Review by Superloserboy

"Forget drugs, F-Zero GX is the new mind-altering substance"

You don't even have to be a fan of racing games to know what F-Zero is. Hell, you don't even have to LIKE racing games to know what F-Zero is. Way back when in a time where all the world had ever known as a racing game was Taito's Monaco GP, F-Zero showed up and grabbed it by the short and friskies. After a long absence from the gaming scene, F-Zero returned with F-Zero-X on the N64, and considering the technology of the late 90s, blew gamers- both fans and non-fans of racing sims alike, away. People began to wonder, “Is this it? Is this really the pinnacle of all F-Zero has to offer?” In a joint operation with their former rival, Nintendo let Sega's Amusement Vision team give the answer in 2003:

“Hell no.”

F-Zero GX was released for the Gamecube alongside its arcade counterpart, F-Zero AX (Nintendo's first foray into the arcade scene for close to 13 years). And, like F-Zero X before it, was like nothing gamers had ever seen before.

GRAPHICS

Dude, where to start. Alright, I'll put it this way. GX is a drug-free mind-altering substance. The limitations of the N64 hardware are a thing of the past, and where F-Zero X was lacking, GX makes up for and excels. You're not racing on a flat-colored polygon anymore. You're actually racing on a TRACK. A track with ribs, ridges, holes, everything. Even for a game that moves as fast as GX does, the track is needlessly detailed. The background scenery is something to behold to. Unlike F-Zero X, where most of the backgrounds were just a few 2D pictures and a gradient, GX's scenery is all 3D and unbelievably detailed. The sandstorms of Sand Ocean and infernos of Fire Field are an incredible sight to behold, even while stationary. Now imaging going at top speed, and it becomes one hell of a visual overdose. Even just boosting treats you to your engine sputtering out sparks and a rush of a blur effect. And that's just the tracks. The machines themselves are also detailed to an idiotic level. Nicks and scratches are all present on the machines too, as well as cheap animated models of the pilots driving them. The FMVs in story mode are pretty to look at as well.

GAMEPLAY

In a word: Fast. In two words, really fast. From the very get-go, you're able to reach blistering speed, and boy does it show. In GP mode, you can choose from either Novice, Standard, Expert, or the unlockable Master class. Novice slows down the other racers considerably, and you'll probably find this unbelievably easy. Standard will give you a bit more trouble, and you'll often have to fight to keep your lead. Expert will make you fight just to stay anywhere in the top 10, and Master? Not only is everyone faster than you, now they're actively trying to kill you. The same goes for the second main mode, Story, where you follow Captain Falcon around in his adventures. There is no Easy mode in Story, just Normal, Hard, and Very Hard. Actually, this is a bit of a misnomer. They should be called, Hard, Very Hard, and HOLY CRAP HOW THE HELL IS ANYONE SUPPOSED TO BEAT THIS mode. Yes, Story mode is brutal and unforgiving. One slip even on Normal difficulty and you've lost. The reward you get for clearing all 9 story chapters is a kinda' mediocre machine, too. But, clear chapters on Very Hard (or, HCHTHIASTBT mode), and you get the new AX machines, some of which are pretty good.

The game proper plays like F-Zero X, in that you're not competing to finish first all the time, but for points. Getting first place in a race gives you 100 points, second nets you 93, and so on. There are five tracks in total to a Grand Prix, and whoever has the most points at the end of the last race is the winner.

The machines themselves all vary in statistics. Body, Grip, and Boost stats are all given letter grades, while the machine's weight is listed in kilograms. The better your Body, the more damage and abuse you'll be able to withstand. The better your Grip, the better traction your machine will have, making veering out of control less likely. The better your Boost, well, this is self-explanatory. Weight affects a number of things. Heavier machines will accelerate slower, but have a higher top speed. Also, heavy machines's attacks will do more damage, and resist damage slightly better than lighter ones. Lighter machines generally benefit more from boosting, though. So how you want to be able to race is up to you.

Before each race, you can also alter the machine's balance of acceleration/top speed. Of course, some machines will have sucky acceleration/top speed no matter what you set it at, but adjusting this balance can really make a difference depending on the course. Tracks with long straightaways are good for setting your machine on top speed, while tracks with lots of bends and stuff would require some more acceleration.

Other modes are, of course, Time Attack and Practice. You can even record your racing exploits in GP or Time Attack to memory card and watch them with the Replay mode. Finish a course fast enough in Time Attack and you'll be treated with an unlockable Staff Ghost.: A raceable recording of the developer's fastest time, and yes, those things are stupidly fast.

Also available is a Widescreen mode, which doesn't just stretch out the picture, but actually widens the game's camera aspect. Unfortunately, there is no way to letterbox the picture, so you should really only use Widescreen if you actually have a widescreen TV.

And of course, there's also the Garage. For the first time in F-Zero, you can unlock, buy, and create your own machine. Machine parts (and other unlockables) are bought with “tickets,” that you win in Grand Prix races, Story mode, and even just unlocking a Staff Ghost nets you some tickets. Making your own machine basically entails the following: Taking a cockpit, body, and booster parts, and throwing them together. Cockpit parts determine your machine's Grip, Body determines (obviously) your Body rating, and Boost, you get the picture. The higher the grade, the heavier the parts. So if you make a machine with EEE stats, you'll wind up with a wimpy little jittery thing that will crash and burn fairly quickly. Go with a huge AAA tank and you'll be nearly invincible, and practically immobile. Neither are recommended, of course.

But what's seriously surprising about GX? The pilots. Yes, all of the pilots from FZX are back, but now? They've got their own mode dedicated to them. The Pilots section of the main menu gives you the pleasure of reading short bios on all the pilots you've unlocked, complete with machine stats and their own theme music. And they're not some cheap illustration, either. They're rendered in some pretty detailed models. Animated models. Those that complained about FZX's lack of detail have nothing to complain about now. Heck, even story-obsessed gamers will like the Grand Prix mode, just for their chance to ask their pilot a question (should they place first, however.) Lame questions like “Why did you become a racer?” are present in the lower difficulties, while more interesting questions, like “Got a message for your rivals?” are only there to ask in the higher difficulties. Finish a GP in Master class, and you'll unlock a short movie about the pilot in their profile section. Some of the voice acting is good. Others, not so much. Hey, it's Sega, remember. Laughable cutscenes, dialogue, and animation are their calling card. But really, with a cast full of super heroes, dinosaurs, and bounty hunters, nothing really seems (too) weird here.

Oh yeah, and there's Multiplayer too. Local only, so don't bother busting out that LAN setup.

GX plays great, with the exception of some very minor slowdown issues, which even then are extremely rare and most of the time you'd probably have to TRY and trigger them. Also, being run on a heavily modified Super Monkey Ball engine, the airborne physics are a little strange compared with FZX.

CONTROLS

Accelerate, Boost, and Side-Attack are well placed on the controller (A Y and X respectively,) as is B for Brake, because you will hardly if ever use it. Tilting the control stick and pressing X is your side-attack, which rams any machine it touches, ideal for “assassinations.” Control stick + Z is your spin attack, which sends you in a spinning frenzy, damaging any machine you spin into, great for boosting into packs on machines and letting loose.

SOUND

The sound quality is great, even on the GCN minidisc. Whereas F-Zero X just gave us a steadfast diet of thrash metal, GX gives us a breadth of genres, from techno and electronica to heavy and death metal. Some purists may gripe and whine about “bawww techno ruins everything,” but seriously, you'd have to be TRYING to be disappointed to not appreciate the quality of great music the game has to offer.

LASTABILITY

Whether you like a challengeless breeze or would like to exercise your throwing-controller-across-the-room arm, GX has a huge lifetime, and probably won't leave your ‘Cube for a long time.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

GOOD:
- Right up there with Metroid Prime in terms of unbelievable graphics and atmosphere
- Killer soundtrack, no matter what metal purists will try to tell you.
- Absurd amount of miniscule detail and customization

THE BAD:
- Flying physics feel a bit wonky
- Very very very rare issues with slowdown

THE UGLY
- The absurd level of difficulty you can choose punish yourself with

OVERALL: 9/10

Hands down, one of the best, if not the best, game on the Gamecube. A high-speed ride with absurd amounts of detail and extras make this a sure keeper. Is F-Zero GX perfect? No, but it's pretty damn close.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/15/09

Game Release: F-Zero GX (US, 08/26/03)


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