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Crash Team Racing is one of my favorite kart racing games of all time. It’s fun, silly, and has aged very well. It was followed up by a sequel in 2003 called Crash Nitro Kart. It follows the same formula and the mechanics are basically unchanged. I found it to be more challenging than its predecessor but in my opinion, it’s not as polished. Developed by Beenox and published by Activision, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled was released for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch in June, 2019. For this review, I played the PS4 version because it has exclusive content. Nitro-Fueled a remaster or remake of Crash Team Racing and also includes content from Crash Nitro Kart and Crash Tag Team Racing. It supports up to four players locally, comes with online multiplayer, over fifty playable characters, and about forty tracks to race on.
The Adventure mode from Crash Team Racing returns but now you can select a difficulty and there’s two ways to play through it. The Classic version is just like the Adventure mode in the original game. Whatever character you choose, you’re stuck with and there’s no customization. The Nitro-Fueled version allows you to switch between any unlocked characters and customize them before races. The plot is unchanged but the cut scenes were redone and there’s new voice performances. The story goes that an alien known as Nitros Oxide threatens to turn the Earth into a concrete parking lot unless the fastest racer on the planet can beat him. You progress through the Adventure just like you did in the original. Everything from winning trophies to Gem Cups is here. While I appreciate the developers keeping the Adventure mode intact, I do wish it was expanded considering characters and tracks from Crash Nitro Kart are present. You can race as any of the Nitro Kart characters if they’re unlocked but you can only race on the tracks in the other game modes.
Nitro-Fueled allows you to customize your characters and karts. You can choose different characters and character skins, kart bodies, wheels, paint jobs, and stickers and you’ll unlock these things as you play the game. You’ll fill up your Nitro Gauge and earn Wumpa Coins for participating in races and battles. The Nitro Gauge is like an experience system and you’ll unlock specific things for reaching certain Nitro Tiers. Furthermore, some of the unlockable characters and customization items grant you bonus Nitro. The amount of things you can unlock in this game is impressive and just playing through the Adventure won’t even unlock half the characters. You can spend Wumpa Coins to unlock additional characters and customization items in the Pit Stop. This is where microtransactions comes in. I know that’s considered a bad word and I’m not a huge fan, myself. To be clear, you can unlock almost everything without spending a dime but because you don’t earn a lot of coins from races and battles, it’s going to be a grind. The alternative is to spend real money on Wumpa Coins. I know. Pure evil, right? Honestly, my biggest issue with this isn’t even the microtransactions. It’s the fact you need an internet connection to access the Pit Stop.
There’s over fifty playable characters which includes the characters from Crash Team Racing and Nitro Kart. You can even race as Spyro and the flag or trophy girls from Crash Team Racing. Nitro-Fueled has changed the way you unlock certain characters. For example, you unlock bosses simply by beating them in the Adventure mode. And now you can race as Nitros Oxide. If you keep the driving style set to Classic, each character will have their own stats in speed, acceleration, and turn. However, there are multiple driving styles to select from and if you choose anything other than Classic, it will change the stats of whatever character you select. It’s significant because it means characters and karts are cosmetic. Crash can have the same stats as Tiny and Nitros Oxide can have the same stats as Coco, and you can change driving styles before races. It’s actually really cool.
The mechanics from Crash Team Racing are present. You can accelerate, turn, brake, drive in reverse, hop, power slide, and perform power slide boosts and power slide boosting is the key to winning races. You start a power slide and when the turbo meter turns red, you can activate a boost. You can do this three times in a row during a power slide. Hopping at the top of ramps and inclines will result in air and the more air you get, the more of a boost you’ll get when you land. I’ve read an article or two that mentions a learning curve. I really didn’t understand it because I don’t find the original game to be that that difficult. It’s all about mastering the power slide boosting which I don’t think is that hard to do. It wasn’t until Jeremy acquired the game and we discussed our experiences with it that I started to understand this whole “learning curve” thing. I played the original a lot as a kid so it’s easy for me to jump into the game and get comfortable. If you’re coming off other kart racers with different drifting or power slide mechanics and have never played this, it’s going to feel different and may take time to get used to. However, this only applies to those really looking to master the game. Nitro-Fueled is very accessible and should appeal to a wide audience. Whether you win or lose, you’re usually rewarded with something whether it be Nitro, Wumpa Coins, or customization items. And in the Adventure mode, I was always unlocking something. Nitro-Fueled gives you plenty of reasons to keep playing and the gameplay is a lot of fun.
Scattered around the tracks are crates that will contain power-ups or Wumpa Fruits and in the Nitro Kart tracks are special crates that activate or change something on the tracks when broken. Every now and then, you’ll come across Glowing Crates which contain a rare or golden Wumpa. Once broken, the Wumpa flies out and you have to catch it. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with bonus Wumpa Coins at the end of the race. All of the power-ups from Crash Team Racing are present and collecting ten Wumpa Fruits will juice them up or make them more powerful. Even the power-ups previously exclusive to the battle mode return except in Nitro-Fueled the Super Engine power-up was made available in Online races. Some power-ups can be fired forwards and backwards and many of them can be used offensively and defensively. If you know a tracking missile or bowling bomb is coming for you, lay down an explosive crate or beaker at the right time to block it. The Power Shield will not only protect you but it doubles as a projectile. In my experience, the opponent AI never seems to get power-ups like the Warp Orb or N. Tropy Clock. At least not on the Medium difficulty. On Hard, I saw them use both. Also, the power-ups in single player don’t always feel balanced. I could be in second and would get things like the Warp Orb or Invincibility Mask.
I think the added option of selecting difficulty levels for the Adventure mode is a good thing because if you mastered the mechanics and memorized the tracks in the original game, it wasn’t really hard to win races. At least in my experience. I played through the Nitro-Fueled Adventure mode on Medium and I found the gameplay to be more challenging but still leaned towards the easy side. I found the bosses to be the most challenging AI opponents since they constantly drop power-ups like beakers and explosive crates behind them or they’ll fire bombs. Most of the time, I didn’t have any trouble but if the game doesn’t want you to win, it’s not always subtle about it. In some races, I would become the victim of an onslaught of attacks or a series of them. For example, a missile would hit me, then maybe a bomb, then when I would recover and an opponent would drop something right in front of me. Thankfully, this didn’t happen often and if I lost the lead it was usually my own fault. There is definitely rubber banding going on but if you have the tracks memorized and have the power slide boosting down, it can be easy to gain a significant lead so that even if you mess up, you’re still far enough ahead that opponents can’t catch up with you. I did play through a Cup on Hard just to see how difficult the gameplay is and it’s actually quite challenging. The AI doesn’t mess around. It’s a significant jump in difficulty, too. I would struggle to stay in the top five.
I was able to participate in several online races. I even won a few. Unfortunately, you can’t set up Cup Races or even choose from the large roster of tracks. It gives you several to vote on and that’s it. There was a series of limited time Grand Prix events and they each came with new content like characters, tracks, and customization items and best of all, they were free. The Gasmoxia Grand Prix was the last one as of this review and I bought the game while it was still going. Whether you missed out on the events or not, you’ll receive the content that comes with them either way. Luckily, there’s numerous game modes to play through whether you’re playing solo or with others locally. Jeremy, Matt, and I played in the Single Race and Cup Race modes. The Cups consist of a series of tracks where your finishing position determines how many points you earn. Whoever has the most points at the end of a Cup wins. And there’s a lot of Cups to choose from. In Single Race, you can choose to race on any track of your choosing. Whether it’s a Single Race or Cup Race, you can select the difficulty, set up your racer, and enable mirrored tracks if you so desire. Time Trial returns and the goal is to try and set record times on each track. If you get a low enough time, you’ll unlock the N. Tropy ghost and beating it will unlock the Nitros Oxide ghost. You can now partake in Relic Races, CTR Challenges, and Crystal Challenges outside of the Adventure mode and Ring Rally is a new mode added in one of the updates. The objective is to drive through as many rings as possible before the timer reaches zero. Driving through a ring grants you points, a boost, and adds more time to the clock. I actually found this mode to be pretty addictive.
The Battle mode allows you to play with AI opponents. The game comes with battle arenas from both Crash Team Racing and Nitro Kart and there’s multiple battle modes to select from. You can battle it out for points, there’s a Capture the Flag mode, a Last Kart Driving mode, in the Crystal Grab mode the objective is to collect more crystals than your opponents, and then there’s Steal the Bacon which is just a one-flag Capture the Flag type of mode. You can customize the battles by selecting how many players, AI opponents, set up a time limit, point limit, how many lives, you can set up teams, and you can enable or disable individual power-ups. I appreciate the amount of tweakable options and allowing players to play against bots is pretty cool in my opinion.
There’s around forty tracks in the game. The PlayStation 4 version comes with an exclusive track called Retro Stadium which is just a pixelated-looking version of the Turbo Track. The pixelated look is supposed to make veterans go “ooh, nostalgia” but in reality, I would have preferred a brand new track. The Adventure mode won’t expose you to half of the total tracks available, only those from Crash Team Racing. You can race on the Nitro Kart and bonus tracks in the other game modes. One of the bonus tracks is Spyro Circuit. It’s set in the Spyro universe. Crates are Chests and Wumpa Fruits are gems. It’s awesome. There’s another bonus track with dinosaurs. If you’ve played the previous games, all of the returning tracks should be familiar. The layouts and hazards are the same, they’ve just received a facelift. Needless to say, there’s a good variety of tracks. My only gripe is that the anti-gravity parts of the Nitro Kart tracks were removed. But I’m guessing this is because there are numerous different karts available including different hover karts.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a colorful and gorgeous looking game. The characters and environments are extremely well detailed, the animations are great, the textures are crisp, and the visual effects are excellent. There are some added effects which make the impact of attacks look and feel more satisfying. As you race around the tracks, you’ll see different creatures doing things in the backgrounds, and there’s new foliage, buildings, and other things added in that breathe more life into the environments. All of the music from the previous games is present here. You can switch between the original and remastered versions and it all sounds great. The soundtrack consists of very catchy and whimsical tunes that match the game’s cartoon-y style. I found the sound effects to be pretty good, overall. Some of the karts sound weak but the sounds of explosions and opponents making contact with power-ups are satisfying. There’s a nice rumbling sound when bombs are rolling around. The characters will shout and spout lines during races and whenever I heard Fake Crash, I would chuckle. Dude sounds goofy as fuck. I love it. The audiovisual presentation really nails the silly and cartoon-y aesthetic. On the technical side, I did play this on a PS4 Pro and did not encounter any bugs but the load times are quite long and that’s my biggest issue with the game. On the plus side, I didn’t notice any frame rate dips. The gameplay was smooth even when playing in splitscreen.
I love Nitro-Fueled. I think it’s one of the best games for the PlayStation 4. The microtransactions do suck but the sheer amount of content available is impressive and most of it is free. As of this review, there’s only one DLC you would have to pay for. The post-release support for this game has been incredible and the result is one of the best kart racing games available for the eight-generation. There’s a ridiculous amount of characters to race as, an excellent variety of tracks to race on, you can play with others online or locally, and I welcome all the additional game modes and features. I really enjoy the customization and how the game is constantly rewarding you. There’s a crazy amount of shit to unlock. I do wish the Adventure mode was extended with additional areas to accommodate all of the Nitro Kart tracks and the long load times can be annoying. But I don’t have many negative things to say about Nitro-Fueled. I enjoyed every second of it.
I would absolutely recommend Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled to fans of the previous games and the genre in general. It has become one of my favorite kart racing games of all time. If you’re one to go for one hundred percent completion, set record times on every track, and/or just like to try and experience everything, Nitro-Fueled should keep you occupied for quite some time. Overall, it’s a great package with plenty of reasons to keep you playing. Definitely check it out.