Review by Lord_Jimmy

"Can be summed up in one word: Awesome"

Speed.

I'm thundering down the track, twisting, turning, bending, banking. It's an amazing feeling. It's intense. It's adrenaline. And if I make the tiniest mistake, it's all over. I hit the next turn sharply and cut it cleanly, gaining a place. I boost and speed over the gap ahead. Everything is a blur, but I don't care. My eyes are fixed on the road and my hands are gripped on the controls.

The next turn is a big one. I clunk the drift buttons, take a quick breath and slam the control stick to the right, too far right. I relax some of the pressure but I'm not fast enough. I bump into the inside of the turn and everything stops. It takes what feels like eternity to accelerate again and I've lost about 10 places.

Eager to catch up, I boost like mad. I completely dry my energy and haven't even dented the distance between me and the next racer. I'm a slow, sitting duck here and the slightest bump will knock me out of the race. Determined, I continue to power down the course. The next recharge strip must be soon…

The car behind me boosts and thunders into me, throwing me to the side of the course before I can react. Critical damage = Explosion. I'm finished.

Thus is the harsh cruelty of F-Zero GX. Make one lousy mistake and it's all over. Mark my words, F-Zero GX is one of the toughest, cruellest, sadistic games ever made. But for all the right reasons. It's a gruelling, mind-numbing blur requiring lightning reflexes, concentration and pure skill. And among all this, it is freaking fun

It's an ingenious idea. Take this: you have hover cars that go at the speed of sound through courses with loops and twists and turns, boosting and attacking each other and taking wildly sharp corners. It is no dream anymore, it's a video game. It's F-Zero.

F-Zero is the third major release of the series (but not just the third), It's fully 3d with beautiful visuals, catchy music and gameplay that will blow you off your seat. Seriously. I have spent more time playing this game since I bought it than I have been doing everything. All the countless nights where all I have done is tried to shave a .01 of a second off my best time - and failed miserably. The endless grand prix runs and by thousands of attempts to beat chapter 7 on story mode.

Sure, F-Zero is difficult. No, not just that… It's insane! But in a good way. Piloting all the twists and turns of all the complex courses at the speed of sound is no piece of cake. It's really difficult. But when you fly off that course and retire, it's not because the computer cheated you, it's because you didn't take that turn tight enough, or boosted at the wrong time. It punishes you for the slightest error: The tiniest bump can put you back 10 places.

However, the game will actually reward you for effort as well. Nothing beats the feeling you get when, after 50,000-odd attempts; you finally beat that mission on story mode. Nothing can describe how awesome it is to boost 5 successive times on the home straight and take 1st place by .005 of a second. When you start to learn and practice, you'll be taking corners perfectly, controlling yourself on hard boosts, you'll be wiping out every other racer and pass the finish line before tea time. It all takes time.

I respect Amusement Vision. They could have taken the easy way out and made F-Zero GX difficult with cheating bots and set race rankings. They could have made the game piss-weak easy. They didn't. They worked hard at this for countless hours and the result is a game that is genuinely difficult, that takes effort and practice to master. They made a masterpiece. Enough of pathetically easy games like Resident Evil 4. Enough of horribly unfair games like Mario Kart 64 and Mario Party. If you're a n00b, get out, this is hardcore.

F-Zero GX is gloriously presented. The title screen shows a crisp, clear logo to a backdrop of corny 80's techno rock and hover cars speeding on a randomly selected course. Sometimes I just sit and watch it for a while. The main menu is laid out in an easy to access 3x3 grid, showing all the different game modes. You can even view profiles of all the racers while an original theme song plays for them.

There are 4 racers, 3 Grand Prix's (with 5 courses to a GP) and 3 difficulty modes available when you first start up the game, but as you play, you'll unlock more and more. Winning a Grand Prix will net you a certain amount of tickets (depending on the GP and difficulty level) and you can use these to buy Spare Parts (more on this later), The Next Story Mode Chapter or New Vehicles.

Beating specific GPs and Story Mode Chapters on Specific Difficulties will unlock certain things, based on what you've accomplished. Winning all three GP's will unlock a fourth. Beating them all on Expert will unlock Master difficulty. Beating them all on master will unlock the AX grand prix, which you'll have to buy track for track from the shop at ridiculous prices.

Certain accomplishments will gain you spare parts, which then have to be bought from the shop. You can use these parts to make your own custom ship that flies, boosts and corners according to what you make it out of.

F-Zero GX is fast, furious and, as I've said before, unforgiving. Its fun though, a lot of fun and here's why:

The racing is a total blur, at the speed of sound; you have to perform the most demanding twists, turns and boosts to stay ahead. The controls are intuitive, simple and intelligent. They make sense. No more stupidity with random buttons doing random crap. A is accelerate; B is Brake, Control Stick to steer. Simple. If you're aggressive, you can use X and a direction on the Control Stick to swipe in said direction or you can use Z to spin around wildly, hopeful to hit someone. If you're a speed freak or just completely insane, you can press Y and boost for a small portion of your energy. You can also press L or R to drift sideways along a track, or use L or R in a direction to turn sharper, or if that turn is a double loop or something, hold them both down and turn for a really sharp curve.

In a standard Grand Prix race, there are 30 racers, including you. 30 individual racers, ducking, weaving, speeding, all trying to win. Each racer has individual characteristics: top speed, acceleration, boost, weight, handling… Every car does things differently, and surely enough you'll find one to suit you and suit the courses you'll be racing on.

The racers place according to how well they suit the course. On straight, simple courses, the speedy, hulky racers with low acceleration will place high and on twisting turning courses with lots of sharp turns, cars with easy handling and high acceleration will reign supreme. The Grand Prix's are varied and complex with their courses, so choosing the right car is a really important factor. And even if there is a Grand Prix with mainly straight forward courses but one really complex one, you can adjust your Top Speed/Acceleration balance before the race to make it halfway bearable.

The Grand Prix is an incredibly crafted and detailed game mode. There are 30 racers and 5 races, and depending on how you place, you get 100-15 points. At the end of the 5 races, the racer with the most points wins. You also have a number of lives (based on the difficulty level) and if you wipe out, you lose a life and restart the course. If you run out of lives, game over.

You may know about Mario Kart: Double Dash's mode, where everything is a set placing, e.g. a specific person almost always comes first and so on and so forth. In F-Zero GX, there is no control over this whatsoever. Like I said before, it depends on the type of course who wins.

Say you monumentally stuff up on a course and come 15th or 20th in the final rankings, this will net you 20-50 points and could severely destroy your chances. But because of the varied tracks in a grand prix, there are varied placings. Some of the GP leaders can have sloppy outings. Because of this, you don't have to come first every stinking time to stay on top. Really, all you need are a bunch of decent Top 10 placings and the championship is pretty much yours.

Of course, there are some really difficult tracks in some of these Grand Prix's, and having to trudge through the other courses to attempt them can be tiring, even if you have 5 lives. You can practice them in practice mode, which is a glorious and ingenious idea. You choose the course, your vehicle, how many other racers there are and the difficulty level. You can then endlessly practice away at that course until you've perfected it and can take it in Grand Prix mode.

Of course, there's the mandatory Time Trial mode with all of the essentials. It's just you, on a course, trying to finish as fast as you can. The top ten times are recorded for each course and incredible staff ghosts are included. The capability to record ghosts is here and it still serves as the most effective way of shaving your best time.

There is also a multiplayer mode, and although it can be lots of fun with friends, F-Zero GX mainly serves as a one player experience. It's good to see a multiplayer mode for a one player based game that someone has spent more than two minutes developing, though. Thumbs up again.

But the core of this game's difficulty is the Story mode. F-Zero GX will go down as one of the most difficult games of all time and it's all because of this game mode. Ever tried racing a beefed up speeder that's about five times faster than you on a canyon side with giant boulders rolling down it? Ever tried boosting through an impossible series of gates on the inside of a pipe obstacle course that gives Level 3 of Battletoads a run for its money? Ever tried to take out 30 racers and beat them to the finish line? Yes. Yes. Yes. This is F-Zero GX.

This just scratches the surface. There are 9 chapters, and you must beat one and to unlock the next for purchase at the store. They range at varying insane tasks. You'll be roaring with anger and on the brink of smashing your controller into tiny pieces, but you'll be back because it's your fault you're not good enough and it's just so much fun. And if you're really insane, you can have a crack at two higher difficulty levels, as if it isn't hard enough already.

The story mode chapters are spliced together by flashy, beautiful and entertaining CGI cut scenes complete superb voice acting and sound engineering. Captain Falcon is in glorious detail and slick animation, as is every character model. The cut scenes are a joy to watch and some of the background music is really catchy. The cut scenes drive along the formulaic story brilliantly.

The Story? There's a big Grand Prix coming up. Captain Falcon wants to win. Black Shadow, the evil bad guy, wants to win. Captain Falcon must win. Simple. It follows a normal day in the life of the Falcon, before it delves into the Grand Prix and then some race against a phantom for the fate of the universe or something silly like that that I haven't unlocked yet. It's your usual yarn and it only serves as a backdrop for some of the most insane video game challenges of the generation.

The actual racing aspect is something you have to play to believe. It's a roaring adrenaline feast and I just can't get enough of it. Every track fits the controls perfectly. With most racing games, they just throw together some tracks after building the driving mechanics. In F-Zero GX, the tracks are built bit by bit to tailor to the driving mechanics. Every corner, turn and boost are perfectly judged and it just feels so great to be able to actually complete a course without facing turns that are just impossible to take. Every course is perfectly constructed and crafted.

One of the best aspects is the boost system, where you can press Y to boost yourself for a brief moment at the expense of some energy. Note that energy is used to shield your vehicle and if you are stuck without any and get hit, it's a wipe-out. The real strategy is knowing when to boost and why. Recharge strips litter every course and refill your energy, and a common tactic that everyone will pick up in their first playing session is to boost over these strips, as it costs nothing.

The really successful racers are the ones who can control boosts on turns. Picture this: you're coming up to a right angle, in second by a few car lengths. If you boost and drift at the right pressure and angle, you can swiftly cut inside your opponent and take the lead. There are so many tricks you can use - spinning around U-turns is another example - that you can use, and it feels so great to pull them off and reap the rewards.

You can also fight other vehicles with the two attacks, spin and side. Using these, you can wipe players off the course and gain credit for it. See a pack of bunched in racers that you'd like to remove. Boost and spin through them and you'll likely wipe half of them out. You can pull alongside individual racers and do sideswipes at them too. Wiping out racers earns you attack points. Wipe out 5 racers in one race and you get an extra life. Awesome.

Back to the courses, I have to express how brilliant they are. Some of them twist and turn and it's just incredible. You speed down pipes, soar off jumps, swerve around u-turns, thunder up loop-de-loops. Course design is amazing and all the courses just run so well. They range to simple to insane but everyone has been paid attention to and therefore, they are all raging fun to blast through.

But enough of my praise, you need to play this to believe it.

The customize mode is the final mode and it is the definitive example of unlockable and custom features done right in a video game. Here you can buy features you've unlocked, like Ship Parts, Courses and Racers with Tickets won from Grand Prix's and use them in the game. The ship parts are what really pleases me, because with them you can make custom racers from a combination of an engine, a driver's compartment and a body. With all the given parts, there are about 10,000 different combinations, and finding the right one for the right course is going to take more than just one sleepless night.

F-Zero GX is one of the most graphically impressive games on the Cube. It is glorious. The tracks are enormous and heavily detailed, with rich textures, smooth modelling, background animations… It's tragic how some of the tiniest things have so much detail put into them, only for them to whir past, only visible for a split second. The Sand Ocean courses are the most impressive, with giant rock formations towering over the track, blistering desert sprawling for miles over to the horizon, tornados raging in the distance. Let us not forget the giant wildlife, with massive worms leaping out of the sand and snatching a leaping fish out of the air.

The Racers are expertly modelled and textured. It's great to see thirty of them race in incredibly high detail on the before mentioned tracks. It's even better to see all of this running on a strong, no, invincible frame rate. The frame rate runs at a blistering 60 frames a second at it never, at all, at any point, succumbs to slowdown. Amazing.

The music is the weakest part of the game. It's still excellent, but it can become very corny and/or repetitive. However, the soundtrack consists of catchy 80's techno rock. It's very nice to listen to. Some of the best parts of this are the character themes on the racer profiles, which are good enough to release on an album that I would buy. Catch the solo on the title screen, too. The sound effects are solid, with meaty explosions, whirring sounds of speed. The announcer's gasps of “BROKEN DOWN” and “RETIRED” can become very annoying, as can the Wipe-out cue effect, which sounds like a stoned Jimi Hendrix desperately trying to play something in his daze.

But apart from that, F-Zero GX is a wild ride of a game. It's challenging, fair, adrenaline pumping and it's absolutely beautiful. The unlockables and fun of it will keep you coming back for more. It never gets old; it just keeps feeling fun and fresh. This is racing's finest hour and it puts all other racers to shame. Brilliant.

There is no doubt about it. F-Zero GX is one of the finest games of this generation. It excels in every department and in a perfect world, it would go down as the greatest racing game of all time. Good job, n00bs.

Thank you for reading! Go Beastman!


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/11/06


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