On a lot of levels, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a resounding success. This Beenox recreation of the 20-year-old original looks and sounds fantastic, and it plays just like it did back in the day. For fans, it's about as good a remake as you could hope for, but we're not quite convinced that a prettified retread is enough of a jump.
What's immediately clear is that the developer has a lot of reverence for the source material, and rightly so. Back in 1999, Crash Team Racing was the PSone's answer to Mario Kart and Diddy Kong Racing, taking the bandicoot and his cohorts to the races with a fleshed out single player adventure and a unique boosting system. At the time, it was a brilliant alternative to Nintendo's efforts, and easily the best kart racer to grace Sony's original console. Two decades later, Nitro-Fueled sticks uncannily closely to the gameplay template laid out by the first game, and it results in a remake that's both satisfying, and a little underwhelming, to play.
As we said, the game gets a lot of stuff right. From the wonderfully animated splash screen to the painstakingly detailed tracks, a lot of effort has been poured into making this a remake on par with the likes of Spyro: Reignited Trilogy. Each race course is chock full of brand new set dressing while maintaining the layout of the track itself, and the results speak for themselves. Similarly, the redone music and effects all sound great; the presentation feels consistent with that of the N. Sane Trilogy.
The handling feels very similar to the original game, for better and worse. On the plus side, it's an extremely tight arcade racer. The controls feel responsive, and anyone who's played the game before will slip back into it like an old pair of slippers. CTR remains a fun, speedy kart racer that anyone can pick up and play. Having said that, the skill-based drift and boost system is present and correct, and you'll need to utilise it if you want to keep up with the surprisingly challenging AI drivers. However, it's a finicky part of the racing that perhaps could've benefited from being modernised.
It's not that it doesn't work, it just feels a bit too stiff. You hop in the air before you begin power sliding, and in that window of time, you'll likely turn too much in one direction to then comfortably start drifting. What's more, some of Naughty Dog's old track designs require some pretty precise manoeuvring, and the result in 2019 is a handful of tortuous turns. There's an argument that all this just takes practice, but the fact is it's very easy to mess up sharp bends and not easy enough to drift when the game wants you to be doing so 90 per cent of the time.
In fact, the level of challenge on display across the game is rather high. Again, die-hard fans will appreciate this, but the majority of players are going to struggle. Aside from Adventure mode, where you're able to choose from three difficulties, races and time trials all have pretty high expectations. Whether this is a bad thing or not depends on you, but it's another way the game feels afraid to step into the modern day.
Where it isn't scared to modernise is with vehicle and character customisation. There's a vast number of characters to play as, and all of them have a handful of skins, but the developer has gone crazy with kart cosmetics. There are dozens of kart bodies, paint jobs, wheels, stickers, and decals to mix and match. They don't affect stats, so they're purely visual, but it's fun to choose your favourite combination. You can, of course, flaunt your unlocked goodies online, where up to eight players can engage in races or battles. From our limited experience, the net code seems very solid, although that's possibly helped by the fact there's no physical collision between participants.
Another part of the game that is decidedly new school is Wumpa Coins. This is an in-game currency you earn for doing basically anything, and you spend them at the Pit Stop, a shop where cosmetics and characters are rotated on a daily basis. It's a fine enough system for unlocking things, but what's a little irksome is the heavy emphasis on online play. You'll earn several times more Wumpa Coins for playing over the wires. Good luck affording anything at the Pit Stop if you only want to play Adventure mode, or split screen with your chums.
We don't mean to sound too negative about Nitro-Fueled, as there is a lot to like here. It's a well-made kart racer that generally plays well, and it's stuffed full of content and ways to play. It's just that, despite the up to date presentation and modern features, it still feels like a game from 1999. For some, that'll be a good thing, and it's certainly entertaining for a while, but the gameplay carries with it the cons as well as the pros.
A jam-packed remake that looks and sounds brilliant, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a lovingly crafted remake of a much beloved kart racer. Online play and customisation bring it kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but for as fun as the zippy racing is, it sticks perhaps a little too closely to the original model. High difficulty and some unforgiving track design mean this feels slightly dated. However, it's hard not to crack a smile as you drift around familiar tracks, laying down TNT crates, and humming along to the music. Fans will love what Beenox has done, but for everyone else, just be aware of the game's retro tendencies before stepping behind the wheel.