Title: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Genre: Kart Racing
Available On: Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Official Site: https://www.crashbandicoot.com/crashteamracing
Release Date: June 21st, 2019
Where to Buy it: PSN, Xbox Store, Nintendo E-Shop, & anywhere you buy games
When the Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy came out fans demanded Spyro The Dragon, they got that. They also demanded Crash Team Racing, and here we are. The original Crash Team Racing was developed by Naughty Dog and was released on the PlayStation in 1999, it was followed by two indirect sequels, Crash Nitro Kart and Crash Tag Team Racing. This new game is a remake of the original that also incorporates parts of the other games. Tracks from Nitro Kart are included, along with karts and character skins from Tag Team Racing.
Being a kart racer, I’m sure you all know what to expect. A host of characters battling it out in a race to finish first whilst using the various weapons that are flung around the course. Much like that other famous kart racer, Diddy Kong Racing.
The 2019 version of Crash Team Racing has plenty of content, with more promised. Along with the single-player modes, we are now treated to online multiplayer thanks to the modern day consoles. I’ll come to that shortly, but the first thing I tried in the game was the adventure mode, a single player story and also where I have spent most of my time so far, by quite a few hours. The story here is pure nonsense, of course, as Nitros Oxide (evil space alien) threatens to turn the planet into a giant parking lot unless our host of heroes, and villains, can beat him in a race.
Thankfully, the plot line isn’t what we want from Crash Team Racing, it’s the gameplay. Loading up the adventure gives players the choice of playing either a classic or new version. The classic version is just how it was in the original, with a set difficulty and the inability to change racer once you have started. The new version caters more to fans and new players alike, characters can be changed and there is a choice of easy, normal and, hard difficulties.
I noticed two things when I started. First, just how utterly gorgeous the game looked. Colorful, bright and smooth, giving off a real Nintendo feel. Secondly, I didn’t have a clue what the buttons were and CTR seemed to have no intention of telling me. Classic series character, Aku Aku pops up periodically to tell players what to do yet he doesn’t say what the actual buttons are. The loading screens do that job and so do the options. Interestingly, the default control scheme is rather old fashioned with X (on the PlayStation, not to add to the confusion) as the accelerator, the shoulder buttons are left to control the camera and power slide mechanics. There is the option to change to a more classic control setup, but I got used to and quite liked, the default, in the end.
The adventure mode is broken up into a series of hub worlds where the player drives around to get to the different tracks. Winning all four races in a hub brings up a boss fight (drive) with four bosses needed before Nitros Oxide can be challenged. Before I got that far I had to actually take part in my first race. I was terrible. I was trying to play CTR as if I was playing Mario Kart, and that is not the way to do things. Crash Team Racing is a game built around drifting. Sorry, power sliding. Mastering this is the key to progress. On the default scheme R1 and L1 act as the powerslide buttons. A quick press of one causes the character to hop if it’s held down whilst turning into the drift a power bar fills at the bottom right of the screen. Hitting the other button, with the right timing, gives a speed boost and then the bar fills again. This can be done up to 3 times per drift and really helps the kart get around the course quickly. I can’t stress enough how vital it is to learn this. Helpfully the smoke from the kart’s engine turns black when it’s time to boost.
Power sliding isn’t the only thing to help in the quest for number one. Jumping successfully from a ledge will also lead to a speed boost, and then there are the weapons collected from the classic Crash Bandicoot crates. Thankfully, there are no cheap items, like the blue shell, to help you get from last to first and this leaves things feeling quite balanced and fair. I won’t go through them all, but my favorite is the TNT crate. Crash into this and it attaches to your characters head, exploding unless you hop a number of times.
One last thing to mention here would be the Wumpa Fruit, Crash is addicted to these. In the platforming games, they give you extra lives, in Crash Team Racing they make the karts go faster once collecting 10 of them. They are also currency, in gold coin form, earned after races and used to unlock items in the pit stop.
Completing the races and taking down Oxide is just the beginning of the adventure mode and even getting this far can be a challenge. The levels have various traps, such as plants that eat you and pitfalls. They start off fairly easy, getting progressively harder. The last set of levels prove a nice challenge to get through. Each level also has CTR and Relic challenges that are available the whole way through, these need to be completed in order to obtain 100% completion and face the true final fight. These can be done throughout your playthrough and are used to unlock the gem cup races, however, I left them to the end and they are my favorite part of the game. CTR challenges require the player to come first in the race as well as collecting the letters C, T, and R on the way around. In some of the levels, they are pretty well hidden or a nuisance to reach, sometimes having to take various track shortcuts to reach them. I enjoyed them a lot and had a flashback to collecting the SKATE letters in Tony Hawks.
The Relic challenges are basically time trials in the vein of the N. Sane Trilogy with timer boxes that need to be smashed to stop the clock temporarily. Even with these, I found the times quite a challenge to beat, having to do certain levels over and over in order to improve my time and win. These challenges are exhilarating and really do make the game for me. They are a completionist’s dream where failure leads to that “just one more try” feeling. The hub worlds even have an extra task requiring all crystals to be collected. There’s plenty to be done and luckily, they can be done on any difficulty allowing players to play at a level that suits them. Trophy hunters beware, the adventure mode races need to be finished on hard, even if the challenges can be done across any level.
The hub world itself contributed to one annoyance I had with the game. After completing a challenge your kart is transported to a central area meaning you have to then drive back to the level to do the rest of it, I would have preferred the game to leave me next to it. It’s a minor grievance but still annoying. Anyway, that’s enough about adventure mode, let us move on to the multiplayer. I’m happy to say that this is offered online as well as in split-screen. I miss the days of frequent split-screen games and I’m glad it’s still included and that it plays so well. I found the online servers held up well too with everything running and looking just as beautiful as it does in single player. The multiplayer modes themselves are pretty much what you would expect, with a series of races and battles to be won. The battles pit two teams against each other in usual game modes such as capture the flag and deathmatch. There’s nothing unusual on offer, but everything that is here is a fun distraction from the single player. I could see the online races lasting for years to come, fingers crossed. Additionally, all the modes I’ve mentioned so far can be played in the arcade single player mode, across all the courses available, with new courses to come in the form of free DLC in July and beyond.
Having only played the original briefly (I regret this), I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the 2019 Crash Team Racing. I really don’t have too much to complain about. The bosses sometimes felt a bit cheap in adventure mode. With just the two of you on the track, they constantly spam projectiles at you and this can get very annoying at higher difficulties. Hard mode is very hard, especially the challenges, but this isn’t really a problem at all. For experts, it’s a good challenge and for newcomers, there’s a nice in between, or easy mode, with something to aim for in the future.
The whole package is presented beautifully with levels based on the best bits from the platform games, tight controls and fantastic, frantic music that really helps to up the ante. Seriously, the music here works better than music in most games and really adds to the experience, fitting the fast-paced gameplay perfectly.
I’ve been completely won over by such a charming, yet challenging game. I can see myself playing the multiplayer for years to come as well as going back to the hard difficulty in the adventure mode. If you’ve played this version or the original, let me know in the comments your thoughts. Do you love it, or will the little red plumber always reign supreme?
Verdict: For fans, the return of Crash Team Racing has been a long wait. Thankfully it’s worth it. With plenty of content, great controls and a number of difficulty levels available to suit all needs CTR makes a great addition to any game collection. Fans will love it and newcomers should too.
- Tight controls, smooth gameplay
- Plenty of content, with more coming
- Couch CO-OP as well as online
- A decent kart racer for non-Nintendo consoles
- Driving back to levels for another challenge is annoying.
- Some of the bosses feel cheap