You’ll forgive me for shaking the controller every time my kart hits a ramp in Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. It’s been almost 20 years since most of us have played Naughty Dog’s original karting spin-off to its Crash Bandicoot platformers, and - in the meantime - we’ve all been satiating our kart racing appetites with regular doses of Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 8, in which motion control plays a big part in boosting your speed with every jump.
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Yet even with two decades separating 1999’s Crash Team Racing and Beenox’s upcoming remaster, Nitro-Fueled, this homage to the PlayStation classic has been so authentically rebuilt that’s it not long before the long dormant muscle memory kicks in. As I got to burn rubber across three of the game’s classic race tracks (Crash Cove, Dingo Canyon, and Polar Pass), my inner ten year old soon leapt out and grabbed the wheel to power slide, turbo boost, and navigate all the secret shortcuts that could give me an edge over Nitro-Fueled’s surprisingly feisty AI racers.
You don’t have to race alone, of course. In addition to local split screen support between up to four players at once, Nitro-Fueled features full multiplayer functionality, letting you compete with close friends or total strangers online. Even playing alongside a single other person in splitscreen, I can already tell that this is where Nitro-Fueled will find its long-term legs beyond the novelty of its unabashed nostalgia trip.
Playing alone, the slightly awkward, decidedly old-school controls and buttery driving mechanics begin to make themselves more apparent, but as soon as another real person joins the fun, Crash Team Racing’s timeless appeal as a wild, juvenile party game sings louder than ever. Whether you’re sharing your tried and tested track tactics, complaining about everyone else's TNT Crates, or fighting over your favourite characters, it’s apparent that Nitro-Fueled hasn’t lost any of CTR’s charm as a competitive social experience, but has only upped the sensory overload with richer visuals, extra content, and extended options for playing with others.
Speaking of characters, Nitro-Fueled features every member of original game’s core roster, all of whom boast their own stats based on speed, handling, and turning, which, in turn, can affect the difficulty curve required to master each and ever one of them. Playing as the all rounder Crash, for example, is very different from playing as Dingodile, who favours speed over anything else, making him perfect for hurtling through the straights of Crash Cove, but a less optimal choice for twistier tracks like Polar Pass. That hidden layer of strategy is perhaps the aspect of Crash Team Racing that many of us, myself included, will have forgotten about, but I’m already excited to see how it plays out online once Nitro-Fueled launches in June.
Brand new N.Gin
Did I mention that Nitro-Fueled looks lovely, too? Because Nitro-Fueled looks so lovely that it hurts. While the shock value of seeing this 90’s PlayStation franchise running on 21st century technology has worn off now that everyone and their grandmother has played 2017’s Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy, it’s still a wondrous novelty to see all of your former tracks, karts, and characters adorn the TV in high definition, with all the added attention to detail that entails.
Monkeys can now be seen dancing atop the craggy rocks of Crash Cove, polar bears guard the surrounding waters of Polar Pass, and Dingo Canyon has apparently seen some serious gentrification since its 1999 debut, as the area now sports its very own American diner. Crash Team Racing’s original soundtrack, too, has been remastered to a tee, right up to that immediately tense, instantly recognisable jingle that sets the scene at the start of every race.
With all that in mind, then, it’s worth emphasising that Nitro-Fueled really is a game made for those with fond memories of the original. If you have never played Crash Team Racing, or never even enjoyed it all that much in the first place, then it’s hard to say whether Beenox’s remake will be able to win you over. We’ve yet to see the studio’s updated take on Crash Team Racing’s brilliant adventure mode, however, which could indeed be the final flourish that brings even more people into the ever growing cult of Crash
Mario Kart can rest easy for now. Nitro-Fueled probably won’t be dethroning Nintendo’s king of kart racers from its chair when it releases later this year on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. But neither does it intend to. Instead, this honest-to-goodness remaster has its sights set squarely on pleasing those who first fell in love with CTR’s original incarnation back on the PlayStation 1, and that’s just fine with me.
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