Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled Review: New Paint Job, Same Great Ride

Back in 1999, I played Crash Team Racing for hours on end with my older brother. 20 years later, I’m enjoying it just as much. Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled is just like the game I fondly remember, except a whole lot better to look at it and there’s some new content sprinkled in that ensures it’s not simply a zany, nostalgia-fueled trip of deja vu.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is Crash Team Racing recreated in incredibly faithful fashion. The passion and veneration for the original oozes out from every meticulously recreated detail. Thankfully, Crash Team Racing’s gameplay still holds up as one of the best kart racers ever made. Meanwhile, sprightly modern visuals bring the game to life in new ways. Unfortunately though, the remake is slightly undermined by some of its supplementary parts, such as loading screens that feel straight from the 90s.

Beyond boasting more colorful, crisp, and charming visuals, Beenox also makes another noteworthy addition: the ability to experience the game “nitro-fueled” style. If you’re a nostalgiaholic who likes your Crash Team Racing pure and unadulterated, don’t worry you can play the remake in its classic form. But you can also play the game in its “nitro-fueled” form, which takes the characters from Crash Nitro Kart, and adds them into the mix.

It also injects a breadth of racer and kart customization into the game alongside other small features that don’t drastically improve or reorient the experience, but that certainly modernize the game by adding a progression system you’d expect to find in a brand-new Crash Team Racing release. The customization options -- which includes kart types, character skins, wheels, stickers, and paint jobs -- aren’t Pimp My Ride level, but they are nice to earn alongside in-game currency that is dished out and that can be used to unlock more customization options.

Crash Team Racing is still most fun when you can get friends or loved ones together and play locally, via two, three, or four-player split-screen. Without people to play with, the game is still a blast, but not in the same rip-roaring kind of way. You have the option of playing online, but like every kart racer, Crash Team Racing is absolute chaos online. Races mixed with people simply trying to have a good time and people racing like its their last before driving off into the sunset is an erratic mix that spent my initial excitement pretty quick.

The marquee offering is still Adventure Mode, which is outdated, but in the best kinda way. It’s familiar, but freshened by the new graphical overhaul. If you didn’t play back in the day, it’s probably not going to sink its hooks in you, but if did play the original and enjoyed it, then it’s a great race down memory lane. And just like the original, it can be painfully demanding and difficult at certain points.

crash team racing
(Photo: Activision)

Speaking of difficulty, the difficulty options are my biggest gripe with the game. Easy is too easy, hard is too hard, and medium doesn’t really strike a balance between the two. Medium is mostly the same as easy, the AI is just more aggressive. So, if you find yourself in the middle of the pack, it can be tedious to get out, but once you’re in first it’s pretty easy to speed ahead. And this really becomes a problem the more you play the game. If you can’t hang on hard difficulty, then the lack of challenge mitigates the experience after a while.

In order to race on hard, you’re going to have to master the game’s finer mechanics that separate it from other popular kart racers on the market, such as powersliding around corners and hitting every jump you can. Crash Team Racing is the kart racer for adrenaline junkies. On easy and medium, you really don’t have to engage with the game’s more specific racing mechanics if you don’t want to, especially with the former. But on hard, it’s crucial. And while hard is unforgiving and exasperating sometimes, when you really get in the zone, it’s more rewarding than other kart racers, which tend to be undermined by randomness and rudimentary racing mechanics.

There’s times where it almost feels like a puzzle, as you try and learn the exact way around the track that allows you to never stop boosting. Meanwhile, the items that you can collect and use still feel unimaginative and not varied enough. They simply aren’t as fun to use as items in say Mario Kart, and they certainly have less impact on the result of a race. In other words, they feel more complementary than additive.

crash
(Photo: Activision)

Ultimately, Crash Team Racing remains the “thinking man’s” kart racer. It’s less random, and places more emphasis on simply being good at its racing mechanics. You never feel cheated, you never feel like the game is working against you, and rarely does luck feel like a contributing factor, and I think that will appeal to a lot of people, but it does make the game get monotonous quicker than some other kart racers, all of which get pretty repetitive pretty quickly.

If you’re willing to ignore loading screens that linger a little too long and are willing to spend the time mastering the game’s more intricate mechanics, then there’s a lot of enjoyment that can be squeezed from this remake. The nostalgia is icing on the cake, but certainly not a requirement. However, if you didn’t like the original, there’s not enough added here that’s going to change that. It’s mostly Crash Team Racing, with some Nitro characters, tracks, etc., stuffed in there. Between Adventure Mode, CTR Challenges, Relic Races, and split-screen co-op, there’s plenty of content even if you don’t dabble in the online offering. And with the new Pit Stop store that allows you to use Wumpa Coins -- which you earn from playing -- to purchase characters, cosmetics, and more, there’s always something to work for, albeit it can get a bit grindy.

In 1999, Crash Team Racing was a lot of fun. 20 years later, it’s still a lot of fun. Nitro-fueled is a faithful recreation with some meaningful additions that I’ll be revisiting frequently for years to come.

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Rating: 4 out of 5

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. A retail code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.