFF REVIEW of Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled (Xbox One)

Sunday, July 7, 2019.
by Kirby Yablonski

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled Box art When one speaks of any kart racing video game, the first thing that people usually think of is Mario Kart, and rightly so, as it is truly a great racing game. There have been numerous challengers over the years, but most have failed to capture the magic of kart racing like Nintendo’s iconic series. That being said, the first generation PlayStation (rebadged as the PSone) did have a kart racing game of its own. In the late 90’s, Crash Team Racing, a game based on a character that many saw as the PSone’s mascot, like that of Sonic or Mario for their respective consoles, was released. It was developed by Naughty Dog and it did a lot of things right, so much so that the PlayStation faithful believed that they indeed had a competitor worthy to challenge any Mario Kart game, with tight controls, lots of content, very creative level design and visuals.

Fast forward to present day. Publisher Activision has been releasing reimagined, remastered and reworked versions of some popular games of the past, including Crash Bandicoot and Spyro. Each of these releases consist of all the original games that released on the PSone (three separate games in each compilation), but they were remastered to look like games of today. Not one to ignore the success of those remasters, Activision’s most recent release is Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled, based on the original Crash Team Racing, as well as including some content from the two sequels that followed.

Believe it or not, there is semblance of a story to be found within. Crash, along with all the identifiable characters of the Crash Bandicoot universe, compete in races that accumulate in a winner take all. But wait, there is more! It’s not just about being number one for the sake of lifting the championship trophy, you are actually trying to save the world by beating all the tracks, challengers and sub-bosses. only to finally face off against Nitros Oxide, who wants to cover the Earth in concrete and make it one gigantic parking lot. Sure, it may not be a deep and engaging story; however, at least you have a purpose for your high-speed antics.

The story, or purpose if you will, is played out in the game’s adventure mode. Here you’ll progress through the tracks, sub-bosses and eventually the final boss. There are a total of 5 hub-worlds for you to get through. You can play the adventure mode one of two ways: classic mode or nitro fueled mode.

The classic mode mirrors the original game, as you play one character throughout the whole game, start to end, and you use only a basic kart to do so. Those you race against are from the original cast of characters too, and you’ll find no difficulty option. The other way to play is the nitro fueled mode. Here you can do a slew of things you cannot do in classic mode, such as choosing different characters or karts at any time, customize your character and kart with items earned during gameplay (e.g. decals, stickers, wheels, paint jobs) and you’ll race against a wider array of characters, including those from the sequels. You can also change the difficulty level in the nitro fueled, and this racing fans is a very important point.

Nitro-Fueled can be a very, very tough experience in both the modes. When I first started to review the game, I played the nitro fueled mode. I set the difficulty on medium and had difficulty winning races. I found that most of the time I finished in second a lot, with some races resulting in me being even lower down the field. My son was watching me play and couldn’t believe how perfect some of the A.I. racers were. On one track, which I think I ran at least 6-8 times, it had the exact same character winning each race, and even getting faster in some of the later races; it was crazy. I bumped the skill down to easy and found that I was able to win races with regularity, but it wasn’t without some back and forth for first place. And let’s be honest here, I didn’t even try to play the game in hard.

The difficulty of the game, in some manner, is what will bring old fans back while being able to cater to those who like a challenge and who consider themselves awesome racers. It really does come down to mastering the game's controls, memorizing the tracks (e.g. boost pads and shortcuts) and persevering. Sure, the game is MUCH easier when playing on easy, but for those who are looking for a challenge, the medium and hard modes are sure to suffice. If you are going to be successful in the medium and hard modes, you’re going to have to be “one-with-the-game” so to speak, as you’ll need any and every advantage you can get.

Once you’ve beaten any of the tracks, you can head back and take on various challenges, like relic races, crystal collect or CTR mode to name a few. The CTR mode has you racing while looking for, and collecting, the three letters “CTR”, and you also have to place first. The extra modes allow for more gameplay, and something that completionists will enjoy. Of course you are able to play a quick race as well, and this may prove to be an important mode, as learning the ins and outs of all the tracks is important for securing a victory. I found that I enjoyed the ability to choose from these extra modes and/or challenges, as they allowed me to go at my own pace, collecting relics or crystals and reaping the rewards of such.

Beenox has included a nice suite of multiplayer options to Crash Team Racing as well. There is both local (couch) multiplayer and online multiplayer. Local multiplayer splits the screen into a 2x2 grid allowing up to four players to go at it. From racing on any track to battling it out in the ‘battle mode’, being able to do so, while in the same room as friends and family is enjoyable, and may result in a little smack talk, as it did in my household. Online multiplayer is pretty much the same as local, but in this case, you’ll be racing or playing battle mode with people from all over the globe (up to 8-players). I did manage to get some time in both before and after launch. The time I had before the game was released to the public was very quiet, and I only got two races in, as well as a bit of battle mode; and both seemed to have some network issues.

My time after the ‘official’ launch was much better, as there were more games, and it seems that Beenox, and publisher Activision, had prepared for the public launch, as I didn’t have many, if any, network issues while I raced or engaged in a bit of CTF, Steal the Bacon, or Last Kart Standing. I think there are enough online modes to keep most happy, be it locally or online, when they want a change from single player racing. And yes, I may not have won every race or battle mode, but man, it was kinda fun for sure.

As you win, place, or show in any given race or mode, you will be rewarded Wumpa Coins. The number of coins you earn can vary and depend on the difficulty of the track you’re racing on and if you are racing online or offline. These virtual coins can be used at the ‘Pit Stop’, which is in-game store for Crash Team Racing. Here you will be able to buy customization items, karts, stickers, etc. What is worth noting is that all the items are basically cosmetic, so the game’s store is not for what some people call “Pay to Win”. All the items found in the Pit Stop are for looks and style. So, if you want a new character or kart skin, odds are you’ll find it here. The inventory changes very regularly too. You cannot use real money to buy Wumpa Coins, or the items found in the Pit Stop, so everyone has equal chance to get what they want with the coins they earn.

Crash Team Racing also features what the folks at Beenox are calling “Grand Prix”. The best way to understand this is that it is like seasons. There are specific Grand Prix’s during the next year or so, and you will complete specific challenges related to the Grand Prix at the time, and as you do so, you fill up your nitro bar. As you make your way up to “full”, you’ll earn new karts, items, customization, and characters. It’s a nice incentive, and something I think people will enjoy.

Crash Team Racing is a game that looks like it was developed during this generation of consoles. There are numerous pictures and videos out there on the ‘interwebz’ showing the original PSone version(s) vs. the current reworked game, and as one would expect, the difference is night and day. Each track from the original game, plus some from the two sequels, have been meticulously upgraded. Given that the original PSone was limited in it power at that time, Beenox has done things that make the environments look alive. The use of high-res textures, bright colours, shadowing, lighting, water effects and so much more, fans of the kart genre will love the modern interpretation. Although this game is very much updated for today's standards, there still lies a feeling of nostalgia. The track design remains the same, it’s just that the actual visuals have been updated, so you’ll still see a lot of what you remember from the original, just in modern day graphics. Oh, and for those wondering, I did not run into any visual hiccups such as frame-rate slowdown, screen tearing or any other glitches that some games may have.

In terms of the games audio, another two thumbs up here. From the sounds of your customized cart, your character that you choose, to the environment effects and the music, everything is upbeat, clear and makes for even more enjoyment. What is really notable here is that the in-game music is the original music, but just like the visuals, it has been reworked, but this time to sound even better. You’ll find it is more ‘melodic’ so to speak, as it is fuller (sound wise not size wise), seems to have more instruments and matches the original feel in terms of each track that you race on. You have the option to head into the menu and play the original music from the PSone era as well. It’s a nice feature, as you are able to hear the how much each music track(s) has changed, and how they still incorporate the original music from the original game.

I really enjoyed my time with Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled, as it brought the original PSone game to life with modern day visuals and sound, and I got to play it on the Xbox One. There is a heck of a lot to do in the game too, so you won’t get through it too quickly, and for completionists out there, you’ll enjoy all that the game has you doing. It’s worth reiterating that the game can be tough, and that is something you’ll have to adjust to, as you memorize the tracks, their shortcuts and all. Don’t let this fact keep you from playing it though, as there is a lot of fun here for those who have not played the game in the past, and for those returning to the world of Crash Team Racing, you’ll be very happy with this remaster too.

Overall: 8.8 / 10
Gameplay: 8.7 / 10
Visuals: 8.8 / 10
Sound: 8.8 / 10


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