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Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled - Overview

With the success of the N. Sane Trilogy, it's not too surprising to see the beloved Crash Team Racing being given the same remake treatment. There is a lot to experience in Beenox's recreation of Crash's first racing game, so fasten your seatbelts!

Crash Bandicoot and Neo Cortex drive small karts on top of a wooden bridge in a sunny jungle. Like the N. Sane Trilogy, Nitro-Fueled ups the ante in visual fidelity.

Detail is the name of the game in Nitro-Fueled. From the very moment you start the game, everything feels like it was lovingly and masterfully crafted, whether it's Crash failing to hold his grin for too long in the title screen, the dozens of unique characters and events around race tracks, the subtle jingle when you unlock something, or the 70 pages worth of Activision's policies that you must agree to when it's your first time starting the game (and no, that's not an exaggeration; there are literally 70 pages of the stuff).

This remake of CTR sports all-new graphics that fall in line with the N. Sane Trilogy, yet the stronger art direction, cartoonier effects, and more considerate lighting make it the clear winner as far as visuals go. No two tracks look the same, and the amount of cosmetic additions makes each environment feel like it's telling a story of its own, from the Viking village set in Polar Pass, to the train chugging along in Dingo Canyon, or even the stylish graffiti-laden walls of the once plain-looking Tiny Arena. No Crash game released prior had half as much fun stuff going on in so many places, making the world you're racing in feel truly alive. It doesn't get distracting in the middle of the action, and curious explorers who take some time to soak in the atmosphere will be surprised by how many humorous things are going on outside the track boundaries. Things like an opera-singing fish, a DJ polar bear, a lab assistant being held captive by Pinstripe's goons inside a diner, and a whole lot of chickens (what's with Canadian Crash studios and poultry?) It's a large part of the game's new identity, and while it still looks like CTR, it also feels like Beenox made this game their own.

Tiny Tiger, N. Gin, and Crash Bandicoot race in a purple, lightly-brit futuristic metropolis.All of the characters have unique animations that fit them to a T.

The attention to detail extends to the playable cast, naturally. Taking a cue from Radical Entertainment's Crash Tag Team Racing, each character has several unique and lively animations, and the presence of unlockable skins also lets you pick alternate colors and outfits, some of which even have unique victory animations. It's an absolutely impressive leap from the stiff and simplistic movements of the original CTR's blocky models. Seeing these characters display such rich and distinct personalities is a treat, as even those that used to be more subdued are now oozing with charm.

Though CTR was never a story-heavy game, the cutscenes that play for each boss are substantially improved. Instead of each boss merely talking to you in their kart, they all know how to make a grand entrance in the remake, showing just how much the cast benefits from the more powerful hardware. Not only that, but there are finally subtitles for the all the cutscenes, something that was usually only present in certain games that had no voiced dialogue. It only took the series two decades!

A moonlit jungle area surrounded by ancient ruins.The environments feature a level of detail unmatched by any previous Crash games.

And despite how beautiful it all looks, the only compromise here, if you can even call it that, is a frame rate firmly locked at 30 FPS across all consoles. Not only is the action stable with no dips or slowdowns, but it's also consistent across every game mode on every console, regardless of how many people are playing. In addition to the stable frame rate, the game employs a motion blur technique similar to the one seen in the N. Sane Trilogy, so you can see everything you need with clarity (though an option to turn it off would still be welcome). Indeed, the graphics are undeniably one of the game's strongest selling points, and even on the Nintendo Switch, where the level of detail isn't quite as high, it's still a visual splendor.

The music, one of the most polarizing aspects from the previous remake, is another improvement. The new audio tracks still take a lot of artistic liberties, but they're generally more faithful to the source material. The presence of dynamic layers only sweetens the deal, and it's fun to notice certain changes taking place depending on your current placement (such as the added accordion when you're on the pirate ship in Crash Cove, or the heavy percussion as you drive over the grating in N. Gin Labs). Moreover, some of the repeated themes now have unique instrumentation, so each boss has his own variation, for example. But even though there are plenty of incentives for choosing the new soundtrack, it's also totally optional — the original 1999 soundtrack by Josh Mancell is still here, and you can easily switch to it from the options menu, even if you're already in a race. Now that's getting the best of both worlds.

Crash and the others race in tube-shaped environment located underwater.The gameplay mechanics like boost reserves and power-sliding are very faithfully recreated.

So how does it play? If you're a fan of the original game, you'll know how important the mechanics were, and thankfully, Beenox had its fair share of old-time fans working on the game, including creative director Thomas Wilson. Everything that gave CTR its own unique identity is faithfully recreated, and most differences you may find are either harmless or positive. If you know the original game like the back of your hand, it won't take you long to get used to Nitro-Fueled, and it's great to see a fine-tuned return of all the mechanics that made the original game stand the test of time. The controls are still the same, and while it's no longer possible to accelerate with the right analog stick, there is a new alternate control scheme that you're encouraged to try.

Besides the basic stuff like power-sliding and everything it entails, the more secret techniques the game doesn't tell you about are still present and accounted for, so rest assured you can still air-brake (and more easily as well), stack up boost reserves, and achieve different turbo levels, which are now more clearly indicated by the color of your kart's pipe flames (red being the slowest speed, yellow ranking above that, and blue being the insanely fast juice you get from super turbo pads). Other things are also made more obvious; besides an optional HUD that gives you more information, you can turn on "Nitro Wheels" that light up when you're power-sliding, letting you know you can do a boost (in addition to the kart's smoke turning black and the power-slide bar filling up, as usual). Another nice change is the ability to see each character's stats before any match, instead of in Adventure mode only. Yet, for some reason, you still have to manually change the camera every race if you prefer the pulled-out view.

In a Mayan-pyramid-type setting, Papu Papu drives his kart fiercely, while Pura looks concerned as he's about to run over a bubbling beaker with green liquid.All of the original power-ups and items are back.

A very useful addition is being able to change driving styles, regardless of which character you're playing as. Even though all the characters still have their own default driving styles, this is now an option that you can change before each match, meaning you'll get a chance to play as anyone you like and still pick your favorite stats. You can pick Pura with Speed-type stats, Dingodile as a Turn-type, and so on, without restrictions. There's even a whole new driving style named Drift, which feels like a nice compromise between Speed and Turn, at the cost of low Acceleration. With so many options now available, there's really no excuse not to try and see what works best for you and select the characters you like the most.

The power-ups are generally identical in function, though there's definitely something wrong with missiles. They only lock on to characters that are on-screen (erm... most of the time) and make no effort to not hit any walls along the way. Conversely, it feels like AI characters can always hit you with them, even from a great distance away, so there does seem to be some unintuitive trick to it. Fortunately, all the other items work pretty much as you remember it.

A futuristic coliseum with a gargantuan metallic statue of Tiny Tiger, posed as if it's holding the place together with large chains. Pura and Polar are seen driving on the track inside.Adventure Mode continues to be an important and lengthy component.

Every game mode offers a richer experience than before. Adventure mode's progression flow is still the same (and that unfortunately includes the padding), but you get a new customization item every time you beat a race or challenge (more on that later). You also have the option to pick between the Classic and Nitro-Fueled settings. With the latter, you'll have access to 3 difficulty levels, and you can use different characters and karts at any time, including those that weren't in the original Adventure mode. It also lets AI racers use all the same power-ups and customization features that you can. While the AI characters are practically brain-dead on Easy, the Hard difficulty level is an absolutely ruthless experience. This makes your opponents faster than you and extremely devious, laying traps in the worst possible places. Don't be surprised if it takes you several attempts just to get the trophy in Crash Cove. The AI behavior is carried over to other game modes, again correlating to the difficulty level you choose.

The remaining game modes are more or less kept the same, but you get some additional options here and there, such as the option to play in mirrored tracks for a fun little spin on things. The most notable addition is the ability to play battles against as many AI characters as you want, instead of this being a strictly multiplayer mode. The AI count option is also present if you're racing against friends in local split-screen (something that was first introduced in Crash Nitro Kart). As for Time Trials, these are still as annoying as before, since you still need to unlock N. Tropy's and Oxide's ghosts in succession; even if you get a better time than them on your first try, the victory doesn't count unless you're specifically racing against them. This means that you still need to play each track at least thrice in Time Trial mode if you're a completionist, since one of N. Tropy's skins is your reward for beating all of Oxide's ghosts.

Coco drives a colorful kart in the sand while wearing a beach outfit and a straw hat, with Dingodile following close behind while wearing shades and swimming trunks.This time, there are a vast number of unlockable skins, karts, and other customizable items.

The addition of new content should come as no surprise, but it's actually a bit crazy how much more stuff there is to enjoy in Nitro-Fueled. The character skins already mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg, since you can choose from a variety of vehicles, wheels, decals, paint jobs, and stickers, including Oxide's hovership, the karts from Crash Nitro Kart, some of the cars from Crash Tag Team Racing, and even a bunch of brand new vehicles. Since your stats are entirely dependent on the driving style you choose, these are just cosmetic additions that will make your ride look cooler.

Vehicles aren't the only thing added from Crash Nitro Kart, since you can also enjoy all of its tracks and battle arenas! You're practically getting two remakes in one, with the ability to play through CNK's stuff using the faster and tighter gameplay of CTR. Plus, since some of the tracks in CNK used to look like copies of CTR, the developers made a conscious effort to give them a more distinct visual overhaul (a good example being Inferno Island, which no longer looks like an extension of Crash Cove, thanks to the nighttime setting). That's not to say the more original CNK tracks didn't get makeovers of their own, with Electron Avenue sporting a neon-bright vaporwave aesthetic, for example. All of the battle modes CNK introduced are here too, and they're retroactively applied to the CTR arenas as well. Let's say you wanted play Capture the Flag in Rampage Ruins it's entirely possible.

Crash drives inside a large cathedral decorated with imposing gargoyle statues.All of Crash Nitro Kart's tracks and arenas were adapted to CTR's faster gameplay.

One thing worth noting is that due to CNK's shorter track selection, cups were comprised of 3 tracks in that game. This is no longer the case, with the CNK tracks now being divided in cups of 4, complying with the way CTR does things. This also means that a whole new cup has been introduced to accommodate the leftover track (Clockwork Wumpa), as well as Oxide Station from the original CTR, which was never featured in Cup mode, along with a couple of bonus tracks (but more on those later).

The only downside to the CNK tracks is the lack of anti-gravity segments. Anti-gravity may not have marked a substantial difference in gameplay back in the original CNK, but it was at least creative and cool to look at, and it does feel like there's something missing when you can't drive up the giant clock in Out of Time, or go through the giant shuttle loop in Thunder Struck. Overall, it's still a very fair trade-off for even having these tracks in CTR to begin with, and the segments that were tweaked to bend to CTR's mechanics ultimately don't feel out of place. If anything, the faster CTR gameplay and the liberal use of super turbo pads in these tracks makes their length more appropriate now, as long as you can power-slide like a pro.

Crunch and Tawna wait in their karts as the race is about to start.Online play is a major addition to the game.

It wouldn't be right to talk about the gameplay without bringing up the brand new online mode. The original PlayStation had no online capabilities, but 20 years into the future, Nitro-Fueled is the first (proper) example of online play in a console Crash game. As long as you have an active subscription to your console's online multiplayer service, you can compete with players from all over the world and participate in races and battles that encompass the game's impressive repertoire.

Besides creating and participating in private matches with online friends, you can also choose the Matchmaking option, where you'll play against random players from around the world. The game tends to pick those who are who are on the same skill level as you, to avoid having experts mopping the track with beginners. Speaking of which, the item balance is quite different when playing online, and it's being continuously tweaked to provide the best experience based on community feedback. On the other hand, the mode selection is quite barren for a game of this nature, and something like a no-items mode would have been a good addition.

Split-screen is not an option while playing online, so you can't have a local friend join you in this mode. What you can do is have online friends join you in Matchmaking, though this is fairly unintuitive, as the game doesn't explain that you need to sit outside a Matchmaking lobby before they can join you, and only then should you choose that option. In Matchmaking, you always get 3 race tracks or battle arenas to vote for, though for some reason, certain tracks appear considerably more often than others, and if 2 or more tracks are tied in the poll, the one on top is invariably picked.

As far as the online experience goes, you will frequently run into hilarious bugs and not so hilarious desync issues, such as invisible beakers, players teleporting randomly across the map, the race failing to start, or even the last-second decision that you didn't come in first place after all (despite getting the best time). This all stems from a much larger problem, namely the lack of dedicated servers. Apparently, every online match has one player unknowingly acting as the host, so if their connection isn't up to snuff, you're guaranteed to have some wacky stuff going on.

It should also be noted that the loading screens and mandatory wait times between matches make it very slow for you to actually get into the next race or battle, at least in Matchmaking. To make matters worse, since each lobby has one player acting as the host, if that person happens to leave the lobby, everyone else is kicked out with them, forcing you to wait until the game finds another lobby to join. This can even happen as the game prepares to load the next race, meaning you'll have to sit through the loading screen before it tells you everyone has left, and then sit through another loading screen before you can decide what to do next (it's very obvious some people do this intentionally just because they can). Better get used to that waiting music.

A menu showing various characters and items to purchase.Most of the unlockables that are new to Crash Team Racing rotate daily and must be purchased with virtual coins.

DLC (Downloadable Content) is abundant in this game, turning an already hefty amount of content to a series-wide celebration of Crash Bandicoot. By using a menu called the Pit Stop, you can unlock new characters, karts, skins, and other things that weren't present in the original CTR, most notably the entire playable cast from Crash Nitro Kart (including the bosses, which were previously playable only in the handheld versions). You do this by spending the Wumpa Coins you've earned from playing the game, and here's where things get dicey.

The amount of coins you win upon finishing a race or event is absurdly low if you're playing an offline mode. You can get five times as many coins while playing online, though even this bonus only lasts for 30 non-sequential minutes of play time every day (something the game calls Wumpa Time, but never actually explains within its own context). You also get a 2x multiplier if you're playing on weekends, which does, thankfully, work in offline modes, despite not having started that way. In essence, if you're playing by yourself or against friends on the couch, or if you're not making the most of your online Wumpa Time, prepare for a very long grind before you can finally unlock what you're after... if that unlockable is even available at the time.

You read that right — all of the DLC characters, karts, and items are only available on a daily rotation basis. For example, if you'd like to unlock Crunch, he needs to be a part of the daily deals at the Pit Stop, or your only option is a singular other character. You can keep buying characters and other items in succession to force things to rotate, but everything requires too many coins for this to be a viable strategy, especially since you don't know what you're going to get next. The bad news doesn't stop there, though.

Not only are Wumpa Coins scarce in offline mode, but you won't win any coins at all if you're not connected to the Internet (Nintendo Switch users who play on the go, beware). The Pit Stop isn't available without an Internet connection either, even if you're trying to unlock characters that are already installed on your console or included in the physical version of the game (the marketing leading up to the game's release conveniently omitted that detail and caught players by surprise). But there is one simple reason why things in the Pit Stop cost so much, and why Wumpa Coins are intentionally limited...

A screen encouraging the purchase of virtual money with a picture of coin stacks.Wumpa Coins are intentionally limited to boost microtransaction sales.

Microtransactions are something you would probably not expect to see in a Crash Bandicoot game, but here we are. You have the option to buy packs of Wumpa Coins with real money, which is quite a controversial decision for a game of this nature. The problem isn't that you have to get these items or buy Wumpa Coins (you don't). It's that all of the aforementioned limitations only exist because Activision wanted to have microtransactions in a remake of a twenty-year-old game.

Not giving players the choice to unlock the stuff they want when they want it, as well as limiting the coin payouts to offline players are both things deliberately put in the game from the start, in order to create a demand for Wumpa Coin packs. Moreover, due to these packs being sold at real cost, it also explains why you need to be connected to the Internet: the publisher wants to control and check whether a player is earning coins through legitimate means, so as to validate the existence of their coin packs (along with the artificial scarcity they implemented).

And so, instead of featuring a nice unlockable system like that of Crash Tag Team Racing, the game tries to manipulate players who don't have the time, patience, or restraint to unlock cosmetics without paying for them (which is especially aggravating when you consider a large chunk of Nitro-Fueled's demographic are children; in fact, it's pretty telling that Activision chose to only introduce microtransactions once all the important reviews got out and the bulk of the consumers had already bought the game). Make no mistake: charging for post-release DLC is a fair and understandable way to compensate for the time and resources put into making it, but you should be given the option to buy what you want at any given time, rather than waiting indefinitely for it to show up... and of course, it should be priced justly.

Megumi, Tawna, Isabella, Liz, and Ami race through an Arabian town.New content is periodically introduced through Grand Prix events, including one new track every month at no added cost.

On a much more positive note, Nitro-Fueled introduced monthly themed events called Grand Prix, which add a lot of all-new content to the game. This ranges from characters to karts and customization items, and there's even an entirely new track in each Grand Prix that comes unlocked by default, meaning you don't need to spend coins on it. Some of the extra characters and items must be acquired in the Pit Stop, but others can only be unlocked by earning these so-called Nitro Points, which you get by beating the Grand Prix's challenges. Any Grand Prix-specific rewards you don't get eventually make a return to the Pit Stop, but this is usually done a few months later, so be sure to nab everything you want if you have the chance. It should also be mentioned that you can trade Wumpa Coins for Nitro Points between Grand Prix events, in case you weren't able to get all the rewards unlocked by Nitro Points in the recently-closed Grand Prix.

In many ways, Nitro-Fueled feels like a series-wide celebration of the history of Crash Bandicoot, and the Grand Prix events play a large role in that. The characters they introduce were never playable in CTR (and in some cases, ever), and they're plucked from titles from all over the franchise. This includes the bandicoot girls from the original CTR's winner's circle, the Naughty Dog characters that hadn't made it to the original game (such as Tawna and Nitrus Brio), and even some of the newer ones (like Nina Cortex and Pasadena O'Possum). What makes their introduction even more enticing is that all characters now have fully-developed personalities and traits of their own, and there's even a bit of lore added with each Grand Prix, making this component a treat for everyone who enjoys the world of Crash Bandicoot. Fans of Spyro will also be happy to know that one of these events was entirely themed after the purple dragon, who makes a playable appearance and brings some company.

As for the Grand Prix challenges themselves, some only last for a day, some for a week, and others for the whole month. Despite having had a rough start, with a tedious emphasis on playing a type of battle or doing the same repetitive task a certain amount of times, this is something that has gradually improved with time. Challenges get more and more varied with each Grand Prix, and these days you'll see missions like establishing new Time Trial records, winning a race without using power-ups, accumulating air time, and more. There are even some themed challenges, such as chasing and catching ghosts that come out of random crates in the Spooky Grand Prix. The list goes on, and you can get Nitro Point bonuses by choosing specific characters, skins, and kart parts, depending on the Grand Prix (and whether the challenges aren't buggy, which does happen on a few rare occasions).

If you're judging Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled solely by its base content, it surpasses the original game in just about every way, superseding an already fantastic game with flying colors. Coupled with the presence of all the tracks and characters from Crash Nitro Kart, a bunch of entirely new ones, and an unprecedented attention to detail, this is quite clearly the best racing game in the franchise, and depending on who you ask, it might even be the best Crash game overall. The online experience still has room for improvement, but it adds an extra layer of longevity to the game, especially when you're playing with friends. Not only that, but the post-release support has been extraordinary, with many new features and content being added alongside quality-of-life updates. The only real shame here is that a game this fun and lovingly crafted was forced to have microtransactions, making most of the extra characters and items a chore to unlock by design.

The good

  • The gameplay is faithfully recreated from the original game, and some of the changes and new visual indicators make it even better
  • Outstanding presentation and attention to detail
  • An insane amount of playable characters pulled from all over the franchise
  • All of the characters have richer personalities than before
  • Subtitles are finally introduced to the series
  • All of the tracks from Crash Nitro Kart are included and available from the start
  • A new cup has been introduced to feature the leftover tracks from both the original CTR and CNK
  • In addition to the new soundtrack, you have the option to play with the original one
  • The alternate control scheme and extra race options are welcome additions
  • Driving styles are no longer character-restricted
  • It's now possible to play the game online with others
  • The Grand Prix events add new tracks, characters, karts, challenges, and more
  • The post-release support continues to improve the game

The bad

  • The introduction of microtransactions, which have no place in the game and are responsible for the intentional limitations surrounding most unlockables
  • Wumpa Coins are scarce excluding a couple of time-based bonuses, one of which only works in online modes
  • You need to be connected to the Internet to win Wumpa Coins and access the Pit Stop, even if you want to unlock the Pit Stop characters and items that are already installed
  • The unlockables in the Pit Stop are only available on a daily rotation basis, with no indication of what comes next
  • You will most likely run into bugs and desync issues in online modes every now and then
  • Getting into an online race takes a long time
  • The padding from the original CTR is back in full force
  • The remake still doesn't remember your camera preference between races

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