Last week, though, we got a more detailed breakdown of the game and saw a few matches in action, and our initial reaction is one more of curiosity than outright awe.
For those not in the loop, Crash Team Rumble takes the standard Crash Bandicoot single-player platform mechanics and applies them to a 4v4 team-based multiplayer game.
Each of the game’s maps – which are set around the Crash Bandicoot multiverse – has a bunch of Wumpa fruit dotted around it. The aim is for each team to collect as much Wumpa fruit as they can and drop it off at their Wumpa Bank.
Naturally, the opposing team is trying to do the same, so the key to success is not only collecting and banking your own Wumpa fruit, but trying to prevent your opponents from doing the same (including resorting to combat, should it come to it).
There’s more to it that – maps also have Gem Pads which can be turned on if you step on them. If you can turn an entire group of Gem Pads in one area to your colour, you’ll get a percentage boost on the number of Wumpas you deposit.
These are time-limited but also stackable, so one strategy could be to ignore the Wumpa fruit at first and secure all the Gem Pads, so that each Wumpa is worth more. Naturally, we’d imagine the best plan for success is a combination of the two, with some players collecting and other players focusing on the Gem Pads.
As well as Wumpa, players can also collect the ankh-shaped Relics dotted around each map. These can be deposited at Relic Stations, which trigger offensive and defensive set-pieces that can swing the match. In an example we were shown, one Relic Station placed a giant beach ball over a character, letting them plough through enemies.
That’s the general gist, then – collect and bank fruit, while using Gem Pads to increase their value and using Relic Stations to gain extra powers. It’s a simple enough set-up, and one players will be able to understand quickly.
“That’s the general gist, then – collect and bank fruit, while using Gem Pads to increase their value and using Relic Stations to gain extra powers. It’s a simple enough set-up, and one players will be able to understand quickly.”
When it comes to starting a game, players have to make two separate choices – their character and their ‘Power’. Heroes come in three flavours – Scorers (agile characters who are best at collecting and returning fruit), Blockers (powerful characters best placed to guard opponents’ Wumpa Banks) and Boosters (best at collecting relics and activating Gem Pads) – and teams can be formed of any combination.
Added to these, though, are the Powers. As well as picking their character, players have to choose a specific ability – examples we were shown include the Healing Fridge (which heals any teammates that gets close), Wumpa Stash (which puts a target over your head and gives you a lot of Wumpa if you stay alive for a set time) and Gasmoxian Guard (a massive guard who can defend areas).
The combination of character and Power can make for some potentially interesting strategic possibilities. You may want to choose a Scorer character, for example, but give them the Gasmoxian Guard Power to give them the defensive capabilities they’re naturally lacking.
All this makes for potentially interesting multiplayer game, but we still can’t shake that niggling feeling that we’re not sure how it’s all going to play out in practice.
The reality is that most Crash Bandicoot fans love the series for its solo platforming goodness, so it remains to be seen how willing they are to engage with a game that requires them to take on both co-operative and competitive play.
We’d also be lying if we said we weren’t concerned by the potential for monetisation. The game’s creative directors weren’t willing to speak too much about the plans on that front, but the fact the Deluxe Edition comes with two ‘Premium Season Passes’ and an instant Tier 25 unlock for Season 1 suggests both that there will be multiple seasons, and they will have a lot of tiers.
Anyone who slogged their way through Crash Team Racing’s seasons may already be nervous about how it’s going to be handled here, so we can only hope that if players end up taking part in multiple sessions a day it’s because they want to, rather than because the grind requires them to. Still, at least Activision is up-front about it this time, rather than adding microtransactions a month after release like it did with Crash Team Racing.
So far, so interesting, then, but a number of questions still linger about just how well all this is going to come together. These questions will partly be answered next month when pre-order customers get access to the closed beta – a useful exercise, because when it comes to a multiplayer-only game like this, it’s only by getting groups of players to put the game through its paces that we’ll get a better idea of how well-balanced and compelling it is.