Review by Sprock
Imagine Earth in the year 3000. How will future technology shift our modern world, for better or for worse? Will hover-cars that run on uranium become a standard means of transportation? Will global hunger have been eliminated? Will Duke Nukem Forever finally be released? Whatever scenario unfolds, one thing is certain - the future of racing knows no bounds. F-Zero GX is, without a doubt, the most intense, full-throttle futuristic racer conceivable. A game that shall make the toughest drill sergeants run home crying to their nannies. A game that laughs in your face and taunts your pathetic racing abilities. And a game that shall finally separate the sissy men from the real men. Nintendo EAD and Sega have set their differences aside in order to create a product that not only breathes new life into a stale genre, but tests the limits of even the most hardcore gamers. This is intensity - and the racing genre as a whole - taken to a brand new extreme. This is F-Zero GX.
Pilots from all over the galaxy gather to compete in the most intense high-speed races the universe has ever seen. Thirty-plus racers are at your disposal to crash and burn in competitive and often-violent speed challenges. F-Zero GX offers the player a wide diversity of modes to choose from. Grand Prix mode challenges players to their highest abilities by allowing them to play in the game's assorted cups to compete for first prize. Difficulty settings can be adjusted accordingly for assistance to new players, though the pay-off is much higher the greater you set your challenge. The courses themselves are gorgeous, futuristic highways that twist and loop in senses that defy all gravitational laws. A few courses even have you spiraling your way through the whole course on airborne cylinders, while others may have you boosting off huge slopes and diving at descents that exceed 1500 kilometers per hour (Note: Solid knowledge of the metric system is not a necessity).
When each race begins, your vehicle will immediately accelerate to speeds in excess of 1000 kilometers per hour as you rocket off your starting pad and shove your way into the lead. Needless to say, racing in F-Zero GX has a very physical tendency, and racing gamers accustomed to Mario Kart and freeway traffic will be dumbfounded and frustrated. That is the beauty of this game, and if that sudden rush of adrenaline were not enough for you, boosters are laid at designated points across the track. Crossing these boosters will electrify your vehicle temporarily and give you a sudden boost which will allow you to either bypass an enemy vehicle, or completely ram them off the side of the track! In F-Zero GX, once you retire by falling off the track, you are gone for good. Not only must you be aggressive, but a defensive approach is perhaps even more vital in the long run.
Physical attack methods actually serve as a double-edged sword. A meter at the top of your screen represents your vehicle's health, and the meter is depleted whenever boosts are executed or you come into contact with a wall or another vehicle (it can be replenished by steering over scattered pit areas featured in each course). Weakened vehicles are signified by flashing red, meaning they are ripe for the killing by a Spin Attack. However, this attack is flawed. Once your vehicle executes a spin, controls will become virtually impossible for a few seconds, and the odds of you successfully defeating an opposing vehicle is actually less than the odds of you destroying yourself by completely losing control. In addition, spinning slows you down and can sometimes sacrifice your place in the race. The AI seems to be extremely accurate with this attack, as well, so the spin is best saved for a defense against an opposing spin.
Another prominent feature that sets F-Zero GX from other titles in the genre is the Story Mode. In this solo mode, the player will take control of Captain Falcon and his Blue Falcon to make mincemeat out of his various enemies on the track. The Story Mode is divided into chapters, so to speak, and are generally accompanied by extremely cheesy FMV scenes. It's not necessarily bad acting; it's just atrociously cliched dialogue like You're going down, Falcon! or You're all going to die! Say goodbye to your loved ones! Missions are not just limited to racing; you will also be required to destroy enemy vehicles, complete a course within an allotted time limit, or collect a certain amount of items on the track. Story Mode is not necessarily the most exciting aspect of the game, and can get quite infuriating on higher difficulties, but those who persevere won't be unsatisfied with the rewards.
Customization is another fantastic implement, and although it does not necessarily bring anything new to the racing game table, the number of parts available allows an incredible variety of potential custom vehicles. You'll win F-Zero currency for placing in high ranks in the Grand Prix. This currency can be used to purchase special parts from the game's garage, where you can also piece vehicle parts together. The game places a surprisingly high emphasis on customization, as the majority of the default vehicles can't come close to matching the power of many of the customs, which are a key to victory in both the higher difficulties and achieving the fastest possible Time Trial records. You can also design your own emblems to plaster on your custom vehicles, though unless you have some sort of special emulator, it's extremely difficult to design something exactly how you want it. Fortunately, the game has a few default emblems for free use.
If you have heard about this game previously from others, you've more than likely heard about the supposed extreme difficulty that accompanies this game. Well, here is a message to everyone who complains about this game being too damn impossible You are a big fat sissy who does not like repeating the same stage more than five times before you hurl your console against the wall. Yes, it's more intense than your average racer. After all, it's not your average racer. But it's really not anywhere close to being as impossible as many people have claimed it to be. If anything, the real challenge comes from retaining perseverance on Story Mode's highest difficulties. Course memorization is also vital, meaning those who expect to be an expert the first play through can go back to playing Yoshi's Story or something. But with a knowledge of the right vehicle to choose and a few practice runs, the impossible isn't nearly what it's made out to be.
F-Zero GX is also an oddball in the racing field in that the multiplayer is far less-polished than the single-player. While most developers figure they can simply half-ass their games' main modes if it's fun with friends, Amusement Vision finds itself in the opposite position. Not that the game's multiplayer can't be fun or anything, as there's nothing more amusing than knocking your friends off the course's boundaries in the midst of a ten-second freefall. Yet since the game moves at so many frames per second, the compressed screen for each of the player's windows makes scanning the horizon very difficult, and scanning is absolutely vital on courses with 180-degree hairpin turns. With only two players, you can switch between vertical horizontal windows, but either way, you're restricted. Surprisingly, though, even with four players moving over 60 frames per second at the same time, the game suffers from absolutely no lag.
F-Zero GX is one of the most visually-impressive titles available on the Gamecube. The environments are absolutely stunning. The moss on the walls of the Green Plant courses and the torrential rains hammering upon the asphalt in the Lightning tracks are among some of the most realistic textures I have seen in a game. There's even one course which pits you in the middle of cyberspace, where everything is enraptured in a virtual eeriness, and the track itself is composed of transparent florescent tiles that refract the shifting light. Even at speeds exceeding 2000 kilometers per hour, the textures don't seem to lose any flair or blur up. Then again, at those speeds, chances are you will be too occupied to be drooling over the gorgeous scenery, anyways.
The game's soundtrack is perhaps just as impressive, and contains something for everyone. Tracks range from upbeat European pop to loud, blaring electric guitar riffs with no sense of style, yet you love it, anyways. A frosty and calm, yet ferociously swift tune sets the stage of the staggering heights of Aeropolis, while a rapid, chilling beat accompanies the treachery of Phantom Road. The voice work is tolerable, though occasionally unfitting for certain characters. But no matter what your take on the voices is, the words Mission Failed are bound to stay in your head forever. Seriously, the game emphasizes those words in such a way when you retire in a mission that it's like mocking laughter. If you suck, the game isn't afraid to rub it in your face. Casual racers will be sent crying home to their mommies and playing racing games that revive their self-esteem with such exclamations as You're Winner!
In case you have not received the message, F-Zero GX is not your typical racing game. Heck, it makes even its predecessors look like an un-evolved breed of the genre. Not only are the game's courses absolutely breathtaking from a visual standpoint, but the overall gaming experience is incredibly rewarding, especially for those with the patience and the sanity to seek the game's greatest secrets. A flawed attack system that isn't even necessary (save one mission) can't hunker this title down. And being one of the cheapest available titles currently on the market, there's no reason that anyone who does not mind spending a few hours on a single task should pass this up. And to anyone who whines about the game's difficulty - I will literally hunt you down and shove a pacifier down your throat. If you don't mind getting your ass kicked a lot, and are looking for a racer to define the boundary between the children and the men, give this thrill ride a whirl.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/26/07
Game Release: F-Zero GX (US, 08/26/03)
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