Last week, I got invited to demo the new Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled in New York City and not even a freak pop-up snowstorm could stand in my way of testing out Activision’s latest nostalgia-fueled remake/ remaster! And as an added bonus, I got a chance to chat with Project Director Stephane Gravel about how he and his team were able to bring this 20 year old game back to life.
N-Sane Driving – Controls & Game Modes:
Since this is a ‘nostalgia’ based game, things get complicated when it comes to the ‘what is getting updated’ question. Are we just getting a fresh coat of paint? Are controls being updated to match modern day trends? Etc. Well a few races in, I started to notice something: The same jumps I would always mess up in the original, I messed up here. The line between making that boosted turn and sliding off the track was just as thin! All jokes about my racing game skills aside, the game felt ridiculously similar to the original; and as I learned in my interview with Stephane, there was a big reason for that.
For Stephane and his team, the original Crash Team Racing was very near and dear to their hearts; and they wanted this to be their “love letter” of sorts to that game. When working on this game, it was very important to them to keep things as close to the original as possible. And whereas that might be hard from a creative standpoint – because obviously you want to expand on things – the Beenox team thankfully had one major outlet for all their imagination.
“Staying true to the controls and the experience of the game, the only room we had left to ‘express our creative muscles’ – if you will – was dressing up everything that is not related to the races itself. That’s why we added a ton of details to the sides of the track. We have added those animated characters to make the tracks more lively and make it feel like there’s actually life going on in them.” – Stephane Gravel, Project Director CTR Nitro-Fueled
And the liveliness of the tracks absolutely shows! Take Polar Pass for example. In the original there were a couple of stone towers and a monstrous frozen polar bear. In Nitro-Fueled, the giant frozen polar bear is still there, but the rest of the arena is home to a polar bear village of sorts. There’s even a polar bear nervously making his way across over the starting sign. Now don’t get me wrong, the tracks look absolutely beautiful even without the added wildlife, but those additions just add so much to the game that it makes you want to try new things – even though you know doing so will probably make you lose the race.
This is best shown in Crash Cove where there are groups of crabs just chilling on the course that skitter away as racers approach. Did I lose a race or two because I spent more time seeing if I could hit the crabs before they returned to the water? Maybe. Did I lose a race because I tried to drive out into the water to get a closer look at the sharks they added? Ok, guilty! When the game was announced, I was worried about the beautiful scenery making me want to cruise around instead of speed ahead. Now having played it, I can honestly say those fears were realized; but there is benefit of winning – besides progressing/ beating the game.
The courses aren’t the only things that got some tender loving care in terms of redesigns. The racers look splendid and are just as lively. Each has their own distinct stats like in the original but this time their personalities are also on full display. Besides their basic animations on the racer select screen, each character also gets additional animations depending on whether they win or lose a race.
Bonus Revelations – Cart Swapping & Exclusivity:
Though it wasn’t in the demo I got to play around in, I got confirmation that by launch there will be the option to choose not only between racers but carts as well. So if you want Crash in Nitros Oxide’s hovercraft, you can make it so! Though it’s important to note that these are purely cosmetic changes and the carts do not have bonuses or properties of their own. Only the racers do.
Additionally, I learned that the several skins confirmed for the Deluxe Digital Edition will be exclusive to that edition and will not be made available later via DLC or micro-transactions. Nitros Oxide and his cart will of course both be unlockable in the main game. The Deluxe Digital Edition simply makes them and their advanced stats available from the start of the game. This might not seem like much, but Nitros was never available in the original without the use of gameshark codes.
All in all, it was a tremendously fun experience – the best of which was the couch co-op. Sure multiplayer is fun, but there’s just something about sitting next to the person your racing and trash talking/ laughing with them. It’s an experience I haven’t seen much of in recent years – and the few times I have, it’s been executed in less than stellar ways – but with games like these, it is a necessity. And Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled absolutely knocks it out of the park! In fact, I might just buy two copies of this game – one for myself and another for Fan Fest Team Building exercises.
* Special Thanks to the entire Activision and Beenox teams for inviting me out to try this game. These images and experiences wouldn’t be possible without them.