It was my third attempt at Cortex Castle, racing as Coco Bandicoot as I continue to struggle to find my preferred racer through Adventure mode. I struggled on the first race but a great last lap boosted me from 7th to 4th, the second race was smoother but not perfect, finishing 2nd. Finally, everything clicked on the third attempt. I was getting boosts left, right and centre, placing my traps in all the right places and in the end I won with five seconds to spare. I felt good – a satisfying feeling knowing that I was slowly but surely getting to grips with CTR again. I awaited my trophy presentation. Instead I was met with an error message. The game had crashed. While it was saving. Corrupting my save file.
I am demoralised – I felt like all my progress had just vanished due to no fault of my own. Out of spite I started a new Adventure mode on Easy just to get through it quicker. However, something happened during this run – I started having a really good time. Rivals rarely use power-ups in Easy mode allowing me the time to learn the tracks and fully get to grips with where to boost. I even scoped out a few shortcuts that I never knew about. I came out it feeling like I could take on the world!
My very next online match I won by a fairly comfortable distance. I haven’t won since BUT now I know that the game has clicked. Some practice and I could be competitive at the game and that is when it becomes a lot of fun. Matches against real people can be fast, chaotic and heart-attack inducing if things start to go wrong when you are number one. There is no ranked mode so there is no guarantee that you will be matched with people of similar skill which can suck if there is one or two pro players in the match but this does not happen often and power-ups help defuse that situation somewhat.
Crash Team Racing is the perfect multiplayer game, like most kart racing games, but the game does offer a decent single player Adventure mode where you go through four hubs each featuring four race circuits and a battle arena where you have to collect 20 crystals within a time limit to get a token. Winning each race in a hub will unlock the boss where you compete in a 1v1 race against a super powered version of a famous Crash Bandicoot boss – Ripper Roo, Papu Papu, Komodo Joe and Pinstripe in order. Beating all the races and bosses unlock one last race against the main villain and the worst cheater in existence Nitrous Oxide, a new villain that was introduced purely for the original CTR.
The races feature eight characters from the Crash series racing through locations that are inspired half by levels in the Crash trilogy and half inspired by the characters that give their names to them. Crash Cove is a beach level to match Crash’s favourite hobby of napping on the beach, Cortex Castle is the big evil castle level etc. Each circuit is full of traps, dynamic environments and shortcuts to discover while each one feels completely unique to another – mostly (the two snow levels are aesthetically similar but do not feel the same to race on). As someone who played the original CTR, every track looks like just how I remember but with some shininess thrown on there to make this game look really good. It still has its cartoonish charm and it retains the look of a Crash game to make it stand out but it is genuinely a nice game to look at.
The racers themselves fall into certain categories. Crash and Cortex are balanced racers with average stats all across the board, Polar and Pura are great at turning but sacrifice top speed, Tiny and Dingodile are the polar opposites (HAH) of that with great top speed but rubbish turning. Then there are characters like Coco and N-Gin that have good top speed and handling but not so good turning. They are split into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced difficulties – Tiny, for example, is considered an Advanced character as he is a little difficult to race with due to his terrible turning (even though Tiny is my boy). If you can master a character like Tiny then you should have no problem winning races in the future.
There are a lot of racers to unlock – five of which are unlocked via just finishing Adventure mode and some are unlocked by collecting relics and tokens. However, this game also contains content from Crash Nitro Kart and the characters from that game can be unlocked via the Pit Stop. There are no micro-transactions in the game but there are in-game currency to earn by playing the game. You get higher bonuses for playing online than playing single player and this is how you can buy new racers, skins, karts and parts. It is neat and it gives incentive to play online even when you (I) am not very good. However, I do feel like to get some of the more substantial items it requires a bit of a grind so while it is good that they do not ask you to put any more money towards the game than you have already spent – it can take a while to buy certain packs.
Speaking of taking a while, a common criticism of the game has been its loading times. I am lucky to be playing the PS4 version that still has fairly substantial loading times, it is nothing compared to what I have seen from the Switch version where loading times can take up to a good part of a minute. I don’t know if this is something that can be fixed but I understand it can be frustrating especially during a long play session. Online matchmaking can take a little while as you it takes at least two minutes to get into a match – between voting on a map, waiting for enough players to join and then having to sit through the track view because at least one person inevitably won’t bother to skip it. It is not too bad in isolation, but if you are planning to play a lot of online matches be prepared to spend half your time waiting for a match to begin.
Is this the definitive way to play Crash Team Racing now? The original was my favourite kart racer until Mario Kart 8 came out and this remake does a great job at replicating that game while making some improvements over the original and adding in a decent amount of extra content. I think in a few months I may go back to the original and see if that holds up compared to Nitro Fuelled but as of right now I can safely say that is a great version of a great game. Get some mates around, grab some beers and enjoy the nostalgia trip, this game is made for a few hours on a couch with three other people who will hate each other at the end of it.