Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled Hands-On Impressions: Nimble Nostalgia Trip
Like most platforming stars, Crash Bandicoot has spent most of his career in the shadow of a certain mustachioed plumber, and that’s doubly true when it comes to Crash’s kart racing games. That said, it’s been over five years since Mario Kart 8 came out and it sure doesn’t seem like Nintendo’s planning to release a ninth entry any time soon (the upcoming mobile game doesn’t fully count). In other words, it’s pretty much the perfect time to release Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. But do the Bandicoot’s racing games still hold up? Or is Nitro-Fueled a Wumpa wipeout?
At E3 2019 I got the opportunity to play around half-an-hour of Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, tackling four tracks – the classic muddy motocross-inspired track Tiny Arena, the Crash-Nitro-Kart-inspired Jungle Boogie and Thunderstruck, and the all-new desert-themed Twilight Tour (we’ll get to that one in a second). All four tracks I took on looked nice, with developer Beenox adding a great deal of depth and detail to the background of each track, without changing their actual layout. Aside from the pretty new sights and sounds, this is Crash Team Racing as you remember it, for better or worse.
The original Crash Team Racing was ahead of its time, and its track designs still hold up well enough today, but it’s impossible not to measure them against Mario Kart 8’s trippy, gravity-defying courses. Nitro-Fueled ends up feeling a touch sedate in comparison. The sense of speed you get in games like MK8 or recent Sonic karting games is also largely missing here. Sure, Nitro-Fueled is peppy enough once you start stringing together boosts, but despite the title, most players won’t exactly be melting asphalt.
Nitro-Fueled boasts tight, responsive controls, although some of the game’s mechanics take some getting used to. Crash Team Racing offered groundbreaking powerslide physics when it first came out, but they lack the satisfying weight of more recent kart racers. The game’s jumping mechanics can also be a bit wonky. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a good amount of depth to CTR’s physics and boost mechanics, but the game isn’t quite as immediately accessible as you might expect. Ultimately though, CTR major failing is one it shares with almost every other Mario Kart imitation – its weapons just aren’t that exciting. For whatever reason, nothing will ever be as viscerally fun as launching a red turtle shell or lighting everybody up with a Super Star. Again, I hate to keep comparing to Mario Kart 8, but with a game like this is kind of impossible not to. That said, all comparisons aside, I did have fun with Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, and it sounds like the game will offer plenty of content to keep players busy.
In addition to all the tracks from the original Crash Team Racing and the PS2 and Xbox game Crash Nitro Kart, Nitro-Fueled will also include the new “Grand Prix” live service. A fresh Grand Prix will drop every few months, with each offering an all-new track inspired by Crash’s classic platformers and a series of challenges spread throughout the rest of the game. Complete these challenges and you can you’ll earn Nitro, which can be traded in for various cosmetics. If this sounds like a setup for microtransactions, don’t worry, there won’t be any at launch, although Beenox say they may “evaluate” adding them later.
The first Grand Prix track is Twilight Tour, which is based on levels from Crash Bandicoot: Warped. I actually thought the new track was the best one I got to try at E3, which bodes well for the new Grand Prix content. The second Nitro-Fueled Grand Prix will feature a prehistoric-themed track called Back in Time, and the third Grand Prix will revolve around a certain adorable purple dragon. And the guest karters may not end there – while the guys from Beenox wouldn’t provide any specifics, they did profess their love of crossovers, so keep your fingers cross for some others 90s favorites.
Is Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled the next evolution of kart racing? No. Does it top what Mario Kart 8 did five years ago? Once again, no. That said, it’s a solid, visually-impressive remake that quality-content-starved kart racing fans and 90s nostalgia hounds are sure to enjoy. The added live-service elements might not be for everyone, but the new Grand Prix content seems promising, and you really can’t complain about any embellishments considering Nitro-Fueled offers two full racing games worth of content for $40. Perfect for cruising through those lazy summer months.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled peels onto Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch on June 21.
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