Back when I was in the age of having my parents storm towards our gaming room to scold me to go to sleep (which still happens when we’re sleeping in the same house), Crash Team Racing was one of the titles that clearly left a dent on my PlayStation years. Hearing of its release got me really excited to pick it up, and no thanks to the last few months throwing me in for quite a loop with my schedule, it took me this long to getting around writing about it. Other reason would be how I can only play it with an internet connection constantly on thanks to some technical reasons and that apparently gets in the way pretty quick for portable gaming.
Anyway, here we are finally with a review of the remake of my most beloved game of the PS1 generation, Crash Team Racing.
Production (5 / 5)
CTR’s graphical transition into the current generation is nothing short of great.
This is the first time I’ve seen Crash and his other animal friends and enemies look like they have actual fur (or scales) as a texture of their bodies. Things have ended up being more colorful and animated, you see them in slighter movements in hair and how the models now deform a bit more flexibly to exaggerate motion that much more. The maps themselves have been remade wonderfully, keeping true to their original design while making the entire composition look much more interesting of what it used to be. They even managed to balance out the look between attractive and distracting, you gotta hand it to the team for not going overboard.
On the sound department it’s actually difficult to tell how it’s any different. Probably the music tracks are denser and of higher quality, but the tune in my opinion, remains unchanged. Voice have been understandably updated, though they all sound like a good fit for every role they took.
One particular stand-out for me for the production would be the scenes with the boss characters speaking to you, the player. They all used to be just floating holograms but now they express more character by having a scene on their own. With either Pinstripe scaring you with his mafia ways or Ripper Roo somehow talking through all his laughing, it was a pleasure to see them act out more and giving you a bit more to get to know them by.
Mechanics (3.5 / 5)
This game carries a lot of it’s old nuances while applying it to a new physics engine with some slight changes ideally to make gameplay more consistent. However, I’m not a very big fan of what the end product came to be.
While avoiding to get too technical about it, you normally don’t want to match old parts with new ones as there’s bound to be some compatibility issues like with computer parts. While on the surface, things like power slides, item pick rate, and behavior generally work as familiarly las they do; things like how floaty the game feels thanks to the new engine or how the stats really don’t seem to represent how the characters actually perform gets pretty frustrating.
Since the PS1 version, the controls and mechanics of Crash Team Racing is much more complex than it lets on. Power Slide can be difficult to control and timing your boosts along with it, while turning around a corner, while avoiding hazards and other racers around you is as crazy as it can get. So it’s understandable that designing AI players built around computing how exactly to manage each course at varying degrees of difficulty, the game instead has the same AI running against you, except higher difficulty means they get higher stats, and those stats get boosted if you start leading pretty far. To give you an idea, there was a point where I was ahead of every AI opponent in normal mode by about a third of a map, but getting hit by minor hazards twice in a row suddenly got them nearly behind me. While I probably lost maybe 2-3 seconds of time, they made up about 15 seconds worth of track thanks to the rubber band effect. So instead of having a dynamic experience and quickly adjusting as the situation demands, you’re either going for a perfect run or pausing and restarting the race for campaign mode for higher difficulties. Yes, rather seasoned player of the game like me can make first place in roughly ten to twenty minutes, but knowing how easy it is to lose, and that being because of a rubber band effect, makes for a severely frustrating experience at times.
One of the odd things I found in the game is the lack of rebalance, you’ll eventually want to move up to high speed type characters if you really want to get peak performance out of your time. In fact, you’ll find right now that the leader boards for every track in this game is basically dominated by speed type characters. The quick explanation is that the speed stat is simply the most important stat in the game, the other ones like turn and acceleration don’t matter nearly as much because of how the race tracks are designed and how there are techniques that simply favor the use of the speed types. This could’ve really used some rework to make other characters more attractive with online play.
Another thing I noticed is how they fixed some of the maps’ shortcuts. I found this a bit annoying considering how many of them shortcuts designed into them anyway, so unless it was obviously designed intentionally, which is a bit hard to tell as shortcuts are not part of the map, you might suddenly run into an invisible wall or just go out of bounds while still in flight. I experienced this a bunch of times.
Content (4.3 / 5)
CTR Nitro-Fueled comes with a very robust amount of content. Not only does it feature every original track from the first game, but also every track from it’s sequel, Crash Nitro Kart, all remade into visual spectacles fit for the modern age. There’s also certain challenges available to you after winning through each track a first time. The CTR Challenge allows you to explore the track in more depth and help you discover shortcuts, while timed trials and taking on boss ghosts will test you to the absolute limit. One thing I wasn’t quite fond of would be the new challenge of collecting crystals in battle arenas, that don’t have a clear way of being navigated. I skipped out after failing to clear one for over an hour.
This remake of CTR also comes with an absolutely large amount of customizations, from your type of kart to the clothes your character is wearing to the color of your very fur. You can absolutely just keep browsing around until you can manage a style that simply speaks to you! That is, if you have enough wumpa coins.
Features (2.5 / 5)
Multiplayer was probably the most attractive idea for an 8 player racing game, if only the netcode had been properly figured out. Setting up a match on its own is already quite a bit of trouble as getting disconnected while still deciding on a map is completely possible, and it’s even worse when it happens during a race. Once somebody suddenly disconnects in the middle of a match, there’s a good chance that all the players remaining will experience a lag spike. Getting one of these if timed badly, can lead to you missing a jump on a ramp, or miss a turn and hit a wall, or worst of all, just fall out of the map. Having this happen among 8 players is a very likely thing, specially if they decide they can’t really finish the match with good placement anymore.
The Pit Stop is where you can access and buy new content, usually characters and new cosmetics to go along with it. While it’s possible to buy anything you want without resorting to your wallet in the real world, grinding for Wumpa Coin can be very difficult, much like Street Fighter 5’s problem. Where it’s not impossible to earn your way through getting everything you want, but it’s just highly impractical to do so. This is because grinding for wumpa coins takes so much longer after the challenges from the first month. So there’s that.
CTR Nitro Fueled knows what it is at its core, a remake. With that in mind, it seems to have taken to the ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.’ However, it seems to have forgotten that some things about CTR were indeed broken, and left it the way it was because nobody would know. Despite this, I did enjoy Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled to a great degree. Mastering tracks and optimizing how I drove my choice character was something I couldn’t stop doing once I had started. Before I knew it, I was finishing areas and was still pretty hyped up to take on the next boss, no matter how many retries it took.
What has left a rather bad taste in my mouth is how the new additions appear to make the product look worse than better. Grind quests make me realize how much the developers expect me to play a game I always viewed as something I played casually, cosmetics that leave me puzzled as to when I get to unlock them, that and other technical difficulties that got in the way of making it a fun experience just popped up every now and then between races. One of the issues I had in particular would be the considerable amount of the loading time it had on the Nintendo Switch.
While I’m happy to see new content and updates to be incoming towards CTR, I’m a bit scared as to what kind of content they may release later. The prehistoric zone was phenomenal, I wasn’t too excited over the toddler versions of current characters, and they all require a handsome sum. Hopefully, they don’t decide to later on release a character that is secretly much stronger than the ones available by default in the game.
In the end I still enjoy it the most like how I used to as a kid, offline and with a second player.
CTR Nitro Fueled works fine though may need an oil change, registering a 3.82 / 5.
Available on PS4, Switch, and X1.