I loved playing Crash Team Racing in the ’90s. But, in the following two decades, I had grown to believe there was nothing that I wanted from the Kart Racer genre that I couldn’t get from the Mario Kart series.
This remaster of CTR and its 2003 sequel Crash Nitro Kart has utterly proved me wrong. Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled is a package that shows that there is a variety of experience enough to justify – even necessitate – multiple contenders in the genre.
The real breath of fresh air this game provides is a true challenge. After only a few matches of CTR, I realised it had been a long time since I had experienced even a modicum of challenge in a kart racer. Playing this game on anything but easy is a real test of your skills and memory, with a healthy dollop of luck necessary too.
This challenge comes primarily from the racer AI. The computer is just the right balance of skilled and flawed – they will hit boosts and use items as effectively as you but are also imperfect enough to take the odd corner wrong and go off the edge. The result is that, even on medium, it is rare that you will be able to break away from the pack completely. Most races will be a picture finish between first and second, with the rest of the racers not far behind – and with this AI you are as likely to be in the front as at the back, depending on how well you played.
The result is that winning a race – or even placing in the top three – is a real achievement. One that will put a genuine grin on your face if you manage it or give you a sense of determination to get better and place higher in the next race.
It is a challenge that is enjoyed even more with friends. Whether racing or in battles, I feel like my friends and I have had a more varied experience with CTR in the last week of playing it than we have had in the last several years playing Mario Kart. Rather than duking it out for first and second as we are used to, we are all perched on the edge of the couch, white-knuckled as we claw our way up through the pack and try desperately to hold onto the best position we can achieve. Because of this challenge and variety of result, CTR is sure to be our go-to multiplayer game more readily and for much longer than any couch game normally is.
But there is also a lot there for single play as well. The game features a single-player campaign in which you must place first in each track in order to unlock the next. It is a simple setup, but an engaging one due - once again - to the challenge of placing first in each race. There is also a lot of optional single player fun to be had in completing each of the maps in Relic mode – in which you have to smash crates to pause the clock and finish under a specific time – and the CTR challenge – which tasks you with collecting three sneakily hidden letters and still place first.
Beyond the sense of achievement, the drive to complete these challenges is unlocking new characters, karts and decals. For each challenge completed, there is a different unlock. However, for general play, you are also awarded coins which can be spent at the Pit Stop – a storefront in which a different selection of characters and cosmetics are available for purchase each day. At the time of this review, there was no way to spend real money to purchase extra coins or unlock these. But, the relatively slow rate at which you earn coins and the daily design, it seems possible it could be introduced post-launch.
On top of this variety in cosmetics and gameplay, there is a large selection of 37 racing tracks and battle arenas – all remasters of maps from across CTR and Nitro-Fueled. The maps and character models are all gorgeously remade for 2019, mixing the nostalgia of the classic designs with a fresh, high-definition, coat of paint.