I bought Team Sonic Racing over this when they both released. I can not for the life of me tell you why.
So fun story, I never had the original Crash Team Racing as a kid. I played the second and third Crash Bandicoot games religiously growing up and I played a ton of Crash Bash at friends houses (I know) but I never owned nor knew anyone that had it. I bought the PS1 original sometime after I got my first job but I ended up not liking how it played initially and I never gave it a second chance. I grew up in a Mario Kart household and that was always my go-to racer and the fact that the original Crash Team Racing felt differently threw me off an alienated me from it for a long time. Fast forward to 2018 when Activision announces that they’re going to remake the game in the same vein as the excellent N-Sane Trilogy and I’ll admit, I got pretty excited. I loved the N-Sane Trilogy and I liked what they were doing with Spyro’s remake trilogy so I was pretty keen on picking it up.
And then…I didn’t. I got Team Sonic Racing instead and proceeded not to buy it until Beenox, the developers, wrapped up development on it and stopped updating it. Cool.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a racing game that has many similarities to Mario Kart. It has fast and frantic gameplay, randomized items that can give you a competitive edge, and a large focus on well-crafted and memorable tracks. I am typing this out because you all know exactly what kind of game this is but I have to put this here because it’s a review. What makes CTRNF different from its contemporaries is its focus on boost heavy gameplay and its unique track design, as many of them feel more at home being platforming levels than race tracks. Let’s focus on the gameplay first though because I’m sick of this particular paragraph and I want it to end.
The first thing that will strike CTRNF’s first-time players is how heavy every kart in the game feels. Many of the little funny vehicles in this game don’t have the best turn radius and can sometimes be difficult to control while boosting when you’re just starting that. That’s because the game actively encourages you to learn how to drift and utilize the “power sliding” mechanic. At the bottom right of the screen, you can see a little matter and as you drift, the meter quickly fills. While drifting with one of the shoulder buttons you can hit the opposite shoulder button to get a small boost (example: L1 and then R1 on a DualShock 4). Do this three times and get a speed boost. The drifting not only helps players make sharp turns in this game but helps you go as fast as possible so you can keep ahead of everyone else. It is also PARAMOUNT to learn how to properly boost and powerslide if you want to beat the time trials in this game. Which I have not done. Nor will I. Fuck you N.Tropy.
But what is the point of racing if you have nowhere to race? Luckily CTRNF has you covered by doing the unthinkable: It has race tracks.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled’s tracks look unbelievable, really the entire game does. All of the tracks have a crazy amount of detail and are filled to the brim with references, interactable elements in the tracks that create new shortcuts, catchy, if not forgettable music, and are all almost fun to race in. I say almost because Drive-thru Danger is an affront to God and all her creation, but overall I think the track selection is great. No two tracks are alike and all have their own unique gimmick to them that keeps them fresh and interesting. From the crazy jumps in Koala Carnival, the day-night transitions in Twilight tour, Dragon Mines being completely detestable, there’s never a shortage of fun races in CTRNF. Now we all know you can race in this game. But is there anything else you can do in it? Kind of!
The first thing you should probably do when you start the game up is to go through the game’s Adventure mode. Adventure mode serves as the “tutorial” of the game (ha) and is where the majority of the “free” unlockables are, such as the original CTRNF’s cast and some extra skins and stickers. I’m not going to mince words here; Adventure mode is going to beat you senseless. It will break you down to your basic, raw essence and build you into something greater, something fiercer. Adventure mode changes a man.
If you play on Medium. Adventure mode is actually pretty breezy if you play on Easy mode.
Outside of that, there is the Local Arcade tab that hosts the rest of CTRNF’s offline/multiplayer content such as single/cup races, time trials, battle mode, and a myriad of other modes that none of you will absolutely never play because they aren’t single/cup races, time trials, and battle mode. Then there’s the online which is a total wild west of player intelligence, track selection, and basic functionality. I fucking love the online in this game. Even with a wired connection, I was struggling to get races where the items worked as intended (hitting other racers, activating, etc.) but at the very least the connection issues only seem to affect how you perceive the other players and their items. Not once was my racer bittering down the track and I never experienced any slowdown on my end. Playing online is also the easiest way to get Wumpa Coins, CTRNF’s in-game currency. Wumpa Coins allow you to earn extra content such as new racers, karts, skins, and kart cosmetics. In THEORY, I’m pretty okay with this and with things such as online weekend bonuses and extra challenges that let you earn a few extra coins, it helps keep people interested in the game and encourages players to keep playing with others to earn more rewards. Hell while the game was still getting updates you could get pretty much every post-launch character for free by participating in Grand Prix’s, but those are long since finished. But in general, I don’t have too much of an issue with this game having in-game currency. There’s just…one small problem……
For WHATEVER reason, Activision decided to make Wumpa Coins a thing you can purchase with real money. This is the kind of thing you would expect to see in something like Fortnite, a game that is free-to-start, not a $40 (at the time) release that you already paid for. The worst part is that they added this in a post-launch update about a month or two after the initial release. That’s scummy as FUCK, bro. I guess it’s not a big deal since you can still earn Wumpa Coins pretty frequently and the prices aren’t TOO egregious, but that doesn’t necessarily make it okay. I’ll freely admit I threw $2.50 at the cheap one just so I could grab one character I wanted (making me part of the problem, I’m aware) but I don’t think something like this should exist in a game that not only costs money but is primarily targeted towards children. Now let me be clear by saying that this doesn’t ruin the game by any means and the characters/skins are fairly priced with the number of coins you get by playing online, it’s just the general practice and implementation that bothers me that’s all.
In conclusion, I fucking adore this game. I think Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a phenomenal kart racer with tons of replay value. From its fan-service and character selection to its wild and varied selection of racetracks and modes, CTRNF is a must play for any fan of the genre. While I wish the online functioned a little better and wish the implementation of the micro-transactions was absent completely, this game is still well worth your time and money. If you ever grow tired of the funny little Italian man’s race car game, maybe give the one with the spunky little bandicoot a try. You won’t regret it.