Crash Team Rumble - Co-Op Review
Crash Team Rumble is developer Toys for Bob’s latest entry in Activision’s Crash Bandicoot series following Crash 4: It’s About Time in 2020. Instead of another straight platforming adventure, CTR (no, not that one) is a 4v4 team multiplayer only, online only competitive platformer which features a handful of different levels, a few items and characters to choose from and plenty of monetisation options. P2 Editorial members Jess Zammit and Stephen del Prado spent some time with (the other) CTR before comparing some notes!
Stephen: I’m just going to put it on front street – with the plethora of great multiplayer only games in recent years often tied to PlayStation Plus or GamePass, it’s a baffling decision that Activision decided to charge money for this. Not surprising to see it’s retail price plummet within a week or two of release either, as Crash Team Rumble is sparse on content and already seems to be relying on its monetisation and subsequently linked online meta to keep players coming back. Jess, what have your initial impressions been of (not that one) CTR?
Jess: Honestly, I wish I was playing the other CTR (just CTR, not CTRNF). What a fun game. Not that this one isn’t fun, it’s just fun in very short bursts, and only under a specific set of circumstances. After watching some of the promo material for CTR (not that one) over the past few months, I was hoping that even if this was going to be just another multiplayer, online only competitive platformer, that it might be one that benefited from the charm of the Crash series. I feel like there was a great opportunity here for some Crash Bash-style chaos, or at least a bit of variation in goals between the levels, but instead it really is just… Capture the Flag, but sometimes you jump on crates and collect wumpa fruit. Over and over again.
Stephen: I think you’re right that Crash Team Rumble is fun in bursts, but unless it’s exactly what you’re looking for in an online game, there’s not quite the variety of experiences I’d want. Choosing between different roles and power-ups does change your approach in-game from more offensive play to defensive play or support and vice versa but I’m not sure many players will plumb those depths. Meanwhile, it can take a bit of effort to unlock these elements which risks players growing tired of the core game loop which is, as you’ve said, a Capture the Flag variant. As a Free-to-play title, I’d completely understand how and why CTR(umble) functions as it does, but putting a price tag on it seems at odds with the level of competition that exists in the space – is this really peeling players away from Fortnite? Having played matches against much higher level players, I do think there is some depth to the competitive experience it offers, but unless it grows or at least retains its userbase for a good length of time, it could be very short lived indeed.
Jess: I agree that there’s some depth, but at the lower levels it feels a lot like the experience you have in a match is going to come down to who you’re matched with – and not in a fun way. When the opposite team has a defender, they camp on your goal so that you can’t score points. When they don’t, it’s easy for it to just become a ‘get fruit/set up bonuses and repeat’ loop, which is fun for the first few rounds, but I can’t see it being fun in the long term. And sure, the cosmetic unlocks and characters are cool, but unlocking new characters takes a while – long enough that if I wasn’t invested in them, I’d probably quit before I got more than one. I do think there’s an audience for this title, but it’s hard not to compare it to something like the ill-fated Knockout City, which was a similar team-based sports game and a medium amount of fun but ultimately couldn’t sustain itself. If anything, maybe any leftover players from the closure of that will make their way to CTR(umble). I don’t know. I wanted this to have a fun single-player mode, or some kind of couch co-op, or just something to give it the bit of magic it needs, but it just doesn’t have it. Do you see yourself playing much more of CTR(umble) post review?
Stephen: Not particularly, and you’re bang on about some sort of couch co-op improving the overall package as it’s the kind of thing I could mess around in with my eldest son, which then begs the question; aren’t there better games we could get that experience from? I’m not overly compelled to return so I can grind out matches online to keep up with the meta built around new characters, which is already there and I think will lead to the power creep issues some online focused games end up having as a short term method to keep the playerbase on the hook before they move on. As you’ve pointed out, legitimate strategy or no, there are huge swings in matches depending on whether your scoring area is being camped on or not and without a set of friends you’re partying up with on the regular, you’re likely to get even more mixed results relying on random parties. Too slim and too slight is how I’d describe CTR right now. Do you think there’s any chance it can be turned into a hit for you, or are we waiting for the eventual shift to F2P then server shutdown?
Jess: I wish I could say it wasn’t a foregone conclusion, and I’m ready to be proven wrong, but the demise does feel inevitable. Assuming there aren’t any big changes, I don’t know that this is going to find a lasting audience, and even though there’s a bit of fun to be had and it does have a nice aesthetic, I don’t see myself spending a chunk of time with it. I could be persuaded to come back if they did add couch co-op or single-player modes, but as it stands I think in the sea of competitive online games, this one is going to struggle to stay afloat. It’s not a bad game, it’s just… not a great one either, and to succeed in this market you’ve gotta bring something special.