[Review] Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Posted on June 29, 2019 by Jakob Vujovic(@jakovujo) in Reviews, Switch
Release date: June 21, 2019
As far as remakes go, Crash Team Racing is top notch. The trick with this particular remake is that the team didn’t have to significantly change anything aside from the visuals. Originally pegged as the PlayStation’s response to Mario Kart 64, Crash Team Racing has always been the more evolved kart racer. The tracks remade from the original PlayStation 1 Crash Team Racing are faithfully laid out, and its original mechanics preserved. Even with the most recent game in its rival franchise, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe might be the more refined game – some might call it stagnant – but Crash Team Racing, faithfully remade, still feels fresh and ultimately more interesting.
The most significant mode of Crash Team Racing has always been its single-player story mode, with races, time challenges, and bosses that progress through a hub world. The story mode is faithful to the original, although a new difficulty selection has been added and the option to switch characters without starting a new save file, meaning that you won’t be locked into a single character’s max speed, acceleration, and turning stats for every challenge.
These kinds of single-player modes aren’t only for the hollow joy of competing against seven other CPU racers. When done properly, as it is here, it forces you to learn the nuances of the game’s design. Even in races, CPU behavior is surprisingly consistent. It often feels like each CPU opponent has designated racing lines, so races against opponents don’t have nearly the degree of a free-for-all rubber banding that you might come to expect. This consistency is something you’ll come to appreciate if you go for the extra challenge of collecting the three CTR tokens while winning the race, which can often mean frequent restarting. These races in the story mode feel just as designed as other challenges, and consequently more fair.
The story mode spans multiple types of challenges on the 17 tracks of the original game. Just like the original, the track selection is well-rounded, and the visual upgrades that they’ve received here are impressive. Most of the tracks trend closer to the narrow and precarious, unafraid of throwing in sharp turns and shortcuts that take skill and accuracy to access. When combined with Crash Team Racing’s more complex boosting mechanic which involves timed button presses to a fluctuating drift meter, and the peculiarities of the game’s very lucid physics, everything is faster and less forgiving than Mario Kart; items can be effective, but they’ll rarely bring your opponent to a complete stop. The small deceleration they provide only gives a small window of advantage that can be compensated by a skillful maneuvering of the track. There’s a steeper learning curve for all of this than you might come to expect from a kart racing game if you really want to master all of its challenges, but it works in the game’s favor.
The only setback in the Switch version is that loading into a track or back into the hubworld can take almost a full minute. Otherwise the game’s frame rate is very smooth, and it feels visually robust on the Switch, unlike many other multiplatform ports. There are no obvious cutbacks that make the Switch version feel like it’s held together by rusty nails and plywood.
There are plenty of extras that go beyond the original Crash Team Racing too, including new characters, skins, and a bevy of cosmetic parts to customize your kart. A lot of these are unlocked through the story mode, but there’s also an in-game store that updates daily. As far as I can tell, it all works with in-game currency that you earn through single-player challenges and online play – which is perfectly functional with a proper lobby system for setting up races or battles with up to eight players. Local split-screen play is here too, and it runs shockingly well on Switch.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a beautiful visual update for an already great kart racing game. The fact that this remake, faithful as it is to the nearly 20 year old original, still feels ahead of the latest entry of Mario Kart not only speaks to the impressive robusticity of the original design, but also to how little Nintendo has actually done with the Mario Kart series. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is great, but if you’re looking for something similar that builds off of a lot of its weaknesses, especially when it comes to single-player modes, then Crash Team Racing is an excellent choice.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled review copy provided by Activision for the purposes of this review.