Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled completes its circuit
Beenox's bumper Wumpa remake deserves far more love
Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled has been the absolute pinnacle of the kart-racing genre, as far as I'm concerned. A long-awaited remake of PlayStation classic Crash Team Racing, CTR NF has delivered so spectacularly that I feel it's earned something of a tribute on the hallowed pages of Retronauts. It's such an accomplished, richly rewarding title that it's basically been my game of the year for two years running. Or should I say two years driving, eh, Nauties? Ho ho!
For one thing, it's a brilliantly re-done take on a karting classic; every track from the original PS1 game is here, along with all of its characters and full Adventure Mode experience. But that wasn't enough, oh no. You also get the tracks from the PS2 sequel, Crash Nitro Kart, alongside all of its characters. Two games' worth of racing content for the price of less than one! Surely that would be enough? NO! They also later added characters from Crash Tag Team Racing, packing Nitro-Fueled with every character from every Crash Bandicoot racing game ever. For free!
Unfortunately, you may well not care about characters. Honestly, you'd be forgiven for not caring very much about the likes of Yaya Panda, but you have to respect the sheer fan-pleasing impulse to excavate such an obscure character - Yaya had only previously appeared in java cellphone games, for goodness' sake. This kind of fanservice (not that kind) is laced throughout CTR NF and it almost feels like an apology from the universe that deprived them so long of meaningful Crash Bandicoot content. Alongside the 56 characters (did you even know there were 56 Crash characters?) and all these tracks, the developers have been adding more and more stuff through the Grand Prix seasons, monthly chances to earn bonuses by completing daily and weekly challenges. They were balanced in such a way that the new characters could easily be earned with just a couple of races a night (for about three nights, so maybe just under an hour of time in a month), with the rest of the stuff more difficult to acquire. Thankfully, now that the Grand Prix seasons are over, this stuff has cropped up in the "Pit Stop", a store for buying unlockables using the in-game currency Wumpa Coins. And therein lies one of the major criticisms.
Wumpa Coins - befitting a game released in 2020 - are available as microtransactions, a big point of contention with Furious Gamers. Now, on the one hand, they're right; it is a little bit of a shaky decision in a game that's largely geared (no pun intended) towards kids. On the other hand, crucially, the game farts Wumpa Coins at you so frequently and in such quantities that I've had enough to buy every single character in the game without spending a single ha'penny of real money - and I don't even play the game that much. Since the Grand Prix seasons ended, they've also added a rolling daily challenge system that allows you to earn even more bonus Wumpa Coins, meaning the unlockables should be even more accessible to players. So, my personal view is that the microtransactions are entirely tolerable, but it would obviously be better if they weren't there.
With that negative out of the way, all I can really do is continue to enthuse about this marvellous remake and how brilliantly fun it is. There are so many different modes, so much to see and unlock, super-smooth online racing and it all looks and sounds marvellous. The tracks are well-designed and memorable, the weapons are more balanced than those in Mario Kart (I never liked it, don't @ me) and it's - by some distance - the best kart racing game I've ever played in my entire fat life.
Oh, and yes, it runs at 30 frames per second. It's a smooth, beautiful ride but if this framerate business truly bothers you, I can only recommend either waiting for the presumably unlocked framerate PC version, or simply climbing into a big, stinking bin for the rest of your life while I have fun playing the awesome game. Yeah. Cheers.