I’ve always loved the classic characters of the PlayStation 1 days. I’ve purchased near every remake/remaster and you can bet Spyro and Crash trilogies were at the top of the list. Hell, I even enjoyed how Vicarious Visions took the gameplay of Crash 2 and 3 and applied it to the first one. It made some levels a living nightmare due to the different mechanics, but I still had a blast. I say this because Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled is the first experience to make me wish a beloved childhood title stayed where it was. In the past. While it is a beautiful ode to what was in graphics and minor extra features/content, it unfortunately suffers from outdated mechanics and a frustrating learning curve I don’t remember as a tubby pre-teen.
The story beat remains the same for Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled. An alien known as Nitrous Oxide arrives and challenges Crash and his lovable band of characters to a race. If the nasally nuisance wins the planet is destroyed. If anyone else wins the planet is saved and Nitrous Oxide leaves. Not terribly in-depth then nor is it now. To be fair a kart racer doesn’t really need to have a good story now does it. A few dozen races to see who’s the fastest and then the big finale. However, there are some new changes that benefit the single player experience. You can choose to use any unlocked character at any point in time so you’re not just stuck with Crash the entire ride. Which includes the time trial and crystal collecting levels too. While not a big leap forward in expectation it does offer a nice variety the original never had.
Gameplay is either the same or way more technical now for better or worse. Don’t worry I’ll explain soon. Crash and his friends race around a few handfuls of tracks with twists, turns, speed pads, and powerup boxes. All the wonderful ones return like drops, shields, missiles, bombs, N. Trophy clocks, and more. Which ones you get will depend on what place you’re in and attempt to keep everyone in the race at all times. There are also traps, ledges, and obstacles that can slow a player down so speed isn’t always the name of the game. Until it is. By that I mean the later levels of normal difficulty and nearly all of hard require work-like precision over fun. Something I have no memory of in the before times of my life.
So jump and drift boosts return. This means you get an extra boost of speed when you time a jump or time an extra drift correctly. The problem is that these two mechanics are wholly more important than any aspect of Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled. Not the power ups, not the memorizing of tracks, not even the shortcuts. Which is hilarious because some Crash Racing experts even have trouble beating hard A.I. opponents when they nail every shortcut and acquire useful power ups. These extra boosts of speed somehow add up to impossible space between you and other racers. Regrettably, it is very hard to time every jump and turn, or hell even drift on every straightaway, which leads to frustration over fun. Especially when one wrong timing can lead to an unintended jump in the air which screws you over every instance. The entire time I was playing I felt that this game was more about pushing a button correctly over a meter rather than racing. Plus, I feel like Beeknox knew this because they even added in multiple different ways to tell you when to time your button presses.
As you’ll not be finishing in first quite often, you’ll realize you earn in-game currency after every race. This can be used to purchase unlockables in the Pit Stop. It essentially acts like a store that updates periodically with cool and wacky customization options. Don’t worry as this doesn’t cost real money (at least not yet since Activision is the publisher) and a lot can be earned through completing story mode and challenges. In fact, the customization is amazing in this game. Everything from the car to the character can be decked out with swag. Purple and gold robotic Neo Cortex anyone? Needless to say this makes for both a heartwarming and hilarious start to matches. Seeing all the different combinations and possibilities will make you wish they existed back on the couch multiplayer days.
Online multiplayer finds its way to Crash Team Racing for the first time and seems like a requirement in 2019 anyway. While it handles mostly fine it falls victim to the aforementioned gameplay problems and then some. Servers have been mostly stable for me, but within that server all hell has broken loose with glitches and power ups. The worst is when the clock power up bugs out and effects everyone except who activated it for the remainder of the race. Imagine squished, small, and slow kart racers far longer than should be possible. Battle mode returns as well where racing isn’t the primary objective. Here you have to either capture the flag, annihilate the enemy team with power ups, or collect the most crystals before time runs out. It’s probably the least issue plagued mode of the game, but feels a little slow and tedious on certain maps.
The graphics for this remake/remaster do honor the Crash character models of the past, yet do look doughy at times on certain characters. While no doubt appreciated with the modern coat of paint, I would have much preferred a slight downtick in these graphics if it meant we could get sixty frames per second. I feel like this would have made things so much smoother and maybe even rectify some of the hardcore issues surrounding the gameplay.
Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled - PS4
Overall - Good - 6.5/10
When all is said and done Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled will make old fans smile at the expense of slight cracking to those nostalgia goggles. It can be fun barreling through one of the best kart racers again, just a dose of modern gameplay expectations and frustration timing mechanics might bring a bout of buyer’s remorse. Online multiplayer and offline arcade modes will add a bit of longevity, but I see this Activision production disappearing off my dashboard quicker than others.
- Beloved CTR tracks and experiences brought to PS4s
- Wonderful array of customization options
- Gameplay mechanics focus too much on timing instead of racing and power ups
- Glitches and literal broken power ups can ruin any race at any time
- 30 FPS does not do this title justice
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital version of the game bought at retail at the expense of the reviewer. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed on a PS4 Pro.