- Related Games:
- Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled may not have been made by Vicarious Visions, the team behind the supremely challenging Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy, but it retains its ethos. The Crash trilogy remaster caught everyone by surprise by making the bandicoot die, die, and die again in a series of grueling stages, and CTR Nitro-Fueled is its kart-racing equivalent in terms of sheer difficulty. But is it too difficult for newcomers?
My experience with Crash Team Racing back in the day was brief. Though I never owned the game, I played it at a friend’s house, but never really took to it. (This was mainly because he was a controller-greedy only child who refused to play split screen in favor of making me watch him complete Adventure Mode, but the point remains that I was always more interested in Mario Kart.)
I came to Nitro-Fueled as a noob, then, and immediately got the sense that I was doing something wrong. Power sliding is handled differently compared to how it’s usually implemented in kart racers, with you having to press a separate button while drifting in order to initiate the speed boost. However, even though I was convinced I’d got the hang of this mechanic, I was still routinely finishing at the back of the pack even on normal difficulty.
Why Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled leaves newcomers behind
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled‘s high level of difficulty revolves around it requiring you to combo power slides, chaining drifts in order to maximize the amount of boost you receive. This means that even if you drift around each corner, you’re still not really doing it right; you’re supposed to be drifting constantly. If you let the turbo boost fill up while power sliding, you can press the alternate power slide button to get a perfect boost. Three of these in a row nets you a massive speed boost, and if you’re good enough, you can theoretically chain these triple combos all the way around each track.
This makes the skill ceiling in CTR Nitro Fueled unforgiving, to say the least. Rather than just having to focus on power sliding around corners correctly, you also have to learn how to keep that momentum going throughout the entirety of each track. As such, the leap from easy to normal is gargantuan, with the former allowing you to win races without even tapping the power slide button, whereas the latter requires you to zip around each circuit in a near-constant state of drifting.
Hard mode is insurmountable, with the CPU whizzing around each track and leaving you in their dust. Easy mode feels like Mario Kart Wii with lobotomized opponents, while CTR hard mode feels like the Colin McRae Rally of kart racers. This extends to online play, which requires a similar level of mastery to even consider competing with its top-level players, who are currently thrown into matches with newcomers due to the lack of skill-based matchmaking.
The problem with CTR Nitro-Fueled online
Thus far, I’ve been thrown into matches exclusively with players who have seemingly been training for this remake for the past 20 years. No matter which lobby I enter into, every player who takes first place has an innate knowledge of every nook and cranny in CTR. It is impenetrably tough for newcomers, to the point where third place feels like the real first place for players who don’t have prior CTR experience.
In the absence of skill-based matchmaking, the game’s items could have been the great equalizer. However, there’s no real way to shake up proceedings from the back of the pack. Sure, you can use an Aku Aku and zoom back into the action, but there’s no equivalent to a Bullet Bill that will significantly alter your position and thrust you among the race leaders; the recovery time is too insignificant for items to make a real impact.
This focus on skill over chance would be refreshing in the chaotic karting genre, but the skill gap in each online race is so tremendous that if you’re not well-versed in power sliding, you have no chance of being involved in a competitive race. As such, it leaves me wondering how younger, inexperienced players are supposed to enjoy Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled outside of its monotonous easy mode.
The gulf between the level of skill required for each difficulty mode is too wide, with completely different playstyles required to be successful at each. Even if you start racking up the wins in normal mode, the skills you’ve acquired here don’t equal success in its online component. Despite power sliding past your CPU rivals at CTR‘s default difficulty level, you’re not going to manage to do the same when starting out against real players.
I’m enjoying Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, while also feeling like I’m being taunted by it at the same time. Taking the opposite road traveled by the vast majority of kart racers, it is as difficult for newcomers as is possible, being implausibly tough for younger players and refusing to leave the outcome of its races up to chance. I suspect that this will keep veteran CTR fans coming back for more, but I don’t envy parents who have picked up this cuddly driving game for their kids.