Game developers have been on a roll revisiting beloved classics from the PSX era (yes, that’s how PlayStation was abbreviated back then). Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is the latest trip down memory lane. It’s heavy on nostalgia, and that’s just the way I like it.
The design of the game is fairly faithful to the original PSX release. You can play the adventure mode with classic gameplay – nearly identical to the original game – or you can play an updated version that lets you swap out racers and mod your kart. It’s up to you.
There are also two control schemes to choose from – again a classic one and a more updated version. Somewhat surprisingly, I felt that the classic control scheme was actually superior.
The major difference to this release is the ability to customize various race karts with paint jobs, stickers, and wheels, but these are mostly cosmetic and will not help you race faster in the adventure mode. Additionally, you can race online opponents, but couch coop is very much intact and will put relationships to the test.
Graphically, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled looks pretty fantastic. It resembles a Pixar film with expressive animations and very lively and colorful race tracks. This is definitely the version I remember playing, and there’s no reason to go back to the original release; doing so will only hurt your eyes.
The PS4 delivers in-engine visuals that look much better than the full motion video of the PSX game. Crash’s character model resembles the later designs from the PS2 games and the recent N. Sane Trilogy. He looks and moves like more of a doofus than the original character design.
Gameplay-wise, Mario Kart lovers might not like this as much, mainly because they didn’t grow up playing Crash Team Racing and thus haven’t memorized the tracks or the nuances of the game. I played Crash Team Racing as a teen. This remake feels exactly like I remember, warts and all.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled isn’t an easy game and sometimes doesn’t really feel like a fair game. Your AI opponents suffer from some serious rubber banding where they will catch up to you rather quickly if you’re in first place, but you will often have a tough time catching up to them. You can’t really leave your AI opponents in the dust unless you manage to gain a very wide lead out of luck. Likewise, the boss races are very unfair as the bosses are faster and they leave trails of hazardous items for you to crash into.
Nitro-Fueled is definitely a challenge. It really reminds you that games of that era were difficult to master. The time challenges, gem collecting stages, and CTR races (requiring you to collect the letters C-T-R and come in first place) all require multiple tries and may make some quit in frustration and cry a bit.
You can, of course, lower the difficulty setting. I, for instance, played on Medium. The adventure mode is generally short when playing on a lower difficulty setting. You can easily beat it over a weekend, but the challenges will take you much more time.
Back when Crash Team Racing came out, it introduced the power slide, allowing you to gain a boost from drifting but also requiring precise timing. If you didn’t get it right, you could spin out from it. It’s amazing how my fingers remember the exact timing still, and I’m generally having a blast playing this game even though sometimes I want to rage quit.
If you played Crash Team Racing when you were younger, you probably learned how to be resolute and that is an admirable quality. If you never played CTR but like cartoony kart racing games like Mario Kart and Sonic Racing, you’ll probably enjoy this, but it will kick your butt until you get the hang of it. Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled definitely still holds its own against contemporary racing games of its kind.