Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled Review: Visually updated, but in need of strong upgrades
Played On: PS4 (Original)
Adventure Mode Difficulty: Classic
In a time of nostalgic remakes and delving into past properties, I would probably say that Crash Bandicoot fans have received the royal treatment thus far. With fans being able to re-experience the first three Crash games with the N. Sanity Trilogy, it was only a matter of time before fan got the chance to drive through some of Crash’s karting adventures. That’s what made the announcement of Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled so great and, as a fan of the series, I was excited to get and updated and upgraded version of a true karting classic. While Nitro Fueled is definitely has updated look and feel that’s great to see, it’s missing the upgrades that could tighten the gameplay better and create fairer gameplay than what’s presented here.
At the start, it’s easy to get lost in the nostalgia that Nitro Fueled brings with the new art design and how great it is to revisit a karting classic. Racing down the track is better than ever with the updated visuals of the tracks and some of the stage hazards and seeing courses, like Coco Park and Hot Air Skyway, look the way they do is a true dream come true. The character redesigns, that were mostly present in the N. Sanity Trilogy, are great and made even better with the customization options added with this remake. While it might be fun to just play as classic character in their original form, there’re tons of hilarious and unique options for players to put a new spin on their favorite characters. So, if you want to put Tiny in a military general’s outfit or turn Dr. Cortex into a futuristic robot or give the crazed Ripper Roo a top hat and monocle, like he has in Crash 2, you can. Players even have the ability to customize everything about their karts, from changing the paint job or the wheels to adding stickers, so that they can tear down tracks in their own unique vehicle.
While players can obtain these different characters, skins, and kart customizables by completing challenges and requirements through racing across different modes, players can also earn some in-game tokens that will give them the chance to earn some exclusive content from game’s stop, the Pit Stop. I actually think that this one of the strongest additions to the game as it’s a nice way to offer players content without them having to necessarily be the best racer on the track. Some of this content includes more kart sets and character skins from both Crash Team Racing and Crash Nitro Kart. That’s right, players can play as Nitro Kart alum like Crunch Bandicoot, N. Trance, and even all of the boss characters that weren’t originally playable until now. It’s really great to see this remake also include some of the content from Nitro Kart, as it was my introduction to the series, and even some of the tracks are given very welcomed revamped.
Nitro Fueled also brings backs some classic modes that fans will love and adds a new multiplayer mode so players can test their karting skills against the world. Adventure mode is back and can take down some of Crash’s greatest foes and take Nitrous Oxide on for the title of the fastest racer in the galaxy. Honestly, playing through this mode is like a true blast from the past as winning races, participating in Crystal Challenges, and attempting to complete those pesky CNK challenges made me really feel like I was playing a true Crash Bandicoot karting game again. There’s also a separate battle mode where players can take a break from racing and battle against opponents to rack up the most points in a destructive battle, be the last one standing, collect the most crystals, and so much more. Players can also battle against one another or race for first place against the world with the addition of an online Multiplayer mode. Adding Multiplayer was probably the most obvious inclusion that this remake was going to offer and it’s nice to see that players can keep their customization options to show their uniqueness to everyone around the world.
Now, while all of these things tugged on my nostalgia so hard that I was flying in the clouds at first, I quickly crashed back down to reality as the game’s A.I. are so broken that the game stopped being fun pretty quickly. The Crash Bandicoot games have always been a challenge and that didn’t stop with Crash’s karting adventures, Nitro Fueled is almost unfair at times as the A.I. drivers are incredibly aggressive and have advantages that make winning near impossible. It’s actually almost like entering one versus seven competition at times as the A.I. racers never really attack one another and save their weapons just to unleash an onslaught that’s keeps you as far away from first as possible. Which isn’t actually a tough feat for them considering the fact that there’s always one racer who gets so far ahead that they’re impossible to catch up to. There’s no catch-up or rubber-band mechanics to balance this so you’re completely left to your own devices to gain the lead and the distance can be so bad at times that you might as well restart the race by the second lap.
The A.I., however, do have catch-up mechanics on you and even if you blow by them in an instance, more often than not they’re already on you and even passing you. Honestly, this made the different acceleration and turning stats for characters totally pointless and not even the items can really turn the tide as they don’t seem to affect the other characters at all. While it’s great to see some of the classic items return and that players can power them up through hitting Wumpa fruit boxes, they don’t make much of a difference. Anytime I would hit enemy racers with a missile, regardless if it was powered up or not, they would immediately speed up again like nothing happened to them. The same can’t be said when they hit you, though, as they’ll even chain attacks that pretty much just stop you from doing anything. This is especially true in the boss battles as they spawn items way too much and the experience of racing them becomes so stressful that it stops being fun. Specifically, with Pinstripe’s race, the amount bombs he unleashes is just plain absurd and it’s so frustrating to do that it instantly becomes more of an annoying chore rather than a fun challenge.
Frankly, even the shortcuts in the tracks don’t ever feel like shortcuts and even getting boosts from drifting is made unnecessarily challenging because of how loose the drifting is. The overall experience of playing Nitro Fueled is ruined by how broken the A.I. are and while I can respect a fun challenge and hard gameplay, what’s presented here is just unfair. I constantly felt as if I wasn’t progressing or that the game ever wanted me to feel as if I was winning or improving. Rather the game makes you constantly feel like you are meant to lose and causes unnecessary stress that makes a wholesome revisit more of a stress-inducing chore.
Nitro Fueled is definitely a strong visual revisiting to the classic karting series, but it lacks the mechanics and balance to create more fun than stress. If you’re not an avid Crash fan, it’s hard to recommend the game until some patches are implemented to fix the game’s aggressive and negative atmosphere. As a fan, I’m still hoping there’s more for Crash fans in the future, including a remake of Crash Bash, but hopefully the experience will be improved and have more than just nostalgic pulls and updated visuals up it’s sleeve.