Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review #146: Crash Tag Team Racing

 Fun, in all the ways that don't matter!
 Crash Team Racing was fun. Crash Nitro Racing was Ok, it tried to imitate CTR, but lost its spark. And now we have Crash Tag Team Racing which is nothing like the other two, a pretty risky move, but it's not all bad.

 The story this time is about a deed to a theme park. Seriously. For some reason, Crash and Cortex really want to earn that deed, so they will race across five "theme" lands around the park to earn Power Crystals and ultimately, earn the deed. Sadly, the roster has been reduced to 8 characters, with two new characters, and the other six(Crash, Coco, Crunch, Cortex, Nina and N. Gin) have been drastically changed, personality wise. N. Gin seems to have father issues, is now a sadomasochist and is a closet homosexual, Crunch became a Mr. T parody and Coco, the "smart" one is now dumber. Story shouldn't matter in a game like this, but it's rather jarring seeing these new portrayals, Twinsanity's Cortex worked because it was a more exaggerated version of Cortex, these are completely new characterizations.
 Everything you knew about Crash racers? Throw it out the window. Firstly, the hub worlds have been changed for on-foot segments. These are very simple(Crash only has the Jump, Spin and Slam) and easy, but movement feels very floaty, everything is veeeery floaty, initially it looks terrible, but eventually you get used to it and it becomes quite alright, if somewhat fun. As you go through the game, you'll have to do more and more platforming to get to the gates that unlock each race, but it's very easy, and conveniently, once you unlock a track, you can pick it from any gate. This overworld also has the rest of the racers standing around, and you can talk to them to trigger missions(They are simply "Get me X amount of coins, get me X amount of power crystals, find me X item in Y zone") and unlock Karts, stronger weapons and costumes. I actually prefer this unlocking method to the "play each track a ton of times" in previous Crash racers, but that's just me.

 As for the on-wheels gameplay, it's been extremely simplified, to the point that it no longer offers the depth previous games offered. Power Sliding is now done by tapping break before a curve, the longer you hold the break, the more "Boost gauge" you earn, fill the gauge and you get a free turbo. As for the racing itself, it lacks punch, it feels dull. The weapons you can pick during the race lack any kind of personality, you throw... exploding monkeys? Chickens? Half the time I didn't even know what the hell I was throwing. The tracks themselves are very generic, they lack soul, they lack personality, they could've been lifted from any other mascot racer, they don't even reference the Crash series in the slightest. Not cool.
 It's not all bad, the game introduces the new "Clashing" mechanic, by pressing triangle and approaching another racer, you can clash into them, if they don't reject the clash. Clashing makes one racer man a turret and the other man the car(You can swap seats) and each racer comes with their own gun(Though the gunner can switch between both his gun and his partner's). Whoever gets to man the turret gets the best deal, since gunning down racers feels very satisfying and it's all around fun. You can also gun down incoming projectiles, and when you pick up weapons they now turn into overpowered weapons of mass destruction that can destroy multiple karts in one shot, which encourages clashing between racers. Oh, and you can screw your partner, whoever unclashes first gets a boost of speed and leaves his partner behind, so you can steal the first place for yourself, and in one particular occasion, we got two second places and no first place. These mechanics make Battles very fun, and races between clashed karts are much more fun than simple races, if only because it makes the game actually fun, so you'd better think of this game as a combat racer, instead of a mascot racer.

 As for the types of races, besides battle, you get Fastest Lap, pretty self explanatory, Crashinator in which you must hit as many objects as you can before the time runs out, Rolling Thunder, a one-lap race in which you start clashed with unlimited ammo and must destroy as many karts as you can, and then there's Run and Gun, which is just like Crashinator except that now you are manning a turret. There's also a Stunt mode which has you using both analogs while on air to turn and roll to earn points, but it doesn't work very well.
 Graphics are alright, but the problem lies on how generic and soulless everything looks. It's not a bad looking game, just a very uninspired one. Music on the other hand is fantastic since it's in the same vein as Twinsanity's. Voice acting is also really good, but your mileage may vary depending on how much you like the new personalities characters have. Still, during races characters tend to run their mouths way to often which can become a bit annoying.

 The thing about Crash Tag Team Racing is that it lacks the depth previous games had. It lacks personality. And the racing itself is so-so. Clashing does somewhat manage to pull the game forward, but one decent mechanic can't make up for the racing itself, which should've been the focus of the game.
 6.0 out of 10.

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