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Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled Review

*Bonus Review – Not on Game Pass

First Impressions

Background

I was a huge fan of CTR when I was a kid, having even played the GBA sequel. I remember even replaying through the original game in college and still enjoying it. I was excited about this remaster collection as I felt like I was missing that exciting, colorful, kart racer from my gaming library.

Presentation

CTR Nitro Fueled looks and sounds great. The character models may not be quite as crisp as those in Mario Kart, but the tracks and environments are colorful and detailed and when travelling at top speeds the action is exhilarating without being overwhelming. The soundtrack is classic, and the sounds of power-ups, boosts, and wipeouts are memorable.

Initial Thoughts

From the start this remaster gave me everything I was looking for, with fun, fast-paced, and challenging kart racing gameplay with an engaging adventure mode. I was excited to experience all the memorable CTR tracks again. As a remaster, I was also impressed at the way Nitro-Fueled came packed with fun cosmetic additions as well as quality-of-life improvements that are totally optional for those trying to experience the game more closely to how it was originally intended.

Gameplay

Racing

Nitro Fueled brings back to life the classic CTR racing that has aged very well as it remains engaging and deep with its unique power slide mechanic that adds a layer of complexity to a fast-paced kart racer. Unlike in other racing games and other kart racers, mastering CTR is not just about taking the right lines around the track, but knowing when to hop, when to powerslide, and when to boost around every corner of every track in order to maintain that turbo speed. This requires learning every track on a deep level as well as being able to control the racer (from four different racer types) with precision and timing turbo boosts during powerslides perfectly.

Power-ups clearly take inspiration from Mario Kart and Diddy Kong racing, having random powerups in boxes around the track, where better power-ups come to those further behind. Rockets act as shells, potions act as bananas, masks act as stars, etc. Wumpa fruit act as coins, with more wumpa fruit allowing racers to drive with a faster top speed. A twist to this formula is maxing out at 10 fruit will improve all power-ups.

Again, what really sets the racing apart from Mario Kart is the powerslide mechanic, but I also feel like the AI is less rubber-bandy in CTR while the items are less helpful and more devastating when hit. CTR may have some slight rubber-banding but it is only enough to keep the race engaging and is really only noticeable in boss races. The power-ups can be detrimental in CTR even more so than Mario Kart. Getting hit off the edge in the final turn of Mario Kart meant disaster, but in CTR, even on medium, it felt like a disaster for that to happen on Lap 1, and AI are smart enough to use their items well. Very few items are powerful enough, though, to catch the player up, and those are very rare. On the flip side it is nice having no blue shells to target me when I am in first, but even a rocket can set me back so much that it is hard to recover.

Learning every track is key here, as this was a challenge that was made enjoyable by the fact that each track was memorable, colorful, well-designed, and meaningfully different than the last. This is what I am looking for out of a racing game and CTR delivered. I got disappointed playing modern street racers like Horizon and Dirt because at their best they gave that same challenge of mastering and perfecting a track to come out on top in a difficult race, but those tracks did not remain memorable when I moved to the next one, and they often did not vary enough to distinguish themselves. Even moreso, there was rarely a reason to go back to those tracks once I knew each turn, where CTR rewards perfecting a track and learning its shortcuts as completionists will need to return to those tracks again and again with different objectives.

Game Modes

Adventure mode is true to CTR and is what I believe is the most important distinction between it and Nintendo’s top kart franchise. Adventure mode gives enough of a story to guide the game along, while a hub world gives players the feel of more freedom and agency in their decisions. Adventure mode challenge players to win on every original CTR track and defeat each boss leading to Nitrous Oxide, while giving completionists the option to go back and collect relics for time trials and coins for “C-T-R” to unlock series of cup races leading to a final showdown with Oxide once again. This all follows the original CTR’s formula but again it shows how well it has aged as it offers so much content while having fun and clear objectives backed by an actual story with memorable characters.

The relic races are a twist on a straight up time trial as boxes are added throughout the map that take time off the final score. “C-T-R” races are closer to normal races but with the added challenge of collecting those three letters that are hidden throughout the track. These add more content while, again, rewarding players who have already worked to learn those tracks. A few timed collection crystal challenges are sprinkled though adventure mode, with battle modes and more cup challenges existing as added content outside of adventure mode.

As great as adventure mode is, this collection really misses an opportunity to incorporate the GBA Nitro Kart tracks and new bonus tracks into the adventure mode. CTR shines in giving players a rewarding single-player campaign, but only 16 of the games 40 tracks are incorporated into it. The other 26 tracks are also fun and exciting and worth mastering, but the game does not incentivize doing so, by only adding them into single races, time trials, relic races, and cup races that are only worth completing for achievement purposes. They do add a lot of content for those looking for it and may especially add variety to those playing couch multiplayer, but they feel so underutilized still.

A big addition to this remaster collection is an online mode, which is appreciated, but again CTR fumbles the ball a little here, as there is no ranked or competitive mode, which is just odd.

Unlockables

There are tons of new unlockables in this remaster in the form of cosmetics, some of which are unlocked by racing in adventure mode, while others can be bought using in-game currency. It is unfortunate that Activision decided to hide many cosmetic options into a rotating store so not all characters are always available to buy, and it is unfortunate that they monetized the game with microtransactions but at least everything can theoretically be unlocked without paying an extra cent.

Lasting Impressions

Story

As I stated, the fact that this kart racer offers a single-player campaign with a fun (if minimally narrative) story to motivate players. It is not a great story but even compared again to modern racing games I have reviewed, this story and these characters are more memorable and more motivating than Dirt and Horizon.

Replayability

There is certainly a lot of content in CTR Nitro Fueled, with 40 tracks that each can be raced in single races, “C-T-R” races, time-trials, relic races, and cups. With difficulty settings of easy, medium, and hard, and four different racer types to master, hardcore fans will continue to find ways to challenge themselves for a long time even before hitting the online modes or playing couch multiplayer. I will keep this game downloaded and be coming back whenever I have the racing itch and hope to get closer and closer to 100%-ing adventure mode.

Takeaway

Crash Team Racing: Nitro Fueled is a remaster that delivers the fun and challenging racing experience I remembered with an engaging single-player campaign and plenty of amusing and well-designed tracks and race modes for those looking to challenge themselves or their friends. Those with nostalgia for the original game will surely love this, but even those looking for a great new kart racing experience will find it here.

This game is not perfect, as online mode is lacking and many tracks are underutilized, with Nitro Kart and new tracks not being included in adventure mode. Microtransactions also plague the cosmetics shop, leaving it difficult to collect every character and outfit. However, this still this stands as a top-tier kart racer that I would recommend highly.

Pros

Memorable tracks and characters

Challenging racing mechanics

Engaging single-player experience

Cons

Bare-bones online mode

Underutilizes Many Tracks

Overall

7/10

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