I love a good kart racing game, there is just something wonderful about the tracks and zipping around them and while my experience with the original Crash Team Racing could be counted as hours on two hands, with fingers to spare, I was excited to see how well the remake would be.
For those who are not aware, the Crash racing titles, much like Diddy Kong Racing, don’t offer the standard Grand Prix, but instead have an adventure mode, where with the most basic of story threads, has you racing around environments and the tracks contained within. For this one, Nitrous Oxide has arrived from space and proceeded to tell the planet that he will challenge the best racer to a race, if he loses, he will leave them alone; however should he win, then the planet will belong to him and he will pave it over and turn it into a giant race track. Again, not the most impressive story, but enough to get through the games main mode, the only problem with it, is that no matter the character you choose to play as, in my case the star Crash, they never care when they interact with other characters, they just hang around really, which ruins any sense of connection to the story.
In order to unlock more tracks to drive around in Adventure mode, you need to come first in each of them, as that will grant you a trophy, which in turn unlocks a track, a simple system to be sure. Once you have cleared the four tracks in the region, the boss race opens up and if you beat them, you get a key, which unlocks the door to the next land and you then rinse and repeat in each land. If you have played the game before and just want to race on your favourite track, you can jump into the arcade and do just that, as all the tracks are unlocked from the outset there. The arcade also offers a host of modes, time trial, cup race (for the more traditional set of four), battle and more, this is where you can jump in with friends and have a blast, if you want a real test, you can try online, where the modes exist as well.
All that is well and good, but there is a problem with the game, the controls suck, and the racing is not as great as it could be, let me explain. For acceleration, on the PlayStation 4, you use X, which is pretty standard, break is Square and shooting an item is Circle, again all pretty standard stuff, the problems arise when you try to do anything advanced. Drifting is something that they love to promote in the load screens, but the problem is, you can only drift after you jump and if you jump to high, or don’t turn right, you won’t begin the drift. Why those who functions had to be tied to the same button, I honestly don’t know, and the problem becomes even more pronounced when the drift mechanic requires you to press the button on the other side of the controller, to trigger a boost. If that was not bizarre enough, for some reason, reverse is not tied to any normal button, pressing and holding break does not reverse you up, no for that, you need to use down on the d-pad and should you want to change the controls, there is another option, swaps accelerate and jump/drift.
None of that would be an issues, if the handling was solid and there are times when it does feel great, but a lot of the time, I felt like trying to use anything other than accelerate was a waste of time. Drifting, as I mentioned before takes a lot more effort to begin, than it should, but on the rare times I decided to try it and was successful, the tracks don’t really allow for it, which would result in my bashing off the walls and if you had any speed, you actually get stopped for a moment. There were times when the accelartion would feel too fast, which if you were not prepared, could mean loosing ground and while not a big issue in a race, as you want to go fast there, in the missions where you collect the crystals, it was quite the pain.
One thing that the game does amazingly well are the tracks and while some of the layouts are strange, the amount of details and care that has simple gone into each one is staggering. There are times when there is so much going on, that it is easy to get distracted by them, so much so, that I honestly suggest a time trial race, where you go as slow as you can, just to enjoy the sights the game is offering. Again, as I never spent any considerable time in the original release, these tracks are all new to me and feel amazing, some of them surpass the Mario Kart series in their layout, which is saying something. The only real draw back to them is that some of them don’t transition well to the CTR race type, because unless you have been practicing a lot of the more advanced moves, you will have a hard time get the letters.
The presentation over all though, is top notch, will some really impressive visuals and a soundtrack that is quite catchy. The character models all look wonderful and spending time in the Pit Stop, where you customise the kart, looking at the variations of the skins and paint jobs is just easy to do. The games soundtrack is just as wonderful, the beats are fun and easy to listen to, with each tune matching the track its played upon with elegance, it really comes together quite well. This sadly, makes the single presentation issue so much worse, when you win a race, or any event, you will have to wait and watch the same winning animation, over and over again and you can skip them, after you watch the mandatory 8 seconds.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is an odd game, I love the track design and sheer amount of content that is included in there, but it has some questionable design choices and impressive load times hold it back. A lot can be fixed in patches, but that is not how we should expect games at launch and nor should we, but if you are will to preserve, you will find a game brimming with charm and that is enough for me.
Review code provided by Activision