This generation feels defined by two types of games–the games-as-a-service model and the remasters. Aimed at the crippling nostalgia gamers seem to have (I know I do) the era of 90s games have started to hit the market in full force now in remastered form.
It’s easy to look at these kinds of games at cash grabs banking solely on those with rose-tinted glasses for the past. But what happens when you don’t have the nostalgia for a game like that? How does the quality hold up or does nostalgia do all the heavy lifting? Thankfully, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled carries itself strongly without the need for memories to bolster up the experience.
We got to spend roughly 30 minutes playing four different tracks out of the 31 with 12 characters to chose from on PS4 Pro. Beenox has pulled off capturing the core of the original source material while bringing the visuals into the modern era. The visuals of Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled are totally in line with the recent Activision remasters from the PlayStation’s golden mascot era with the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and the Spyro Reignited Trilogy. It’d be easy to think that the same developer created all three remasters, but this is all on Beenox’s plate, while Vicarious Visions and Toys For Bob handled the other remasters respectively.
While the game is all new aesthetically, the gameplay has been meticulously recreated to mirror the original. Creative Director of Beenox, Thomas Wilson, emphasized that replicating the gameplay and mechanics of Crash Team Racing was critical to the team. Having no experience with the original game myself, I can’t speak to the remaster’s authenticity, but Wilson’s passion for recreating the feel was apparent. Beenox even has original PlayStation’s hooked up at its studio for the team to pour over the classic.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled definitely feels like a mascot racer from 1999 and I mean that in a positive way. There’s no fiddling around with kart parts to fine tune a vehicle. The only influence to your driving stats is the character that you select. Organized by balanced stats, easier turning, or high speed, the racers can be thought of as beginner, intermediate, and advanced skill. The game will also support four-player split screen play, which immediately takes me back to the days of couch co-op of my youth. This simpler approach to character/stat selection makes the game easier to pick up in a party setting, too. There’s no cap on playing as the same character, so everyone could have the balanced stats of Crash himself, for example.
When actually on the track, it takes a few races to get a real feel for the mechanics; the turn radius, speed, and which items are for offense or defense. As I said, I have no experience with the original game, so it very well may (and should) feel right at home for fans of the old title. As the races went on, I felt a rush as I began to learn the techniques and understand the race language. It was exciting to lose, in an odd way. I’d get better each race and it was fun to see that progress on the leaderboard.
A prime example of this is the way drifting and boosting work in tandem. When you initiate a drift, the smoke from your kart’s tailpipe billows outward. When the smoke turns black, you can press the other bumper button to trigger a small boost, up to three times consecutively in the same drift. Miss that window and you can ride the drift out with no boost opportunity or start a new one and hit the timing. I enjoyed grasping the technique and implementing it on the track. Going from whacky drifts to tighter, boost-filled drifts was a clear sign that my skill was improving and rewarded my time with the game. I genuinely wanted to keep playing to get better and show off my skill by placing in the top three.
Based off my short time with Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, I can see this being a great addition to my party game lineup. The game will not only include four-player split screen, but also eight-player online and a battle mode. Filled to the brim with 31 remastered tracks, there should be lots to explore, memorize, and master when hitting the asphalt on June 21 on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Whether you are a fan of Crash Bandicoot or not, this is one kart racer that deserves your attention.