The golden age of kart racers continues as Crash joins Mario and Sonic on the starting line.
We often look back at certain games from our youth through rose-tinted glasses, relishing the fact that we poured countless hours into mastering the one or two games we had at the time, blissfully unaware of the amount of content and basic control systems that would soon be obsolete due to the hardware upgrades that later console generations would give us. We mostly remember the enjoyment that these games gave us, and it's only when we replay those games today, via the likes of the Nintendo and Playstation mini consoles, that we've come to realise just how restrictive the technology of the time actually was.
It's due to this love of nostalgia that we've recently been spoilt with remasters of the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and the Spyro Reignited Trilogy. Developer Beenox has been inspired by our fond recollection of these old classics and the team is back once again after having crafted a wonderful recreation of the Crash-themed PlayStation kart racer.
Crash Bandicoot was originally devised as a PlayStation mascot, to rival the likes of Mario and Sonic, and therefore, like his contemporaries, this energetic marsupial was the star of a kart racing game. Crash Team Racing (or CTR for short) was born and soon became a much-loved game in the original PlayStation's catalogue, spawning two sequels, Crash Nitro Kart and Crash Tag Team Racing respectively. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is an amalgamation of these three titles.
We all want remasters to feel like the games we remember and loved and CTR Nitro-Fueled is no exception, but we also want them new and shiny... This reboot isn't just upgraded frame rates and higher resolutions placed on top of the existing games; everything has been lovingly recreated from the ground up. By doing this Beenox has managed to add in so much detail to the environments, tracks, karts and of course, the drivers themselves, so much so that even though it's all new, it feels like it was always there in the first place. Each character has been given an assortment of expressions and gestures that really brings each of them to life, for example, the smaller characters hanging on for dear life as the Nitro boost takes effect is hilarious, as is Crash's look of boredom while you customise your kart.
The customisation options are huge in this game. No longer are you stuck playing as one stock character for the duration of the Adventure mode; every race and achievement will help to unlock hundreds of modifications such as drivers, karts, wheels, paint schemes and decals. All of which can be changed as you play through. You can also earn coins to buy exclusive items in an ever-changing storefront. As an added bonus, there are no loot boxes involved, everything is available as long as you've earned enough coins (including upcoming Grand Prix content drops, one of which will star a certain purple dragon - more on that here).
One thing that has been retained from the original is the difficulty curve; CTR was a hard game to master, and Nitro-Fueled is no different, and even on normal difficulty, you'll have to nail every jump, drift and turn as you navigate the tracks, all the while dodging the arsenal of weapons that the opposition have aimed at you. In particular, there's the drifting mechanic, and while it's tricky to get to grips with, you can get tempory boosts or you can build it up to use at the end of the race. If it's used well this can be the difference between winning or losing, which is helpful because there is no coming second in Adventure mode - you have to win every race if you want to continue.
It's not all serious racing though, there is a huge amount of fun to be found in mastering all the challenge modes such as Time Trials, Relic Races, as well as the CTR and Crystal Challenges. Each has its own degree of difficulty and with loads of tracks to play across, you won't easily run out of things to do. For those who honed their CTR skills as a child and want a real challenge there is a hard mode that really ramps up the skills of the AI drivers, and for purists there is a Classic mode in which you use one character for the duration of the game with no customisation (but don't worry, you'll still get all the rewards).
As with most kart racers, multiplayer is where the fun is at, and CTR Nitro-Fueled is no exception. We are spoilt with split-screen Arcade racing for up to four players, not only competing against each other but a track full of AI drivers too. There is also the addition of online racing, which we can't wait to try but at the time of writing these lobbies were unfortunately unpopulated (if we have any issues we'll update you here).
If we had to find one niggle with the game it would have to be loading times that we're subjected to between races. In this day and age, we don't want to be waiting a good 30 seconds while a track loads, although to be honest the wait is worth it as the tracks are wonderfully detailed, oozing character and lush colours that act as a homage that long-time Crash fans will savour.
For those who want to relive their youth with arguably the next best kart racer after Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a must have, and for those who never experienced it the first time around, or maybe hadn't even been born, you won't go far wrong with this beautifully crafted yet totally wacky reboot. Oh, and if you wondered what Crash and his friends got up to after the '90s, make sure to watch the credits!
9 / 10
Beautifully recreated, tons of content, full of customisation options.
Long loading times, hard mode can be too punishing at times.