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Nuts to Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and Demon's Souls, Activision mastered the remake five years ago

You may not like it, but Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is what peak remake performance looks like.

A cutout of Crash Bandicoot in a go-kart, over the top of a trilogy of images depticting Cloud from FFVII, Leon from Resi 2, and a demon from Demon's Souls.
Image credit: VG247

If I asked you off the top of your head to name me the best video game remake of all time, chances are you’d probably come up with something along the lines of Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2 Remake,Final Fantasy 7 Remake, or one of Bluepoint Games’ fantastic conversions of Shadow of the Colossus and Demon’s Souls.

Hell, the title of this may have made you think of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 – which is definitely up there – but no, for my money, Beenox’s Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled has to be part of the conversation.

Now, for those of us who were lucky enough to grow up with a PS1 instead of being saddled with an N64, Crash Team Racing was a sacred game. It may not have the notoriety of Mario Kart 64, but those who felt its grace back in 1999 know which is the superior kart ‘em up. Instead of dealing with Frappe Snowland, we had absolute bangers like Polar Pass.

But it wasn’t just ‘Mario Kart with Clancy Brown’ that made Crash Team Racing special. The core gameplay and unique drift boost mechanics made it a far speedier game than its contemporaries, which paired nicely with fantastic track design, filled with tight turns and smart shortcuts. Not to mention, it nicked one of Diddy Kong Racing’s best elements – a full adventure mode. It ended up being one of Naughty Dog’s greatest games – which is ironic considering the team there allegedly made the villain an alien in an attempt to kill the franchise.

After Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy successfully – and faithfully – revived Crash Bandicoot by bringing back the three Naughty Dog classics in 2017, the natural follow-up was the fourth PS1 game. And two years later, Beenox – who up until then was known for its Spider-Man games (and have since fallen down the Call of Duty mines) – stepped up to the plate and released Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled.

At first glance, it was a solid remake that had everything you wanted in there. Everything was given a glow-up, adventure mode returns with new voice acting, Dingodile is there, mix that with some online play and you’re golden. And yet Beenox remained unsatisfied with merely remaking Crash Team Racing; it decided to go further.

Coco, Pura, Polar and N. Cortex race down a mossy, stone drive in Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled.
Hop to it. | Image credit: Activision

The most significant update to Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled was that the track list was more elaborate than ever, as Beenox decided to remake and include the full tracklist of the game’s follow-up – Crash Nitro Kart – which nearly doubled the amount of racing and battle tracks available in the remake.

Plus, almost every single new character from Nitro Kart returned alongside the CTR cast. This worked in tandem with a number of new character and kart customisation options, which you could take through Adventure mode in the new Nitro-Fueled mode (but Classic with the original eight in their standard karts is still available for you purists).

That’s pretty good, right? Sounds like a great remake. So that made things even more wild when Beenox decided to keep updating the game. Throughout the following eight months, the game received brand-new courses, characters, and features. The courses themselves would’ve been enough, as they all fit in wonderfully with the existing roster – Twilight Tour in particular felt like it could’ve been in the original game with all of the inspiration it pulls from Crash 3.

The new characters were pulled from all facets of Crash Bandicoot. Glaring omissions from the original (like N. Brio, Tawna, and Koala Kong) were added. Plus, there were beloved faces from later in the series like Nina Cortex and some Spyro characters (sorry to remind you of Crash Fusion, there). But the real highlight was how absolutely out there it got.

You got Yaya Panda from the Crash Nitro Kart 2 mobile game, the Crash villain chimera MegaMix who only appeared in the GBA exclusive Crash XS, a Crate, and the Crash Bash reject Rilla Roo. But the deepest of cuts had to be Hasty the Moose, who isn’t a Crash character but is based on a hippo pilot design that former Naughty Dog artist Bob Rafei mistakenly left in a portfolio of the art he did for Crash Team Racing back in the 90s. Safe to say, Beenox got weird with it.

Character Select screen in Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled, featuring 'fixed' Rilla Roo.
Look how they massacred my boy. | Image credit: Activision

That level of love carried on throughout the rest of the game’s development too, with Beenox adding in new features like the ability to swap classes – so that you could play as any character you like with your preferred driving style – a new driving style called Drift, and brand-new time trial challenges which came alongside the arrival of Crash Nitro Kart’s Emperor Velo 27.

Plus, Rilla Roo – who originally launched with a weird Jack Black-esque face, was eventually updated with a version in-line with his original design called ‘Fixed Rilla Roo’ as a separate playable character.

So why doesn’t Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled have the notoriety it deserves? Activision’s choice to add microtransactions after launch (despite the developers saying the game would not feature them) was a big hit, and Beenox was swiftly turned into a Call of Duty support studio – like many talented studios under the Activision banner – months after release, which didn't help.

Crash, Coco, and Cortex all leap into the foreground in an icy track in Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled Remaster.
Whoa! | Image credit: Activision

But the biggest issue is that – despite N. Sane Trilogy and Crash 4 being available on the platform – the remake was never released on PC for some unknown reason. Many games have lived on long past their intended demise thanks to PC communities, but the game came and went without a release on the platform, a trend that the latest multiplayer release in the series – the doomed Crash Team Rumble – followed, and has now ceased development less than a year after launch.

If Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was the way to introduce the series back into the mainstream, then Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled was the love letter to the fans who waited out the great Crash Bandicoot drought of the mid-2000’s to mid-2010s. Beenox’s love for the series and the original Crash Team Racing shone through, resulting in one of the greatest remakes I’ve ever played in my life.

And now, squirrled away in Activision's Call of Duty salt mines, we're likely never going to see Beenox's commitment to everyone's favourite orange marsupial ever again.

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