Despite a cameo in Skylanders, the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy marked a much needed return for everyone’s favorite bandicoot, bringing several faithfully remastered classic platformers back for another round. The end result was universally acclaimed, proving beyond a shadow of doubt that good old Crash still had what it takes. Now, he’s back again, and this time, he’s trading platforming for kart racing in Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled; a stunning remaster of its original counterpart, with all the bells whistles you would expect.
Now, I don’t need to tell you that Mario Kart remains the undisputed champion in its field. We’ve seen a selection of rivals over the years, but nothing quite comes close to Nintendo’s flagship series. That’s not to say that other games haven’t come close, Team Sonic Racing can attest to that, but the big question here is, does Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled tick all the right boxes? Yes. Without question, Crash’s kart racing comeback is outstanding. Sure, there’s some issues to be mindful of, but when all is said and done, expect brilliance.
The game remains as accessible as ever, and comes complete with clean and concise menus and interfaces. The whole thing is just so damn welcoming. When booting up the game (and after sliding through pages and pages of agreements) you’re taken to the main hub. Here, you can select from Adventure, Local Arcade, Online, Pit Stop, and Highscores. The latter is self explanatory, and allows you to browse your best runs across varying modes, areas, and tracks; a neat addition for those of you that find replay value in besting your records.
The Pit Stop is an interesting take. You’ll earn an in-game currency known as Wumpa Coins for completing races, in which you’ll be able to spend over in the Pit Stop. The Pit Stop is chock-full of sweet cosmetics that you can pick up, all of which house a rarity spanning basic, exotic, and legendary. The items greatly vary, from new kart wheels and kart decals, right through to new kart stickers and kart shaders. The bottom line? There’s heaps of reasons to stick with Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled for the long-run, and no MTs in sight.
Online and Local Arcade are fairly self explanatory. In the former, you’re free to take your skills to the globe. Here, you’ll find all the expected modes and matchmaking tools right out the box, and despite some odd teething issues with online functionality, I can only report solid performances. Local Arcade falls inline with expectations too, giving you plenty of modes to select from (racing, battles, time trials, relic races, and more besides) to ensure that you’ve never a shortage of things to get up to within. It’s truly a well rounded package.
The Adventure mode, on the other hand, is where the meat of the game’s story rests. Before diving in, you can indeed select between a Classic variant, and a Nitro-Fueled variant, with three difficulty options available for the latter. The only real difference between the two is that in Classic, you’ll be playing the game in exactly the same way you did back in the day, whereas in Nitro-Fueled, you can play with anything you have unlocked on the fly. You’ll see these options on the next screen over, ranging characters and karts of all shapes and sizes.
There’s a wealth of characters to choose from, all of which come with their own pre-set stats. The stats consist of speed, acceleration, and turning, and whilst hardly deep, it’s certainly enough to maintain variation. Many of the characters will be locked out to begin with, but the roster does pad out as more time is invested into the game; some unlocked through beating them in Adventure, some through the completing tasks, and some via the aforementioned Pit Stop. Each character sports their own unique variety of skins too.
I can say the same about the method of unlocking new karts. It’s all well laid out and easy to understand, making this one kart racer that’s wide open to all age brackets. There’s a host of karts to unlock and earn, all of which can be souped-up with new wheels, shaders, and stickers. Yes, it’s not the deepest of systems, but it works. Once you’re all set, you’re ready to jump on in, and boy howdy, it doesn’t at all fail to impress. The game’s story is reliably wacky, but then, when it comes to Crash Bandicoot, would we have it any other way?
In a nutshell, a nefarious alien known as Nitros Oxide has invaded the planet, and challenges Crash and his companions to a series of race-offs. Should he come out on top, he’ll turn Earth into a glorified parking lot, but should Crash and pals come out on top, he’ll turn tail and run. That’s really all there is to it despite the odd bit of composure here and there, but for me, I rather enjoyed this hands-off approach. The Adventure mode works much like a traditional campaign, being that you’ll slowly move through a range of areas.
Each area houses its own races, events, and boss encounters, collectively sprinkling in just the right amount of gameplay diversity to keep things feeling fresh. You’ll chart these small areas in your kart, and can engage with activities at your own leisure and pace. The game slowly opens up as progression is made, gradually (but firmly) instilling a solid learning and difficulty curve to lean on. Aku Aku will have your backs in regards to many of the game’s mechanics, and will frequently provide tips as you fulfill challenges and make some leeway.
There’s a vast amount of content to work through in Adventure alone, easily taking the game’s length to double digits when grouped with everything else that’s on offer. The crux of play is pretty much exactly what you would expect from a kart racer. You and your immediate competition will race for supremacy across a variety of tracks and modes, with weapon boxes, track mechanics, and all-round devious mindsets making for some truly memorably treks. Whilst not on the same level as, say Mario Kart, it’s certainly not far off.
The game’s weapon boxes are insanely fun to utilize, and range the likes of rockets, TNT, nitro, and much more besides. Naturally, you’ll only get weapons and gadgets that are both useful and dependent on your position in a race, and on that score, the balance is considerably well baked. One interesting design choice is that you can improve the potency of your weapons if you have the required amount of Wumpa Fruit; obtainable in crates scattered about the map. This adds a bit of extra depth to the fields of play, if anything.
It helps, of course, that the game’s track design is absolutely amazing. Not only does each track house multiple routes, some hidden secrets, and varied mechanics, but each proves to be as equally as well designed as the next. Tracks are more like obstacle courses than anything else, constantly forcing you to the edge of your seat from beginning to end. Whether that’s due to wildly uneven chaotic terrain, or, track functions that seem hellbent on breaking your run, you’ll find no shortage of white-knuckled moments to soak up within.
Sadly, the game doesn’t come without fault. First and foremost, the game is full to the brim with needless loading screens. I get that this may have been a necessary evil given the game’s roots, but still, do we need a somewhat lengthy loading screen each time we start a race, finish a race, and move to and from a race’s podium presentation? It gets old, fast. The second (and final) issue is found with the occasional track function. On quite a few occasions, I found myself stuck in a constant damage loop, and unable to wriggle out of it.
Whilst for the most part, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is undeniably fun, needing to start a whole race again because a set-piece was constantly squashing me and leaving me no time to move out of the way between animations, was not my idea of a good time. Hopefully the developer can address this in a future update. They really, really need to. With that out of the way, there’s little else to scoff at. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled handles as well as it looks too, making for a kart racer that’s fast-paced, fluid, and utterly responsive.
Perhaps the only aspect on this front that folks will take time gelling with is the drifting. Drifting here is slightly different in comparison to the game’s contemporaries. Instead of just holding a bumper and leaning into a corner, you’ll need to time your drifts perfectly in conjunction with an angled slide, and then let go at the right time to enjoy a boost of speed. It’s not the most complex of systems, granted, but it does take a little persevering. Still, once you’ve nailed the mechanic, it becomes second nature. Everything else is run of the mill.
That, ladies and gents, is the sum of Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. This is one kart racer you shouldn’t miss out on. The amount of content included is through the roof, and it’s content that plays well, remains constantly exciting, and utterly diverse. Outside of Team Sonic Racing, this is one of the best kart racers available on Xbox One, and simply should not be missed. The next big question; how does it look and sound? Simply put; Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled looks stunning throughout its entirety, and sounds just as well too.
The amount of detail present is remarkable, and goes to show what a talented developer can achieve with the right tools. Everything from the game’s gorgeously presented (damn well tricky) tracks, right through the each animation, each character model, and each effect, is remarkable. The audio design sits in the same pool, putting forward a solid soundtrack and some fun cues to keep inline with the game’s crazy theme. If you’re looking for the next best kart racer, look no more, because Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is certainly up there.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is easily one of the best kart racers of the gen so far. It’s gorgeous, it’s deep, it’s sensationally remade, and it’s wholly entertaining across all aspects of play. The only real drawback sits with its constant loading screens. If, however, you’ve the patience to forgive such a niggling issue, the game sports plenty of exciting content, and heaps of multiplayer modes to keep you going for hours on end, and then some.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.