Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 21.07.2019

Review for Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled on PlayStation 4

Just under two years ago, developer Vicarious Visions let loose the lovable but long absent Crash on the current console generation via Crash Bandicoot: N-Sane Trilogy, a modernised overhaul of his first three outings. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, it was a raging success that eventually went on to shift ten million copies for its delighted publisher, Activision. Needless to say, the prospect of a re-mastered version of the furry little critter's PS1 kart racing endeavours was more a case of 'when' rather than 'if' and, luckily for Activision, a looming 20th Anniversary provided the perfect marketing hook to do just that. Fulfilling developer duties this time around are long standing subsidiary studio Beenox, which had expertly utilised its years of porting experience to create a solid update to a much loved old classic. Time to hit the starting grid and practice those power slides ... it's Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled.

So… has the sixteen years confined to a dusty storage locker in Activision HQ dampened the titular marsupial's driving skills, or has this period of enforced exile honed his Bowling Bomb aim to previously untapped levels? Well thankfully Beenox has remained respectful of the source material, and delivered a generously crammed package, brimming with great fan service for those hardcore retro heads that never stopped grinding these circuits, while simultaneously tightening up the original play mechanics to cater to a more modern audience.

Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is a remake of the highly regarded Crash Team Racing that has been further bolstered with additional tracks and content from Crash Nitro Kart. It's hard to believe that the original CTR came out last century (yikes) but at the time of release it was actually the first real challenger to Mario Kart 64. Twenty years is a long time when measured in video game innovation, so as one might expect, the original title has been subjected to quite an extensive overhaul that pops visually with its vibrant colour palette and cartoon-like aesthetic. While it's a shame that Beenox couldn't quite hit the magical 60fps that feels like the sweet spot with driving games, it does maintain a rock solid 30fps without any noticeable frame rate dips, and still manages to pack in a lot of nice background detail while doing so.

Screenshot for Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled on PlayStation 4

CTR is blessed with an abundance of modes, and has a little something for everybody. Adventure is the lengthy campaign mode which sees a series of increasingly tougher events taking place through five different hub worlds, each requiring a victory in order to gain access to the area's boss battle. Once the localised boss is despatched the previous tracks can be tackled as a CTR Challenge (find the hidden 'C,''T,' and 'R' letters then win) or a Relic Race (finish three laps under an allocated time to earn a Relic with each crate collected briefly stopping the clock). The entire endeavour is geared up to a final showdown with the evil bad guy, Nitrous Oxide, who has nefarious designs on turning Earth into a parking lot for his alien fleet. This provides the bulk of the single player experience, and Beenox has thoughtfully provided two ways to tackle this.

For those approaching this from a nostalgic angle there is an option to play it in its Classic form, driving one character/kart all the way to the end of the campaign like the 1999 original. Of course the Nitro-Fueled option provides a more up to date experience that allows character/kart swapping at any point (different class stat attributes vary between drivers) as well as the ability to change the skill setting. All progress made during the course of the Adventure is rewarded with a wide variety of unlocks, ranging from new characters, skins, kart models, wheels and decals, offering a level of customisation and flair that can shown off in both on and offline matches.

Local Arcade provides an ad hoc option to quickly set up and hop onto any track in the game using custom settings such as AI difficulty, laps, number of drivers and type of race (be it regular, CTR Challenge, Relic or Time Trial). Social butterflies with a few buddies to hand can play split screen, with up to four participants here and the availability of a selection of preset cup competitions makes destroying friendships that little bit more organised and satisfying. That's not all though as Battle Mode eschews the looping circuits in favour of more gladiatorial arenas, for some Twisted Metal-style car combat. All the classics are here: Capture the Flag, Limit Battle, Last Kart Standing, Crystal Grab, and... err, Steal the Bacon. Having trouble finding opponents to battle against? Hop online and enjoy getting destroyed 24/7 by the already freakishly good CTR community, and maybe even spark up few fresh grudges with strangers in the process. This is all well and good but how does it handle?

Screenshot for Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled on PlayStation 4

Well, one of the first things that's immediately noticeable about Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is its difficulty level which definitely feels in need of a slight re-calibration to redress the balance between skill settings. Selecting 'Easy' makes the game almost embarrassingly devoid of challenge with all the competition seemingly fully comprised of docile, unaggressive Sunday drivers just tootling about, enjoying the scenery, happy to drive into whatever pitfall is thrown at them. Crank it up a notch to 'Medium' and it's a completely different story altogether. There's a very noticeable hike in the AI's skill level, as the previously passive bot-controlled drivers gain a ferocious hostility that never lets up for the entire race. It can be brutal at times, especially when combined with the previously absent rubber banding that makes maintaining a healthy lead a seriously tough endeavour. All too often it ends up being a case of defeat snatched from the jaws of victory in the dying seconds of the race. If repeatedly losing a race by a Bandicoot's whisker is proving to be frustrating at this point, then it's probably best to steer well clear of the 'Hard' setting altogether. Punishing is putting it lightly. While the classic internet insult 'get good' does seem a justified and appropriate response to this revelation, it doesn't really address the jarring differences between each incremental skill floor.

Truth be told, the over proliferation of low budget, low challenge kart racers that have landed on the PS4 over the years, probably hasn't done the best job of paving the way for Crash's triumphant return, so the fact that this does present a bit of a challenge probably isn't such a bad thing really. There is actually a surprising amount of depth to the control system with numerous advanced techniques to master that can be the crucial difference between being a good driver or being a great driver that consistently romps to victory. For example, initiating a power slide around a corner gives a series of visual cues to tap the alternate slide button which, if done three times in a row successfully, will fire up the turbo boosters for a short period. It's tricky but if these boosts are continuously chained together within the brief window of opportunity a reserve tank is activated that continues to up the speed for as long as the rhythm is maintained. Similarly, more boosts can be generated by Trick Jumping, which simply involves timing a jump at the end of a slope or ramp that kicks up the velocity temporarily upon landing. Speaking of landing, good use of air brakes during flight/prior to hitting the dirt can really assist on those tight corners, so best get memorising those track layouts.

Screenshot for Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled on PlayStation 4

Weapon crates are plentiful, and contain a wide variety of tools that can be deployed against fellow combatants, either by aiming/firing towards the intended target, or dropping it behind in the blind hope that the nearest tailgater drives straight into it. Smart drivers can use offensive weapons defensively by tactically leaving them - Beakers, TNT, Nitro crates - in the path of incoming Tracking Missiles or Bowling Bombs. Again, it's all in the timing. Driving into a TNT crate might feel like a guaranteed position displacement, but getting a quick succession of hops in before the crate delivers its payload will actually loosen it, tossing it back into the road from whence it came. Some crates also contain Wumpa Fruit which don't do a great deal when collected individually, but amassing ten of these nutritious items increases the maximum speed of the kart, and optimises the effectiveness of any power ups activated.

It's a delicate balance, though, as incoming hits cause a loss of some of the fruit being held, meaning that most events end up devolving into a scrumping session just to maintain peak performance - as if there wasn't enough to deal with already. Each finished event pays out Wumpa coins, which can be spent on premium customisation items from a small selection that change every 24 hours. Given that some of these items can cost over 4000 Wumpas, and the average race pays out between 30-40 Wumpas, then it doesn't take a genius to work out that the grind is real. This is something that will apparently be addressed in the next patch update, however, so there's a fair chance that this will end up evolving into another Micro-transaction Trojan horse at some point, mainly because it's Activision. It's how they get ya!

Screenshot for Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Up until now Mario has been bombing along on cruise control relatively unchallenged, lobbing Koopa shells at nearby drivers, with little cause to look in his rear view mirror. Well, that party has now been well and truly Crashed... maybe not the phrase to use when speaking about a driving game, but this is a rivalry that needed to be re-ignited just to bring some long overdue competition to the genre. Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is a high-octane blast that is rich in content, and a ton of fun to play. While the occasional difficulty spike can frustrate at times, Beenox have promised a series of free, seasonal updates that contain new tracks, customisations, and events, giving everybody plenty of opportunity to "get good."

Developer

Beenox

Publisher

Activision

Genre

Driving

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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