If you’re anything like me, when you have free time, you find your self wondering, “What separates a successful kart racer from an unsuccessful one?” After banging my head against the wall for an hour, I brushed the plaster off my head with an answer: a strong identity. When making the original Crash Team Racing, the team at Naughty Dog went beyond making a generic racing game with Crash Bandicoot painted over it. They inserted what made Crash great into a new genre. Here in 2019, and published by Activision, Beenox took the soul of the original and evolved it, with Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled.

Crash And His Crazy Cheese – Story

The story of Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, shows the cast of the Crash Bandicoot series taking a day off from thwarting plans of world domination. What do the good guys and bad guys happen to have in common in this kart racing game? They all like to race karts! (Imagine that…)

Nitrous Oxide, the racing tentacle alien himself, comes down to Earth with a proposal. If the Earth’s fastest racer can defeat him, he won’t turn the Earth into a parking lot. Crash and the gang immediately get to work on upgrading their karts for the contest of the century.

If you remember how it was previously stated that Crash Team Racing wasn’t just a generic kart racer with Crash splashed onto it, this argument starts with the story. Crash Bandicoot has never been about the story. Every world domination plot has always been an excuse to showcase the uniquely vibrant and colorful characters and locations that inhabit Crash’s world. And CTR Nitro-Fueled is no different. The story is good cheese, but it gives space for the tight controls and wacky characters that the series is known for.

A Lived In World – Graphics

While the original was limited by the hardware limitations of the PS1, Activision and Beenox did a wonderful job in this new generation. They truly brought the characters and world of Crash to life. Blocky textures and empty landscapes have been enhanced from the ground up. Papu’s Pyramid, for example, went from looking pretty empty to looking like a landscape out of a Pixar film.

Image provided by Activision

Characters no longer have just one expression, and have been given new life. They look similar to their upgraded appearances from the N Sane Trilogy released a couple of years ago. In 1999, CTR did something that not even its inspiration, Diddy Kong Racing, managed. It made you feel like the locations you raced in existed in the world of the franchise. You know these characters and locations. And with Nitro-Fueled, they look even better. It cannot be stated enough that the familiarity and personality of these places and characters shines through, and makes a great game even better.

Wumpa My Ride – In-Game Currency and Customization

Where the game modes and features of the CTR of old were heavily inspired by Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong RacingCrash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled takes some cues from Mario Kart 8 as well. With Nitro-Fueled you earn wumpa coins, which you can use to purchase bodies, colors, wheels, stickers and decals for your kart.

One could choose to see the fact that changing the components of your kart does not affect your karts’ stats, as a negative. I, for one, don’t. Keeping the stats bound to the character makes it so you don’t have to worry that a kart part you like is going to ruin how it runs.

Crash Team Racing And Beyond – Extra Content

Kart components are not the only thing you can purchase. You can also buy the ability to play as all of the characters from CTR’s 2003 sequel Crash Nitro Kart as well. You can use them in any single or multiplayer mode.

As if all of this weren’t enough, Beenox included all of the racetracks from that game as well for free. Adding to the original’s low track count (comparatively to modern racing games, anyway) was a refreshing and necessary addition.

Image Provided By Activision

While my experience with Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled was mostly positive, that’s not to say that there aren’t things that hold it back somewhat. The in-game store is one of them. I feel like you don’t earn enough wumpa coins per race. When you only earn 40 coins per win, and the mid-range items in the shop cost about 2,500 coins, progression feels slow.

The shop also doesn’t let you buy what you want when you want it. A time counter runs, even when your system is off, and the options of what to buy change after every countdown. It would have been nice to be able to buy what you want when you want it. A simple solution could have been to make the criteria for unlocking certain items and characters different than just purchasing them. Maybe Activision and Beenox could’ve added entire sets of prizes as an award to extra races in Adventure Mode.

Crash and His Many Modes – Game Modes

Yes, the Adventure Mode was inspired by the mode of the same name from Diddy Kong Racing. You drive on the over-world to each race entrance and use the collectible you earn in each race to progress to the final showdown with the final boss. But don’t forget that this has Crash’s strong identity. Even in the original Bandicoot trilogy, the joy was in collecting every relic, gem, and crystal. Nitro-Fueled is no different.

CTR Nitro-Fueled has the spirit of Crash Bandicoot that has you wanting to collect and unlock everything in your path. It makes you want to go one more race, just to unlock that last kart component or character. It is quite fun and addictive.

Adventure mode is not the only way to play, however. By yourself or with friends, you can race in a single match or an entire cup made up of four races. You can duke it out in battle mode or beat your fastest times in the time trials. But wait, there’s more! You can also race in special kinds of races from Adventure Mode, where you can collect all of the time boxes, giving you the lowest time possible to earn a relic. You can collect all of the crystals in a time limit, or just race a normal track while having to collect special “CTR” tokens in specific spots on the course.

Learning The Secrets – Game Mechanics

There is no shortage of things to do, but it all comes down to the mechanics of the game, which are quite different from that of Mario Kart. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled focuses more on strategy than its contemporaries. The goal is to chain together as many drift boosts as possible in the most ideal spots on the track to win the race.

Like its peers, CTR has many shortcuts to exploit. However, CTR goes beyond. It is amazing that the CTR Token Mode mentioned earlier is a great way to learn where the shortcuts are. Often times, the only way to collect all three letters is to find the shortcuts. Other kart racers might be just as fun, but none match the strategy or skill promoted in Nitro-Fueled.

Unfortunately, again it’s not all positive. The game can feel cheap at times with a rubberbanding mechanic. This means that no matter how far away you are from second place, they are likely to catch up to you with a missile or homing attack. A few too many times, I found myself in second place after having been in the lead for most of the race. The game is so fun, however, that I didn’t mind doing the race again.

Image Provided By Activision

Boosting Blunders – Controls

A certain aspect that I cannot so easily forgive includes the control options. I wish that the game included the option to customize the controls. Drift boosting is extremely difficult for me, in particular, because of my minor case of cerebral palsy. There are two options for controls, but both involve the L1 button as one of the drifting buttons. With both buttons necessary to drift boost, this made things annoying. I had a particularly hard time making it up to the first ship during the CTR mission on Crash Cove.

Boo-Yah Grandma! – Verdict

I’m not going to mince words. This game is fantastic. Even with minor annoyances, I still had a fantastic time.

There might not be more than two options for controls. There is every racetrack from both Crash Team Racing and Crash Nitro Kart, beautifully recreated in 4K resolution for the current generation. The rubberbanding might be annoying, but the races are so fun that I didn’t care for long. If you don’t like kart racers, this game might not change your mind. If you do like them, you should definitely give Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled a try, especially if you were a fan of the original. It takes what’s great about Crash Bandicoot and puts it into the kart racing genre.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is available on PS4, Xbox One and Switch. If you want more reviews from me and the rest of the awesome people here at Culture of Gaming, you can find more at OpenCritic.com!

THE GOOD
The heart of the Crash Bandicoot series can be felt in every aspect
More strategic than typical kart racers with secrets and drift boosting
Variety of modes
Beautiful graphics
Lots to unlock
THE BAD
Only two control options
AI rubberbanding can feel cheap at times
Shop timer limits what purchases you can make
Races don’t earn enough game currency
8.5
Great

Review Summary

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is, straight up, fun. While small hindrances exist that can be annoying, the game’s love of the source material shines through with beautiful 4K graphics, lots to do, and ways to teach you strategy as you play. If you love the original, or even just Crash Bandicoot, definitely pick it up.

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