When I was just a wee little lad in the ‘90s, we were definitely a PlayStation household. My earliest gaming memories were of exploring as Spyro, sneaking around as Snake and directing my prepubescent rage at Sephiroth. It was only later in life that I really got to appreciate the best of the other consoles of the era like, Zelda, Shenmue and the beloved hot mess that is Sonic The Hedgehog. That’s why Crash Team Racing holds such a special place in my nostalgic heart above the likes of Mario Kart and even Shrek Smash ‘N’ Crash Racing.
As you can imagine, when Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled was announced at the tailend of last year, I was bouncing around Ripper Roo style. A complete rebuild of the game I’ve been playing on and off for 20 years with updated textures and graphics, an expanded roster of characters and more customisation options than ever. What’s not to love?
But now that the final product is out in the wild, would it live up to the gargantuan level of hype, or would it careen off a cliff into the proverbial chasm of failure screaming ‘Woah’? Read on to find out.
Firstly, I’m happy to report that the game looks incredible, and you can tell a lot of love and detail went into redesigning each course. For fans of the original game, you feel a strange sensation loading up the Nitro-Fueled for the first time; although each map feels distinctly new and fresh, there’s an innate and comforting familiarity. It really does combine the best of what once was with the best of modern game development.
Gameplay-wise, new developers Beenox took the formula left by Naughty Dog and largely kept it the same. This is exactly what they needed to do as even back in the day, CTR was light years ahead of Mario Kart in this department. Whereas laps around the various courses of the Mushroom Kingdom had a much looser feel, CTR was (and still is) razor sharp. Although this does make for a steeper, arguably more punishing learning curve, it does make it infinitely more satisfying. Filthy casuals will no longer be able to cut your dominant, well deserved lead with a lucky Blue Shell, instead they’ll be forced to ‘get gud’. But that’s not to say it’s as elitist as a Dark Souls or a Sekiro; there’s still plenty of fun to be had with family and friends hurtling round the track as Crash and co.
We’re also treated to an updated Adventure mode, the single-player experience in which you unlock new racers and other items as you progress. Our advice? Play through on easy mode first, as the jump in difficulty to medium is severe, and new or lapsed fans of the series still getting to grips with the game might find it a little more frustrating than rewarding. Unlock all the various challenge modes that come with each victory, then test your mettle on medium or hard at your own pace.
What’s more, as this a complete rebuild of the 1999 classic rather than a mere reskin, Beenox have been able to add in an assortment of brand new customisation features. From kart designs, to character skins and more, there’s plenty to unlock to keep you grinding for hours. In a good way, of course.
To wrap up, in an age of pretty impressive remasters of ‘90s PlayStation classics, Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled manages to stand out above it’s peers. It truly triumphs in its ability to combine nostalgia with a forward thinking vision in a way where I’m not just merely reminded of playing the game as a kid, I’m authentically warped back to those halcyon days of warm summer evenings spent hurtling around cartoon tracks for hours on end. It truly is a love letter to the original CTR, a phenomenal remaster that’s hard to fault.
The only thing we need now is a remaster of Crash Bash. Make it happen, Naughty Dog.
What are ya? Chicken?