I adore Crash Team Racing; it was one of my favorite games growing up and it still is to this day. I remember every course, item, and shortcut from the original. And even after all these years, I can still compete against some of my best lap times. I firmly believe that CTR is the best kart racer of all time, and after playing a few hours of Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, I can say with most certainty, that there's nothing to worry about about.
Nitro-Fueled's presentation is incredible. The three tracks I got to play--Crash Cove, Polar Pass, and Dingo Canyon--all looked great. There’s so much new detail that developer Beenox has packed into the remake, not only on the tracks themselves, but particularly in the backgrounds. In Polar Pass, for example, I noticed bears climbing banners while a train chugged along just above the raceway. Details like this added new life to classic tracks, elevating their presentation past the original.
Each character has their own unique set of animations for jumping and celebrating, too. Some character exclamations and taunts have also been re-recorded, while entirely new ones have been added to the roster. Dr. Neo Cortex has never seemed more like a bumbling maniacal mad scientist than he appears and sounds here. Speaking of which, sound design has also experienced an upgrade; missiles whizzing past my ears to an exhilarating effect, and the potions I threw ahead at my competitors landed with a satisfying splash. And of course, hearing the re-recorded title theme music hit me with a wave of nostalgia.
As for replicating the overall feel, the CTR remaster seems to be honoring the original--for the most part. From the moment I picked up the controller, I was tapping the X button to charge my initial boost out of the gate, and immediately went into lining up the angle to get the perfect powerslide around the next corner. It certainly plays just like it used to: you start sliding, charge your turbo, and hit L1 to boost up to three times. The longer you let it charge, the longer your boost goes. However, the length of time that a boost lasts has been shortened, which is particularly noticeable on long, straight lanes without turns. On Crash Cove, for example, it used to be easy to keep your boost going in the final stretch using the turbo pads, but in Nitro-Fueled, this once useful strategy has been nerfed.
Coming out of your drift also felt a bit off as well as if the turning radius after boosting had been adjusted. I'm not entirely positive if it's a matter of how far or quickly you turn, but it led to a couple of cases where I accidentally boosted off the ledge or into a wall because my angle was off. I'd need to test this mechanic more before confirming it to be an actual issue. What I played was still an early build, so there’s always room to fine-tune everything if my suspicions turn out true. Worst case scenario, it just means I need slightly adjust how I approach those turns.
Minor control issues and changes aside, what I played of Nitro-Fueled still exceeded my expectations. I can’t wait to pick it up and feel the rush of competition again. The updated visuals and sound were more than enough to trigger a deep yearning in me to jump back in. If Nitro-Fueled meets the high quality met by both Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy, then this just might be one of my favorites this year. However, if Nitrous Oxide is still a dirty cheater after all these years, I’m going to lose it.