Review: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (14.19 GB)
Release Date: June 21, 2019
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Original MSRP: $39.99 (US)
ESRB Rating: E10+
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

It was during the opening scene of Kaz: Pushing the Virtual Divide, a documentary about the Gran Turismo series and its creator, that I first became familiar with the idea of the flow state. The movie begins with Dr. Michael Gervais, the Director of the High-Performance Psychology Program at the DISC Sports and Spine Centre, describing the phenomenon as “the most efficient brain and mind processing known to us”. The world’s most captivating performers and greatest athletes report being in a flow state only ten to fifteen percent of the time, during which they are no longer working and they’ve achieved an almost magical, no-mind level of adeptness.

The documentary highlights the flow state in regards to the passion, creativity and attention to detail possessed by Gran Turismo series creator, Kazunori Yamauchi, but the connection to Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is deeper than the shared video game genre. Something equivalent to a flow state is achieved in the player when successfully navigating CTR‘s courses, pickups, and pitfalls. With a first place finish required in each race to progress through the Adventure mode, blacking out to the point of thoughtlessly performing perfectly timed boosts and unmindfully drifting past perils is almost necessary to advance.

Gameplay:
While it may be considered video game blasphemy to even mention another kart racer in the presence of Mario Kart, it is also impossible not to draw comparisons. CTR is, without question, influenced by Nintendo’s staple series, but it’s unapologetic in its approach to emulate the way Mario Kart translates a platformer into the racing genre. In both games, the recognizable worlds are warped into racetracks, the identifiable hazards are weaponized or used as kart defense, and the defining characteristics of the series’ stars are exemplified amidst the chaos.

Adventure, the meat of CTR’s single player offerings, consists of karting around an overworld and stopping at a handful of events per area. Each event can host a series of objectives beyond the traditional race for players to complete. Crystal Challenges involve collecting all of the crystals on the battle version of a course within the allotted time, CTR Challenges have players win a race while obtaining the letters “CTR” in sometimes hidden locations, and Relic Races require beating a certain time, as all pickups are replaced with boxes that stop your runtime clock.

While rubber-banding can be a controversial topic, it is a game mechanic that separates arcade-y and kart racers from simulations. For the uninitiated, rubber-banding is a design choice that keeps the race exciting and gives every player a chance by boosting the performance of those not doing well. The back of the pack gets the best pickups while those closer to the front are never as lucky. While different kart racers employ this mechanic at different levels, and CTR‘s is definitely evident, I feel as though it is a bit more relaxed. In Mario Kart, the dangers of being in first place almost outweigh the advantages, but in CTR, I never felt like I should purposely dodge the top spot to avoid being everyone’s target.

Regardless of rubber-banding, or lack thereof, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is just as difficult as the original. Races are won and lost in the cornering, and mastering the drift/boost mechanic is essential for success. It is a harsh reminder that games once required a level of skill long since absent from most modern titles. At a time when game releases were fewer and farther between, and consumers were geared towards extracting the most value from a single purchase, the idea of welcoming shorter, easier, and more experimental games in order to diversify one’s experiences was certainly not a common notion. CTR nonchalantly harkens back to that time and its demands on the player are to be respected.

Visuals:
Activision has once again given the Crash Bandicoot IP the star treatment by tasking a more than capable studio with updating the aesthetic of this cult classic. With just as much love and care displayed by Vicarious Visions for Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Beenox has modernized, beautified, and enhanced the 1999 original. The camera flyovers of the courses prior to the beginning of a race consist of gorgeous shots and a vivacious presentation of the world’s flora and fauna.

Karts and character models pay homage to their polygonal counterparts of yesteryear while sporting magnificent detail and exaggerated animations. Players have two options of camera distancing while racing so the most comfortable point of view can be selected and the importance of the boost gauge is reinforced by its multiple display choices. Driving around the dynamic world map in Adventure can be a scenic journey with sites to see among its diverse geography.

Audio:
The island themed drums and upbeat tropical tunes employed throughout the entirety of the platforming Crash games make a return in Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. Characters like Aku Aku have bombastic voices and their defining exclamations pepper the soundtrack with cartoony glee. Because the audio isn’t necessarily germane to the overall experience, CTR is one of those games for which some players may opt to listen to music or a podcast in place of the title’s offerings. With that being said, there is a robust amount of remixed/remastered tracks to choose from, and their legacy versions from both Crash Team Racing and Crash Nitro Kart are also available.

Online/Multiplayer:
The Local Arcade mode features a multitude of race and battle types and allows for up to four player split screen. While plenty of modern games assume that players are alone in front of their monitors replacing traditional couch multiplayer with online modes, CTR is still living room and family friendly. I was impressed with the game’s capability to render four times and continue to run so smoothly. Matches are customizable, with every mode from Adventure available, in addition to the battle events.

During online play, the netcode is fairly solid with the occasional opponent teleportation. Create a private event, invite friends, or allow automatic matchmaking to create either a race or battle. Each type of event is again available and the competition is fierce. Many of your actions in CTR are rewarded with Wumpa Coins that players can exchange for cosmetic changes and unlockable carts and drivers. Unfortunately, there is an in-game option to purchase these coins with real money.

Conclusion:
With an impressive array of game modes, a robust online suite and enticing local play, this title fires on all cylinders. Packed full of content and replayability, CTR relies not on one single feature to satisfy but myriad, customizable experiences. Coupled with the zany characters, the subject matter’s unique iconography and a plethora of quality-of-life improvements, this kart racer is as fun as it deep.

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is another excellent entry into Activision’s apparent initiative to revitalize the original PlayStation mascot. Popular opinion among industry insiders has been that both Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled were released as test beds to gauge interest in the character. Strong sales, favorable critical reception, and enthusiasm surrounding the releases from us aged gamers will hopefully result in my much anticipated, brand new Crash platformer.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Emrah Rakiposki

Emrah Rakiposki

– Food
– Video games
– Rap music
It has been my life’s work to properly order the list of this world’s greatest pleasures. There is no right answer.

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