I have to admit that I never got around to Crash Team Racing (CTR) on the PlayStation. I liked kart racing games, but being a Nintendo fan (which I still am) I was a little bit more picky about what I played when I was younger, and there wasn’t enough room for another kart racer in my mind. Mario Kart was the undisputed champ—but maybe I was too quick to judge.
By now I’ve played dozens of kart racers: from Sonic to Mario and even the kart modes in Dirt and ARMA III. Kart racers are perhaps the more accessible games in the various racing subgenres, but their power-ups and various modes make them something you can sink hours into to squeeze out the best time, or defeat opponents on the hardest difficulty. Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled is that: you can pick it up and play it easily. Its bright colorful graphics can even make you forget you’re playing a racing game, and match the fidelity of 2017’s Crash Bandicoot N’Sane Trilogy. But what is it like to actually race as Crash and the gang? It turns out, it’s pretty fun.
Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled isn’t about realistic graphics or physics, but about arcade racing fun. There are several different modes to race across—like the adventure mode that puts a story to the whole Crash Team Racing experience. If you’d rather play a quick match or two, there’s local multiplayer and an online multiplayer mode so you can test your Crash Team Racing skills against opponents anytime.
Adventure mode is the “story mode” of Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled, and it’s also the quickest way to unlock a few new karts and riders. You can play adventure mode with all of the new bells and whistles that Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled provides, or you can opt to play the adventure mode in the classic style—just as it would have been in the old PlayStation classic days. The Nitro Fueled mode allows you to change racers during the adventure, and customize your kart—something you can’t do in the classic mode. It also opens up some difficulty settings, and makes the whole experience a whole lot less punishing. The adventure mode has five areas, each with about four courses , capped off with a “boss battle” race. These boss battles are one on one races that put you against an overpowered version of an opponent. Luckily, beating that opponent also means unlocking them as a racer with their own unique stats.
Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled allows for a good amount of customization. There are 25 racers to choose from, 14 karts, and a load of different paint colors and wheels . Customizing your kart doesn’t change its stats like in many other kart racers. Instead, the character you choose to play as determines your acceleration, speed, and turn potential.
Arcade mode is where you’ll find most of the party game-like modes that kart racers are renowned for. There are single races, multi-race cups, time trials, and several different challenge modes. If you like the fighting more than the racing, there’s even a battle mode. Battle mode eschews racing for using power-ups to blast your opponents. In fact, battle mode itself consists of several different activities, including capture the flag, last kart driving, and steal the flag challenges.
Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled has an ample amount of courses on which to race and battle, with over 20 courses. Each course has its own sets of secret paths, potential hazards, and quirks that make learning them essential in your pursuit to be the best racer you can be.
The power-ups aren’t too far from what you’d find in a normal kart racing game, though I really like CTR’s implementation of them. There isn’t a blue shell to knock you out of the lead, for example. Then again, once you get really good with the power-ups, I feel like there’s potential for massive abuse against your opponents—or you, if you don’t learn how to counter them. The power-ups are interesting, too—there are force fields, wide effect weapons that will take out the entire team, and your regular explosive projectiles and the like.
One of my biggest complaints about the whole experience are its long load times. Sometimes I would be stuck loading the game for nearly a minute on my Xbox One X. And while Crash Team Racing is fun to play, its controls don’t feel quite as tight as other kart racers out there
Another major gripe is that some characters and cosmetics are only unlockable through a game feature called the “pit stop.” The pit stop is where you’ll spend the coins you accumulate from doing the various activities. Unfortunately, everything in the pit stop seems a bit pricey. To add to that, it’s on a timed rotation, so if you saved up for something you wanted, you have to wait (and hope) it becomes available for purchase again.
Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled is a deftly handled update on a classic kart racer. It doesn’t always feel the best to play, and it might have some long load times, but it’s definitely a solid choice as far as kart racers go. It might not usurp Mario Kart as “the best,” but its interesting skill-based power-ups and loads of maps and modes should keep you entertained for a while—especially with friends over.
Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4
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