CTR Nitro-Fueled - First Thoughts

It's still surreal to me. It's surreal to see Crash return to action, for sure, but what amazes me the most is that he's returned to form. Never in my life have I witnessed the orange dude getting this much love after his creators went on to do other things. And yet, amidst the trials and adventures that come with adulthood, Crash seems adamant on whisking me back to my early years, this time choosing the long Summer afternoons when I would race against my family.

Continuing the age-old tradition of including the word 'nitro' in racing titles, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled is to CTR what the N. Sane Trilogy was to the first three games: a full remake with updated graphics, new content, and added whistles and bells. Following some not-so-subtle hints floating around on social media, the reveal trailer dropped yesterday, and the game is slated for release on June 21, 2019 on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC (source: Crashy News). The studio behind this madness? Beenox. Their mission? To make one of the best racing games even better.

They're off to a good start.

Twenty Years Later

I thought I'd gotten used to current gen graphics by now, but watching the trailer's transition from the blocky PS1 visuals to what Nitro-Fueled has to offer was like putting on glasses for the first time, if you'll excuse the hyperbole. Papu's Pyramid has always been one of my favorite tracks in CTR, so watching this environment being given new life and such intricate details immediately made my jaw drop and my eyes bulge just a little. Here's an artist's impression of what I looked like when I woke up to this trailer.

This level of graphical fidelity is consistent in every second of the trailer, and it does extend to the playable cast many of us remember so dearly. Borrowing their designs from the N. Sane Trilogy, the Crash Team now has modern-day hardware to make up for the extremely limited pool of animations everyone shared back in 1999. This ensures that each character gets unique animations for every circumstance, not unlike Crash Tag Team Racing in the mid-2000s. Crash's oversized tongue flaps in the wind like a scarf, Coco has retained her increasingly iconic death glare from the N. Sane Trilogy, Pura is insanely adorable, and Cortex looks delightfully fiendish, as only a megalomaniac scientist would.

All of the little details make an outstanding difference, and though far from scarce, they don't distract from the action. Subtlety is the name of the game in this footage, and there were many things I only noticed after analyzing it almost frame by frame (because I'm weird like that). It's frankly quite impressive how much stuff all of the tracks have gained, with some of my favorite tidbits including sharks circling a crate with a seagull on top, the very appropriate reintroduction of Dingo's Diner and N. Gin's mech, someone hopelessly trying to row up a waterfall, and some really cool statues and graffiti designs decorating Tiny Arena. I was most impressed by this last track, since I always thought it looked very dull in the original, and the updated look makes for a refreshing and much needed contrast. It even has posters advertising the other tracks, which look cool, except one of them reads "Roo's Tube" (it should be plural), so now the entire game is ruined and you should cancel your pre-order immediately.

I should mention I'm only kidding, in case sarcasm isn't your forte (plus, the new name makes more sense anyway). But speaking of pre-orders, you can actually place yours right now on most retailers, including digital platforms. You'll even get a few small bonuses, including a dynamic theme and a couple of avatars on the PlayStation 4. The theme itself looks quite alright, but I'm personally more interested in the music you hear while using it. Since the trailer just uses generic stuff, it's the only in-game composition we've heard so far, but this new rendition of CTR's main menu is very faithful to the original audio while still sounding beefed up (it's all about that awesome bass). I've seen people point out that the marimba is a bit off in certain parts (missing notes and different pitches), but it still sounds very nice. I hope the rest of the soundtrack follows suit, since that was easily one of the most divisive updates in the N. Sane Trilogy. Failing that, we can only hope they take a page from Spyro: Reignited Trilogy and include an option to switch back to the original music. One way or another, it would be great to see Josh Mancell involved in some capacity this time around. I mean, he's posted pre-console mixes of his tracks before, and some of them, like Hot Air Skyway, include unused segments that I'd love to hear in the game.

More Than Nostalgia

Like the N. Sane Trilogy, you can expect new content to make it into this refueled version. The trailer highlights the unexpected ability to swap between different karts, which adds a little visual variety and makes me wonder if it'll affect each character's stats. Moreover, the presence of CNK vehicles doesn't just show Beenox's willingness to include new elements; for all we know, it might even foreshadow track adaptations from outside CTR.

It's actually been confirmed that new tracks will be present in the game, though whether they'll be lifted from CNK, made from scratch, or a combination of both remains to be seen. With DLC having already been promised, it wouldn't surprise me if the new tracks had to be downloaded separately. I just really hope it's not on-disc DLC like Stormy Ascent originally was, but the fact that Activision rectified that situation in the long run is the reason we shouldn't jump to conclusions.

Oh, and skins. Everyone loves skins. Those were a lot of fun in Crash Tag Team Racing, and I'm happy to see that feature making a comeback. Give me Crash's biker and pilot outfits, or maybe even an Evil Crash makeover. No signs of those right now, but we do know that the game's Nitros Oxide Edition includes the (apparently exclusive) skins named Star Crash, Star Coco, Star Cortex, and Nitros Oxide. This last one is a bit weird, because Nitros Oxide has additionally been confirmed as an actual playable character, so I'm not really sure what the skin is supposed to accomplish. (UPDATE: As suggested by Tyrannotitan on Twitter, this may just be referring to an extra skin for Oxide himself, so please disregard my idiotic confusion.)

Yes indeed, Oxide will finally be an unlockable character in CTR without the use of a GameShark code, and his spiffy hovercraft is joining the vehicle selection. Remember that vehicles are now shared between characters, so unless I'm misinterpreting things, you should be able to play as Oxide in a regular vehicle or anyone else in his hovercraft. The Nitros Oxide Edition unlocks both Oxide and his hovercraft from the start, letting you skip whatever process you'd need to do otherwise (I'm assuming you'll get both things by beating the game or so). More DLC will be included in this souped-up version, but those are all the details we have right now. Perhaps it will work like a sort of season pass?

With all of this in mind, it stands to reason that they might include characters that were never in CTR before, especially since DLC is confirmed. I'm sure fan favorites like Tawna, Nitrus Brio, or even another Spyro cameo would be welcomed with open arms, thus making an already decently-sized roster even bigger. Heck, Tawna could very easily turn into any of the trophy girls with the use of skins. That one's on the house, Beenox.

Intercontinental Couch Buddies

Of course, the single biggest reason a lot of people are excited about Nitro-Fueled is the addition of online play. Playing CTR with my buddies from the Crash Mania community has been a dream of mine for ages, and I can't express how happy I am with that prospect. Beating an online friend's time on the official leaderboard is fun and all, but to actually play against them is a horse of a different color. And Battle Mode, oh my goodness, online Battle Mode...! Be still, my heart.

While nothing concrete has been revealed about how online play will work, I'm assuming it will be similar to other games of this genre. Joining races with random people, playing against friends, holding tournaments, the works. If that last one holds true (and there's really no reason it shouldn't), you can expect me to make an official Crash Mania division with its own tournaments. It'll be a great chance to do more with people from overseas than just talk about why we love these games, bringing everyone together even closer.

The Little Things That Matter

It's impossible to tell how well CTR's gameplay will be recreated, but most people who've played it for a reasonable amount of time should recall the game's tight controls and deep mechanics. It's one of those games that keeps teaching you new tricks the more you play it, and the feel and weight of each character is perfect. That's why I've always been wary of a true remake of this game (doubly so after the N. Sane Trilogy missed the mark on so many aspects, thanks to a more rushed development cycle than this game seems to be going through).

Thankfully, the creative director at Beenox, Thomas Wilson, seems to have the right idea. In a post from the official PlayStation blog, he makes it a point to let fans know how much they're striving for authenticity:

Our first design pillar in approaching this game was strikingly obvious: Authenticity. Whatever improvements or bells and whistles we were going to add, we needed to be authentic to the inspiration of the original experience.
— Thomas Wilson (source)

Those are reassuring words, and things are looking A-OK from what little they've shown. At the same time, I don't think it hurts to expect a few differences here and there, so long as it still feels like CTR. That's the most important thing in this kind of remake.

On the other hand, changes aren't inherently bad, and I do hope the new game adheres to certain sensibilities that we sometimes take for granted. For instance, subtitles should be present not just for Ripper Roo this time around, because there's no excuse not to have them in this day and age, and Crash really needs to get with the times in that regard. Oh, and while it doesn't seem to be worrisome in the trailer, I do hope they don't end up going nuts with the motion blur (or at least give us an option to turn it off, as every developer should). Better to keep these things in mind from the start, I believe.

The Finish Line

Well, that's about all I have to say about Nitro-Fueled right now (I'm actually surprised I had this much to discuss when all we have is a minute-long trailer). The original CTR remains one of my favorite games of all time, and to say I'm hyped up for this would be quite the understatement. June 21 can't come fast enough, and in the meantime, I can only wonder what Beenox's full plans are and what Vicarious Visions is doing in the meantime. The fact that this is not being developed by them makes it pretty obvious that the next Crash game is already in the works, and I'd sooner eat my proverbial hat than believe it's yet another remake. Exciting times are ahead!


CHACHOOGI | December 8, 2018 - 04:55 PM
So stoked for this! Like you said, I really hope they have subtitles this time around and I also hope there's an option for the original OST like Spyro Reignited.

Samno | December 8, 2018 - 06:48 PM
I'm super excited! Mostly for the new stuff - the skins, new karts, new courses, and hopefully new characters. If I had to quibble, I'd say I'm slightly disappointed that they've completely recycled everyone's N. Sane Trilogy models, as one of the most exciting things for me when a new game is released is getting to see cool new alternative versions of our favourite Marsupials. All in all, can't wait to see what's in store.

Wickon | December 9, 2018 - 06:25 AM
Did you notice how the Team Cortex kart from CNK doesn't retain its handlebars but rather uses a steering wheel? (pictured above)

SrRayman | December 9, 2018 - 10:07 PM
Looks interesting, can't wait for the new Crash Team Racing.

HP Zoner | December 11, 2018 - 06:08 PM
@Wickon Yes, I did notice that. I'm sure it's because it cuts down on work tremendously, since having handlebars would force them to make an extra set of animations for each character (as karts are swappable now). They didn't have to worry about that in CNK, because there was only one kart type per character.

Wickon | December 12, 2018 - 03:31 AM
@HP Zoner Makes sense! By the way, I assume Oxide's hovercraft will be swappable too, as it is listed as a separate item in the Nitros Oxide Edition.

Fuuma | December 16, 2018 - 09:47 AM
Woah! So glad to see this finally happen! The new visuals look amazing and I can't wait to see what the brand new tracks are going to look like. Here's hoping they add at least N. Brio, Koala Kong, Tawna, Komodo Moe and Baby-T to the roster (and why not Spyro as well given his recent well-received return). While I would've liked to have seen Vicarious Visions handle the game, I'm okay with Beenox as well, especially since now there's a chance the former is actually working a brand new Crash platformer game in the meantime... in any case, interesting times are ahead, fellow Bandicoot fans!

BlueGem | January 24, 2019 - 12:43 AM
I would love if they take some contents from CNK & CTTR , and put them in good use . I would love to see character from ps2 games Nina , Crunch , Pasadena o'possum & N.trance to playable . If Mario 8 can have both classic and modern characters , Sonic also , why can't have Crash then ?? it's better for more appeal , expanding the franchise universe , and more content beyond nostalgia. Of course anything under good hands will turn good , and anything under bad hands , will turn bad .

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