Too Crash, too furry-ous.
Remaking a video game is a tricky situation. A developer needs to retain the overall feel of the original to avoid alienating the fanbase while updating the game to meet the expectations of modern gamers. Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled, at least so far, manages to find that distinct groove between retro and cutting edge.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: CTR’s reboot looks fantastic. As eye-popping as its reveal was at The Game Awards last December, Crash Team Racing looks even better in person. Beenox has developed this remake from the ground up, using bespoke assets, sound effects, and animations to create something wholly their own. Even at top speed, you’ll see little flourishes and secrets hidden behind the twists and turns of the course you’re on. It’s a nice touch and one that absolutely could not have existed in the original back in 1999.
These easter eggs might be hard to miss, however, as the game feels fast as hell. Beenox swears that it plays exactly the same as the original, but I don’t remember white-knuckling turns nearly as much then as I do now, and if so, maybe the original CTR was well ahead of its time. Whereas last year’s N. Sane Trilogy felt like old games with a 4k paint job, Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled feels surprisingly modern.
Of course, it’s nearly impossible to talk about any kart racer and not compare it to the monolith that is Mario Kart. Crash sets itself apart in one key area: boosting. While power sliding is integral to both series, CTR nearly makes a mini-game out of earning your boosts. If at first power sliding feels a little loose, unpredictable even, it’s because sliding in CTR is about commitment. You’ve got to know when to start and finish a power slide within a turn, lest you slam into a wall or fly off the tracks.
Power sliding in CTR is all about commitment.
Slides allow you to use a triple boost system that requires some relatively precise timing. A gauge in the lower right-hand corner quickly fills as you power-slide through turns. Pressing a shoulder button at the right moment will grant you a boost, and subsequent boosts have shorter time gaps, making successive boosts feel akin to a rhythm game. If you manage to achieve the coveted triple boost, you’ll be dealing with some serious speed. It’s the sort of game-changing move that can take you from fifth to first in a heartbeat.
The power-ups in CTR are mostly standard fare. You’ve got shields, rockets, speed-boosts, invincibility, and even the Crash equivalent of Mario Kart’s dreaded blue shell. A simple, but effective twist here is your ability to upgrade these power-ups by collecting wumpa fruit. It’s a fun addition, but not necessary to win any given race.
In my time with Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled, I got an opportunity to play three courses solo and in the split-screen versus mode. The addition of an online mode and leaderboards will allow fans of the original to flex a little muscle and take on newcomers. No word yet on whether we’ll see new courses or characters, but with 18 tracks, and full Adventure and Time Trial modes, fans should have more than enough to race through come July. Get it? Race through? Karts.
Zachary Ryan is the Manager of Video Programming at IGN and he thinks Crash Team Racing is the ACTUAL best Crash game. Don’t @ him.