Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled on Xbox One
7-year-old Chris would have been proud of 25-year-old me. I’d finally conquered Crash Team Racing’s Adventure Mode, putting Nitros Oxide back in his place and saving the world from being turned into Oxide’s plaything. I’d nailed shortcuts, perfected the drift boost mechanism, and even unlocked a neat Red Panda skin for Polar. What more could I ask for? Very little, it turns out.
Of course, I’m not just talking about replaying the 20-year-old original. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled brought back the bandicoot and all his friends for another lap around the track. Complete with the original’s classic Adventure mode, a plethora of multiplayer options, and the standard touched-up visuals and soundtrack, Nitro-Fueled is a faithful update of the classic kart racer.
Playing through Crash Team Racing’s main single-player mode and hearing all of the upbeat soundtracks was the nostalgic throwback I feel like I — along with thousands of other fans around the world — have been crying out for for years now. It’s in beautiful 4K (on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro) and has a solid frame rate, while staying true to the original’s gameplay.
Adventure Mode is where those looking for a single-player experience will spent most of their time. You’re free to choose your racer, customize your kart with a variety of bodies, colors, wheels, and decals, and then head into the world to prove yourself as the planet’s best kart racer. That involves winning four races in each area, before facing off against that area’s boss.
As you’ve probably expected, there’s a whole host of weapons and items you can use to help your chances of finishing first and hinder those of your opponents. From the bowling bombs that require accurate precision, to the TNT Crates that players must hop repeatedly while jumping to try and knock them off before they explode, they’re just classic crash weapons.
Though the item you get is technically random from the item crates that you smash through around the track, you’ll often find that the best items are saved for those towards the back of the pack.
The Warp Orb, Aku Aku Mask (or Uka Uka for evil characters), or N. Tropy Clock can greatly turn the tide of a race, and are saved for those trailing, while those in pole position will get the beakers and TNT Crates.
On top of that, Wumpa Fruit that can be collected when driving around the tracks can change the properties of certain weapons once you’ve got 10, as well as giving you a general speed boost to your kart.
For example, a TNT Crate turns into a Nitro Crate that immediately explodes and spins out whoever drives into it. Meanwhile, formerly green beakers become red which add a speed nerf to whoever drives into them for a few seconds, rather than just having them spin out. It’s little things like this that helped make CTR stand out from Mario Kart back in the 90’s and continue to do so now.
When initially diving into Nitro-Fueled, the difficulty certainly took me back. The drift and turbo boost mechanic is certainly at the heart of this difficulty curve, as it feels so different to a certain plumber’s kart racer’s drifting mechanics.
Rather than simply initiating a power slide and waiting for your boost to build, you instead have to time presses of the other shoulder button with a gauge filling up in the bottom right corner of the screen. Get it perfect three times while continuing to hold the other shoulder button down and keeping the drift going and you’ll get a huge boost.
If you can’t get your head around the drift and turbo boost mechanic, you’re going to have a bad time in CTR. It’s as simple as that. Even on Normal, it doesn’t take long for the boss battles, in particular, to become insane difficulty spikes that have frustrating rubber-banding AI. No matter how far ahead you are on lap 1, chances are you’re not going to stay there for long.
The general difficulty outside of these boss battles is still a fair bit more difficult than the 150 cc option in Mario Kart, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve always found Mario Kart to be a little too easy, so having something that really pushed me to learn the tracks and make use of the various shortcuts or use my items in a more strategic manner was a welcome change.
It’s not just standard races to be found in Adventure Mode. Each track then also has a CTR Tokens and Relic Race mode. The first of these tasks you with finding the letters C, T, and R hidden around each track. Some are easy, while others are hiding in shortcuts and other tough spots. On top of that, you’ve got to finish first, so you can’t just take your time going around getting them.
Relic Races, on the other hand, are a time trial of sorts, where the track is littered with crates that have either a 1, 2, or 3 on them that pause the clock for that amount of seconds. You need to plan your routes to ensure you’re nabbing all of these time-stopping gifts from the time trial gods, all without making too many mistakes and jeopardizing a fast lap altogether.
Adventure Mode ends up being a great time-sink for solo players, and also a pretty great way to prepare yourself for the other modes on offer in Nitro-Fueled. Whether it’s the time trials mode that can have you unlock the elusive N. Tropy character by beating all of his fastest times (which require setting a fast time to unlock), or the offline and online multiplayer modes.
That’s right, Crash Team Racing offers up both offline and online multiplayer modes. On the offline side of things, players can engage in normal races or battles, across all of the original game’s tracks and battle arenas, as well as a selection from the 2003 follow-up Nitro Kart.
It’s a similar story on the online front, too. Though, I did find it disappointing that there’s no option for splitscreen multiplayer when playing online. As great as Adventure Mode is, Crash Team Racing has always felt like a predominantly multiplayer game, and not being able to take a friend on the couch next to you into an online race feels like a noticeable absence in the wealth of modes here.
Alongside the standard roster of characters from the original title, Beenox has added a bunch of new additions to help flesh it out. This is a particularly welcome addition for online play, which, when combined with the array of unlockable customization options, ensures there’s a good chance each player’s look is different in some way, even if it is all just cosmetic for the most part.
A vast majority of these cosmetics are unlocked via the in-game Pit Stop shop. Before you immediately jump to the microtransaction conclusion, let us stop you. Everything within the shop is purchased with Wumpa Coins, which can only be earned by completing races and your position within those races.
Other cosmetics are unlocked by meeting certain objectives in-game, but the lack of an option to simply buy your way through all of the unlockables feels like a much-welcomed nod to the 1990’s and how we had to grind out the cool outfits and skins we wanted, rather than just handing our credit card details over. Kudos to Beenox for not taking the obvious cash grab here.
It is worth noting, however, that Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled’s online modes did have a few teething problems on day one. Though Beenox were incredibly quick to release a patch that seems to have remedied the issues, it’s something we had to mention, as we would with any game’s online modes. For now, though, it seems like smooth sailing.
One thing that hasn’t been alleviated just yet, however, are Nitro Fueled’s rather abysmal loading times. Granted, the game looks great in 4K, with many of the character models fur being so detailed you can pick out individual hairs, and lighting effects really bringing the zany worlds to life, but even on an Xbox One X I was looking at load times surpassing 10 seconds at times.
At one particular point as I began moving to the next area in Adventure Mode, the game literally froze up and took a few seconds to seemingly load up the new area. This only happened the one time, but it was still unexpected and a little disappointing to see the game struggling on the X.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is the faithful remake of the now 20-year-old title that claimed so many hours of my childhood that many fans and I had hoped it would be. It retains all the classic gameplay, including some not-so-great rubber-banding and difficulty issues, and adds dollops of additional content and current-gen enhancements to make it feel right at home in 2019.
That being said, those who enjoyed the original back on the original PlayStation, or newcomers to the series looking for a new karting title shouldn’t pass on Nitro-Fueled. It might not be perfect, but it’s certainly got enough going for it to make a solid challenge for Mario’s crown as the king of kart racers.
Score: 4/5 – Great
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